7 Signs a Dog is Sad (And How to Cheer Them Up!)

Dog looking sad

It’s bound to happen every once in a while that your dog won’t be as cheerful and lively as usual. You’ll know that something is up and will even start missing their daily mischief. Just as it happens with our close friends, we can tell when something is wrong.

Since we cannot ask them what is going on, it’s important to understand the signs they can give us about their mood. Let us explore how to help our dogs when they’re down with the blues.

Do dogs cry?

Let’s get one thing straight first: Dogs don’t cry. Actually, as far as we know, humans are the only creatures that shed tears due to pain or emotions.  

Dogs do have tear ducts like humans, but they are not meant to express emotions, rather to lubricate their eyes. If your dog appears to be crying (that is, if tears are coming out of their eyes), you should not ignore it: they might be suffering from an allergy, irritation, or infection.

However, dogs do feel sadness, and they might be trying to let you know that something is wrong. Read on to discover what behaviors mean your dog might be sad:

Signs your dog might be sad

  • Your dog is whining or whimpering very frequently. 

Even though the most common reason for a dog to whine is to express their desire for food, water, or just attention; frequent whining can be a sign of stress, anxiety, or discomfort.

  • Lack of interest.

Just as it happens when a human is sad, you’ll notice the doggie appears less interested in things they used to be excited about like going out for a walk, playing with you, or a new toy.

  • Loss of appetite.

Dogs can lose their appetite because of travel anxiety, separation anxiety, when there are sudden changes in their environment or routine, when you bring home another animal, or when something happens that triggers their stress levels.

But beware: loss of appetite can also be a sign of something serious like pain or health issues. In any case, it’s not normal for a dog not to want to eat after one day.

  • Physical signs.

Several gestures or physical signs are believed to be associated with sadness in dogs. Some examples include lowered ears, eyes looking smaller than usual, a stooped posture, or a tucked tail. 

  • Excessive licking.

Licking excessively can be a way for dogs to comfort themselves when they’re feeling anxious or sad.  Evidence suggests that licking is kind of a self-soothing behavior in dogs. It has a nurturing effect and can help release endorphins to help them relax. 

  • Can’t sleep.

Dogs have trouble sleeping or maintaining a stable sleeping pattern when they aren’t in a good mood.

  • Chewing up furniture, shoes, or pillows.

Chewing up things in the house like furniture, shoes, and pillows is just an example of destructive behaviors a dog can show when feeling sad. Other examples include digging holes and scratching walls.

Reasons why a dog may be sad

  • Change is the most common reason for a dog to feel sad. They usually have a hard time adapting to changes in their environment like moving to a new home or city, the presence of new family members (or absence), and drastic changes in their routine.
  • Separation anxiety is also very common. If their favorite friend is away for a long time, they get a bit blue. So-called “velcro dogs” will take it a bit harder.
  • Boredom can lead to sadness. If they are not getting enough playtime or stimulation, this will affect their mood.
  • Some dogs get depressed in winter, when they’re cold and don’t get enough daylight. Yes, just like us, they get seasonal affective disorder!

Other, more serious causes may include:

  • Grief: the loss of a loved one is felt deeply by our canine friends.
  • Pain and health issues: dogs can appear sad when they’re having health problems.
  • Trauma: Some dogs, for example those who have been rescued, might have suffered from traumatic experiences or even abuse in their past. The trauma of a difficult past can stay for a long time with dogs.

How to cheer them up?

It’s hard seeing our dog looking sad and not being able to ask them what’s going on. But before making any assumption, if your dog is looking sad or dejected; the first thing to do is talk to a professional. It’s important to rule out that the real problem is physical pain or health problems.

If bigger problems are ruled out, there are some things you can try to lift their spirits, like providing a safe space with a cozy bed, their favorite toys, and a calm environment. Avoid big changes and try to spend as much time with them as you can, providing plenty of fun activities and social interaction. 

If you can’t be there for them, consider signing them up for training sessions or getting a playmate so they feel accompanied and entertained. 

If nothing works, and health issues are ruled out, you may want to consider getting a dog psychologist or trainer who can read their behavior and advice on what’s best for them. 

In any case, don’t beat yourself up. Remember that, even though it is impossible to know what exactly is happening in their head, dogs (and animals in general) do not feel emotions as intensely as we do, and their apparent sadness is probably a short-lived reaction to a very specific trigger.

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