You aren’t alone if you haven’t heard about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). People suffer from SAD during the winter months when there is less sunshine, longer nights, and colder temperatures. While many people are less active and not as cheerful during the winter, experiencing Winter Blues, some experience more severe symptoms. If you’re wondering what this has to do with your bestie, Psychology Today magazine noted that as many as one in four dogs seem to suffer from the Winter Blues, and some may have SAD.
Symptoms of the Winter Blues
Whether you have the Winter Blues or SAD is mainly based on the severity of your symptoms. Interestingly, many of the signs are similar in dogs and people, including:
- Being less motivated
- Reduced activity levels
- Either loss of appetite or overeating (sadly, I overeat. So does my dog.)
- Sleeping more than usual
- Irritability or moodiness
- Loss of interest in play
Ways to Counteract Your Pup’s (and Your) Winter Blues
Science agrees that the primary culprit in the sadness that sometimes overwhelms man and beast during the winter is the lack of sunlight. Less sunlight means our bodies reduce less melatonin and less serotonin, the brain chemicals that affect mood. If your puppy is turning into a couch potato and doesn’t jump up to greet the mailman like usual, take a few steps to counteract the lack of sunlight in his life. By extension, you’ll also feel better. And when you feel better, your dog feels better!
Sunlight, Lots and Lots of Sunlight!
If possible, make sure you and your dog get outside for at least one leisurely walk while the sun is shining. Soaking up the vitamin D from sunshine boosts those feel-good hormones, and the exercise will boost your metabolism a bit. Playing outside is a great way to get the blood pumping, so check out our suggestions for a few winter outdoor games that you and your dog will enjoy.
Relocate Your Dog’s Bed
If your dog’s crate or favorite dog pillow is tucked in a corner away from the windows, it’s time to do some rearranging. Relocate the crate, bed, or dog blanket close to a window so your dog can soak up the rays even when he’s just lounging around. The best way to make sure he is getting the sunshine is to make sure you spend some time sitting in the sunlight, too. Move your desk or favorite reading chair beneath a window and keep the curtains and blinds open when the sun shines.
Stay Active Indoors
Yes, we all want to curl up on the sofa with hot cocoa laced with Peppermint Schnapps. No doubt your dog wants to curl up next to you, hogging the blanket and enjoying some treats. But there’s plenty you can do indoors to keep you both active. Play a bit of tag or a rousing round of “hide the treat.” Teach him some new tricks or brush up on old ones. Try a few of these brain games for dogs.
Talking to Your Dog
We know you love your dog and show it, but even the best dog parents can start to neglect others if they’re hit by the winter blues. If you find yourself staring at the TV, binge-watching reruns, turn off the tube and turn to your dog for interaction. It doesn’t take much to thrill your dog – the sound of your voice, some snuggling, and a bit of praise will get his tail thumping. Whether you’re telling him he’s your best boy or reading a grocery list, if you do it in a cheerful voice and address him by name, he’ll feel like the center of your world (and after all, isn’t he?).