If you notice your collie doesn’t have the same spring in her step as usual it can be quite concerning. Border collies are usually full of life and energy so it’s easy to spot a change when it happens.
The quick answer: Border collies can get depressed just like any other breed can. If your collie seems disinterested, lethargic, hiding, and avoiding or demonstrating pacifying behaviors like paw licking, it could suggest depression.
As I will point out, however, it’s crucial to take everything into context before coming to a conclusion. All is explained in detail below.
Can Border Collies Get Depressed?
Believe it or not, “canine depression” is just as real and debilitating as depression can be in humans. Although it’s not as common, it’s still very possible.
Researchers have already proven that our dogs are capable of a wide range of emotions much like we are and are susceptible to feeling down and depressed depending on internal and external factors.
Interestingly enough, due to the surprising similarities in canine depression and human depression, we actually already know quite a bit about it (thanks to the research gone into human depression).
Many of the symptoms, signs, and even causes of depression in us, are the same in our dogs, and your collie.
5 Signs of Depression Seen In Border Collies
Let’s run through the common signs and behaviors you might witness that could suggest depression. It’s crucial to take everything into context (recent events and happenings) before concluding anything.
1. Hiding and avoiding
A classic sign of canine depression is witnessing avoidance behavior and hiding in general.
This could mean finding your collie under the bed, venturing off to rooms where no one is, and avoiding busy areas of the house in general.
With hiding and avoiding, it’s important to know that it’s not necessarily directed at anyone (although it could be). Instead, it usually means your collie is stressed and doesn’t want to be a part of the action or deal with busy areas.
2. Lack of interest
Having a lack of interest in things your collie would have otherwise got excited about is a very strong indicator that something is wrong.
This could mean refusing to play, not taking notice of when you say the infamous “walkies” word or even something little like not getting up to see who’s at the door.
A general lack of interest and enthusiasm in things your collie once got excited about is a pretty solid indicator of depression. But keep in mind, taking everything into context is important (for example, chronic pain could cause your collie to be distant and not interested).
3. Change in appetite
Although a change in appetite is a very common symptom of a lot of other health issues, it’s also a well-known sign of depression.
Much like with humans, depression can simply make you lose your appetite and put you off your food.
Again, this needs to be taken into context as many other things could cause a change in appetite. This sign can’t be relied upon solely, but can be a helpful indicator when witnessed alongside other signals.
4. Sleeping more
A change in sleeping habits can also indicate depression and is similar to having a lack of interest day to day happenings.
If your collie is suddenly laying in, staying in her bed, and napping a lot more than usual, it clearly indicates something is wrong.
Your collie might not necessarily be sleeping, but laying down in general, daydreaming, and being extra lethargic are all signs to watch out for.
5. Pacifying behaviors
Much like with humans, our dogs engage in many pacifying behaviors and physical “ticks” to help comfort themselves.
From yawning and licking their lips (which is a classic indicator of stress) to licking, biting, or chewing their paws. All of these behaviors are very comforting for your collie and if she’s depressed, she’ll likely be displaying some of them repeatedly.
If you see your collie focusing on her paws, inspect her paws to ensure she doesn’t have some kind of cut, infection or anything of that nature. If her paws seem fine, then you can safely assume this is a pacifying behavior.
Wait for multiple signs:
I may sound like a broken record by now, but I can’t stress the importance of taking what you see in context. It’s crucial to spot multiple signs, rule out chronic pain (explained below), and have a potential cause to tie everything together (explained below).
Rule Out Chronic Pain
Whenever I speak to owners about potential depression, I always mention how important it is to rule out chronic pain.
Chronic pain can be severe, but it can also be a consistent little niggling pain that’s frustrating more than anything else. And it can even develop over time without you knowing.
Chronic pain can cause a lot of similar symptoms as depression can, and rightfully so…
If your collie is in constant pain, it’s unlikely she’ll be bouncing around in excitement, instead, she’ll remain calm, keep herself to herself, and avoid doing anything to aggravate her pain.
This is when your collie will start to exhibit a lot of similar signs such as hiding away, displaying a lack of interest, sleeping more, and refusing to eat.
Of course, the only true way to know if your collie has underlying health issues or chronic pain is to see your veterinarian. So, although many of you may want to avoid a trip to the vets, it should be a priority.
8 Causes of Depression In Border Collies
So, if you are noticing some of the signs mentioned above, you can now think about the possible causes to go along with it.
1. The loss of a family member or other pet
Bereavement. Unfortunately, your collie isn’t immune from grief, and if you’ve recently had someone or another pet in the household pass away, your collie will know what has happened.
