Perhaps only the hard core snow bunnies amongst us have never experienced the winter blues. It affects most people on occasion and yes, can even affect your dog too!
Whilst dogs are not consciously depressed purely because it is winter, they can be affected just like you because of what winter means and how it affects their routine.
Like most animals, dogs are confident in their routine so a break in routine can cause significant stress to some individuals. Even the smallest change you take for granted like daylight saving can upset the more sensitive companions.
Here are some more obvious stressors that winter brings with it and what you can do to help...
Less time exercising
The shorter day light hours combined with inclement weather significantly impacts on your ability as an owner to provide the same amount of exercise for your dog than the summer months. Less exercise will impact significantly on your dogs demeanour. A lack of mental and/or physical stimulation is at the root of most traits that annoy us humans the most.
This is where the use of services such as dog day care really come into their own. And whilst your dog may put the brakes on when faced with a walk in the rain on the weekend, if you take them somewhere interesting like the forest or the beach they soon forget the wet and are generally happy to be on an adventure with you. So don your gummies and your raincoat and head out regardless! Yes, you will have a sodden dog at the end of the adventure but a very happy one.
Same amount of food
Not many people adjust the amount of food their dog is receiving over the winter in light of the fact that they are not getting the same amount of exercise. Infact they might even be getting more to address the human guilt factor! You need to be strong during these dark, wet weeks to ensure you don’t burden your beloved with extra pounds. You are only adding to the physical stress on your dogs lungs, heart and joints. By not cutting back on your dogs diet during periods of less exercise, you are also leading your dog into a state of lethargy and this becomes a compounding issue when the warmer months return and your dogs tolerance for exercise has diminished. When assessing your dogs food intake, be honest. Feed for the actual amount of exercise not what you wish you were doing.
Less general interaction between humans
Not many of use indulge in winter bbqs which is a symptom of a generally less sociable time for us humans. This means a very boring time for your dog who loves having friends and family around for the evening on a regular basis with the promise of a dropped morsel or three. If you have friends with dogs that get on with yours, maybe make an effort to have some winter gatherings to keep everyone happier socially. Even if you meet at the beach with a takeaway coffee and muffin and enjoy the fresh air, you will all be better off for it.
That’s right, lots of you head off to Fiji or the Gold Coast during these miserable months to enjoy some warmth and relaxation. And what happens to your dog? Regardless of whether you board or use a house sitter this is very stressful for you dog. The more familiar your dog is with the environment and/or people doing the caring makes a big difference to their stress levels. The more independent your dog is, the more likely they are to cope with temporary changes to their routine whereas the more anxiety prone become highly stressed in a strange and lonely environment. The more anxious your dog is, the more thought you will need to put into the environment you send them to while you are enjoying your break. And in fact so you CAN enjoy your break!
Dog HQ, 09 44 22 365 www.doghq.co.nz www.facebook.com/doghq