Is Your Dog Anxious Or Depressed? Science Says He Just Might Be

Sep 25, 2018, 1:33 PM | Updated: 9:33 pm

HERRIMAN, Utah – Could your dog be depressed? New research suggests he might be. Some experts say dogs can suffer from mental illness just like people.

“Within the first week, the first few days, we found out that little quirks that he had,” said his owner, Meghan Thompson, who lives in Herriman.

Her dog Jameson, a Pomeranian Dachshund mix, is a rescue.

“A lot of times they do have a more fractured background,” she said.

Thompson believes he suffers from anxiety, and possibly PTSD.

“Whining and kind of barking initially and he’ll kind of pace a lot of times,” she said. “We were driving up State Street and there was some kid on a scooter, and that set him off in the car and he actually almost bit me. It’s adrenaline that they don’t know what to do with.”

Mental illness in animals

Like humans, is important to take care of animal mental health.

Ty Brown, a dog trainer with Ty the Dog Guy, says setting up scenarios for your pet to succeed is the best way to get desired results.

Science shows we share an emotional range with animals.

“I do believe they can suffer from mental illness and actually looking and trying to identify mental illness often helps us be better friends with them,” said Laurel Braitman in her popular Ted Talk.

She spent seven years studying mental illness in animals.

“What we do is go into difficult relationships thinking we can fix the people and other animals we love, and sometimes we don’t have the resources to do that.”

Braitman believes getting your pet diagnosed by a vet or an animal behaviorist is a gateway to healing. She recommended hiring a trainer at the first sign of problems.

“It’s kind of like couples therapy,” she said. “You kind of go when you’re having the problems already when really you should go when you’re in the first blushes of love.”

Trust and good leadership

Ty Brown has been training dogs for 20 years. He said when we give them the tools they need, we’re more likely to get the results we want. And it works for people, too.

“I’ve got four daughters, and I think I’m a way better dad because I train dogs,” said Brown, dog trainer with Ty the Dog Guy. “So much of what we do as dog owners, as parents, is setting up scenarios for our kids or our dogs to have success. We deal with a lot of aggression and I would say if I had to guess, 98-99 percent of it is fear related.”

Brown said trust and good leadership on the owner’s part can help alleviate a dog’s anxiety. It’s all about retraining the dog’s mindset so they no longer see another person or animal as a threat.

“Helping the dog realize, ‘No, no, instead of lunging at that dog, we’re just going to have you heel calmly,” he said.

Try your hardest

Like Brown, Braitman’s message is hopeful.

“I am with you, and it is terrible and it is OK that oftentimes we will disappoint the people and animals we love most. You cannot fix every dog or cat, but try your hardest,” he said.

In the end, professional training worked with Jameson.

“We decided we didn’t want to give up on him,” Thompson said.

Now he, and his owner, have learned how to deal with his issues.

“We’re really glad we did,” Thompson said.

Trainers said an advantage dogs have over humans is they are better at living in the moment. This helps them be more adaptable and trainable.

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Is Your Dog Anxious Or Depressed? Science Says He Just Might Be