10 Signs Your Dog Is Unhappy

Dogs are known for their boundless energy and wagging tails, but just like humans, they can have their down days, too. 

However, unlike us, they can’t verbally express when they’re feeling low. That’s why it’s crucial for dog owners to recognize the signs of an unhappy dog. This isn’t just about observing changes in their behavior; it’s about ensuring they lead a happy, healthy life.

Here’s eight key signs that your furry friend might feel blue.

1. Increased Sleep or Lethargy

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Dogs typically love a good nap, but excessive sleep can be a cause for concern. If your once energetic pup now spends most of the day snoozing away, it could indicate that it’s not just tired but possibly unhappy or unwell. Lethargy is especially worrying if it’s out of character and not just the result of a more active day than usual. (ref)

Keep an eye on how much your dog sleeps and compare it to their normal sleep patterns. Are they struggling to wake up even for exciting activities like walks or playtime?

This diminished interest in activities they once enjoyed is a key indicator of depression in dogs. If this pattern continues, it might be time for a trip to the vet to check for any health issues.

2. Decreased Appetite or Changes in Eating Habits

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A sudden disinterest in food is a classic sign of distress in many animals, including dogs. If your dog, who usually devours their meals, starts showing disinterest in eating or begins to eat significantly less, take note. This change can often be a dog’s way of saying that something isn’t right, whether it’s emotional, such as anxiety or sadness, or physical, like pain or illness. (ref)

It’s important to consider the context and duration of your dog’s eating behavior. Has there been a recent change in the household? Or perhaps a new diet that they don’t like?

Sometimes, the solution might be as simple as switching back to a favorite kibble. However, if the loss of appetite persists, it’s wise to consult a vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could affect your dog’s appetite.

3. A Drop in Social Interaction

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Dogs are naturally social creatures. If your dog starts to isolate itself or shows no interest in social interactions with humans or other dogs, it could be a sign that it’s feeling down. This can manifest as your dog retreating to a quiet corner of the house more often or avoiding cuddles and playtime that they usually enjoy. (ref)

This withdrawal could be triggered by a variety of factors, including feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable in their environment. It’s crucial to observe if the behavior persists in different settings, as this can help identify whether the cause is situational or possibly indicative of a deeper issue.

4. Agitation or Increased Irritability

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An unhappy dog may also show signs of agitation or irritability. If your usually placid pup starts to snap or growl in situations where they would normally remain calm, it’s a significant red flag. This change in behavior could be their way of expressing discomfort, stress, or unhappiness. (ref)

Keep track of what triggers your dog’s irritability. Is it during certain times of the day or in specific situations? Recognizing these patterns can help you address the root causes of their stress, whether it’s a need for more exercise, mental stimulation, or potentially a medical issue that requires a veterinarian’s attention.

5. Excessive Licking or Grooming

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One of the more subtle signs of anxiety or discomfort in dogs is an increase in self-grooming, particularly licking. This behavior is often a soothing mechanism when they feel nervous or upset. If you notice your dog licking their paws incessantly or grooming themselves to the point of creating bald patches, it’s a clear sign of distress. (ref)

While some degree of licking is normal for dogs, excessive grooming is not. If this behavior is new or has intensified, it’s crucial to consider both psychological and physical causes.

Allergies, skin conditions, or anxiety could be at the root, and determining the cause will guide the best approach to easing your dog’s discomfort.

6. Changes in Body Language

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A dog’s body language often reflects their inner emotions and can be a very telling sign of their well-being. Look for changes such as a lowered head, tucked tail, flattened ears, or a reluctance to make eye contact. These are all indicators of fear, anxiety, or sadness.

A happy dog typically carries itself with a relaxed posture and an alert expression. (ref)

It’s crucial to observe how these body language signs manifest in various situations. For example, a dog that is normally confident but suddenly starts showing signs of submission or fear in familiar settings may be experiencing emotional distress or discomfort. Recognizing these changes early can help you address potential issues before they escalate.

7. Sudden Weight Loss or Gain

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Unexpected weight changes in your dog can be a significant indicator of unhappiness or health issues. Weight loss might occur if a dog is stressed or depressed, leading to reduced eating. Conversely, some dogs may eat more as a stress response, leading to weight gain. Both scenarios warrant attention and understanding. (ref)

Monitor your dog’s weight regularly and note any changes that don’t correlate with changes in diet or exercise. Sudden weight loss or gain should prompt a consultation with your veterinarian to rule out medical conditions like thyroid problems or diabetes and to discuss the emotional health of your dog.

8. Destructive Behavior

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If your normally well-behaved dog starts displaying destructive behaviors such as chewing furniture, digging holes in the yard, or tearing up objects, this could be a sign of distress. Dogs often resort to these behaviors when they’re bored, anxious, or unhappy, particularly if they’re left alone for long periods. (ref)

To address destructive behavior, it’s important to first consider any changes in the dog’s environment or routine that may have precipitated the behavior. Providing more physical exercise and mental stimulation and perhaps increasing the amount of time spent interacting with your dog can often mitigate these issues.

If the behavior persists, seeking the advice of a professional behaviorist might be necessary.

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.