New research by Guide Dogs has revealed that 74% of the nation’s dogs show signs of having poor mental health, with 18% showing symptoms as often as weekly.
The most common signs of poor mental health for pups can include loss of appetite, destructiveness and low activity levels, as well as hyper-activity and lots of barking. A dog exhibiting these behaviours may be bored or frustrated and looking for something to interest them. Only 36% of dog owners are able to spot the signs of poor canine mental health and only 24% admitting they didn’t even realise that a dog could suffer with poor mental health. Canine enrichment activities, such as food-based puzzle toys, LickiMats, forging games, sensory activities and steady walks with lots of sniffing opportunities, could be the key to boosting a dog’s mood. On average, UK dog owners spend between 46 – 60 minutes per day looking to keep their dog stimulated. Guide Dogs advises that age and energy level decide the amount of stimulation a dog needs, but all owners should do canine enrichment activities little and often and think about quality, not quantity. Variety is key; doing something a bit different each day or mixing things up throughout the week is much more interesting for a dog.
Chief Scientific Officer at Guide Dogs, Dr Helen Whiteside says, “It’s an outdated viewpoint to think that dogs just need a walk or two a day to be content. Without different forms of mental stimulation, dogs can begin to show signs of behavioural issues, such as anxiety and frustration, which can have a huge impact on their mental wellbeing. “Dogs can thrive when given new tasks and opportunities to engage. Integrating a mix of canine enrichment activities into your dog’s day-to-day life is the best way to help stimulate their senses, encourage them to practice natural behaviours, and improve their wellbeing. As well as being a lot of fun for you and your dog. “Not all dogs are able to take on the exciting challenges of being a guide dog, but they can all benefit from other forms of canine enrichment.”