Much like how we need to go through grieving periods, so do our dogs and although grieving shouldn’t be considered depression in itself, it can definitely lead to it after a prolonged period.
Grieving periods in dogs can actually last a lot longer than in us. As we have the mental capability to eventually come to terms with things, it’s not as easy for dogs to do that. So a loss in the household could affect your collie for quite some time.
2. Big environmental / lifestyle changes
Big changes in your collie’s immediate environment, daily routine, or life, in general, are another common cause of depression. Our dogs like things to be steady and consistent, so their daily routine is everything, and the moment something stirs this up, it can affect them mentally and even physically.
This includes things like moving homes, new neighbors, new pets, new building work nearby, new work schedule, a new partner in the house, someone has moved out, or even the addition of a baby.
3. Stress and anxiety
If your collie is suffering from any stress or anxiety, it can eventually lead to depression. Admittedly, “stress and anxiety” is very broad and can encompass a lot of different things.
Two of the most common causes of heightened stress in dogs today are being left home alone for too long, too often, and not receiving enough physical and mental exercise.
Take a moment to consider your collie’s routine and think about whether there is any reason for her to be stressed or overly anxious.
4. Not receiving enough attention
Border collies, along with most other working dogs, quickly develop very close bonds with their owners. If your collie isn’t receiving enough of your attention or is feeling left out, this can certainly contribute to canine depression.
This could be because you aren’t physically there (working long hours) or you’ve become super busy inside the house (maybe to look after the kids) and your collie has unfortunately taken a back seat…
Think about how much you are truly engaging, interacting, playing, and spending time with your collie. Is it enough?
5. Insufficient, or a change in exercise
Exercise, both mental and physical is extremely important for any border collie to remain happy and healthy. If her routine has changed or is just insufficient, to begin with, it won’t take long for this to affect her mentally.
Border collies are true working dogs that need to feel “useful” in the family. This is achieved by providing sufficient mental stimulation and intense physical activity.
An otherwise healthy adult collie needs around 2 hours of moderate to intensive exercise per day, and at least a few different activities to keep her brain engaged and challenged.
6. Someone in the house is depressed
Researchers have revealed that our dogs often mimic our own feelings and emotions. And with border collies being the world’s smartest breed, they don’t miss anything!
If you or someone else in the household is feeling down or depressed, your collie will pick up on this and likely exhibit the same feelings.
7. Dietary changes
If you’ve recently changed kibbles, introduced a new treat, or made any kind of changes to her normal diet, it could be making her feel bad.
Not that a change in kibble directly translates to depression, but if it’s irritating her sensitive stomach, it could be the cause of some negative emotions and disinterest.
A recent survey showed that just over 40% of dog owners in the USA feed their dog’s table scraps on a daily basis. Most foods and even gravies are too rich or contain ingredients that are bad for dogs. So try to avoid table scraps if possible!
8. Underlying health issues and chronic pain
As mentioned above, chronic pain is something that should be ruled out as soon as possible. And that goes for underlying health issues too.
It’s completely possible that your collie is suffering from a health issue that has yet to be diagnosed, so for this reason, it’s important to visit your vet for a health check.
Any kind of pain or discomfort will likely show itself very similarly to depression: a lack of interest, hiding away, change in appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, or change of temperament.
How To Help Your Border Collie With Depression
Before attempting to help your collie with depression, it’s important to be confident that she is actually suffering with depression…
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to take everything into context. To be sure that it’s depression, you’ll need to witness multiple signs and have one or more causes in mind (as well as ruling out health issues).
To help your collie overcome her depression, it ALL depends on the cause.
Unfortunately, if the likely cause of the depression is from a recent passing of a family member or canine companion, there isn’t much we can do. In this case, all you can do is be there to comfort and support your collie as much as she needs while trying your best to resume a normal daily routine (for your collie’s sake).
Other causes can be easier to resolve… For example, you might have realized that her exercise routine isn’t where it should be, so in this case, increase her exercise, and her condition could improve very quickly.
And in some situations, a slow and delicate approach might be necessary. For example, if you have a new pet or partner in the house, you’ll need to help facilitate a positive relationship between your collie and the new addition. This can take time and a lot of effort.
Changing work hours is another hard situation to navigate around. But, if your collie is spending too much time home alone, this is certainly something that needs to be changed.
As you can see, it all depends on the cause. Whatever you think is causing the depression, it’s important to address it head-on and see if your collie displays a positive reaction shortly after.
Back to more Border Collie articles >>