If your boxer has started looking particularly unhappy, you’ll want to know why and how to help. This article focuses on the signs of depression in boxer dogs, the common causes, and how to help. them.
Boxers, like all breeds, can feel a wide range of emotions, and it is possible for them to become depressed. Many of the signs and causes are actually similar to humans.
Can Boxer Dogs Get Depressed?
To clarify, canine depression is actually a thing, and all breeds including boxers can suffer from it. Researchers have proven that dogs can experience a wide range of emotions from happiness, sadness, jealousy, fear, anger, and even depression.
Although not much research has been carried out specifically into canine depression, that’s not the case for human depression. And surprisingly enough, this helps us out a lot. Many of the signs and causes of canine depression are very similar to the ones that we experience.
5 Signs That Indicate Your Boxer Is Depressed
There is a range of signs that could suggest your Boxer is in fact depressed. Let’s run through them below.
Important note: Everything must be taken into context. Many of the signs can also be symptoms of other underlying health issues, so it’s best to look out for multiple signs and combine them with a relevant cause.
1. Hiding and avoiding
A common sign that indicated canine depression is frequently hiding away from the main focal point of the house. Avoiding owners and other family members, shying away to other quieter rooms is a sign that something isn’t right. Especially considering boxers usually love nothing more than to be right at the heart of any action or activity.
2. Lack of interest
If your boxer starts displaying a general lack of interest in the things they typically would like, it’s important to take note. Not wanting to play games with you or barely reacting to when you call them is a common sign of canine depression.
3. Change in eating habits
Much like us when we get depressed we often don’t feel like eating. The same goes for canine depression too. If your boxer is feeling particularly down or depressed he may start refusing food. Of course, this is a very common symptom of other underlying issues too, so as I mentioned above it’s crucial to take everything into context.
4. Change in sleeping habits
Again, much like us when we are depressed we’ll often want to stay in bed and perhaps just sleep all day. The same goes for your boxer too. This overlaps with showing a lack of interest, but it’s worth taking note of just how much your boxer is sleeping. If your boxer has been very active, then sleeping more is likely justified, but sleeping excessively is something to be wary of.
5. Pacifying behaviors
Engaging in pacifying behaviors can indicate your boxer is depressed, stressed, or feeling anxious in general. The most common pacifying behavior seen in dogs is excessively licking their paws. While this can happen for other reasons (like allergies), it’s a common indicator of stress & anxiety. Other potential pacifying behaviors are excessively licking or biting other parts of the body, or even scratching.
Rule out health issues
It’s true that many of these signs can indicate other unrelated health issues, which is why it’s best to keep an open mind in this situation. Identifying whether your boxer really has depression or not, relies on witnessing multiple signs and a good cause. If in doubt, always call your veterinarian for a health check-up to be on the safe side.
9 Causes Of Depression In Boxer Dogs
While it’s good to be on the lookout for the signs, it’s the causes that really help you confirm depression or not. You’ll likely be able to rule out causes quickly depending on what they are.
1. Grieving the loss of another pet or family member
Humans and canines alike go through a grieving period when a pet or someone close has been lost. In fact, studies show that the canine grieving period can be a lot longer than it is with us. This typically depends on the bond/relationship they had with the pet or person that has passed.
2. Addition of another pet or family member
The complete opposite of losing a pet or family member is gaining one! And this too can cause your Boxer to react negatively. The addition of a pet, new baby or partner, could lead to some level of jealously and feeling left out. Boxers definitely like to be their owner’s priority and receive all of the attention, so when there’s a new kid on the block, this might not go down very well.
3. Big environment changes
Any kind of change in your Boxer’s close environment can also be a common cause of depression. Things like moving homes, getting new neighbors, or even new building work noises nearby… they can all unsettle and disturb your Boxer’s feeling of comfort and safety. This is likely down to the fact that dogs are highly in-tune with their survival instincts, and often react unpredictably when things change around them.
4. Someone in the home is depressed
If there’s someone else in the house that’s feeling down or depressed, your Boxer will absolutely pick up on it and potentially mimic their feelings. This is particularly true if it’s the “main” owner who’s feeling down, but it can also be the case for anyone that your Boxer is close to. Dogs really do mirror the way we feel and act.
5. Insufficient exercise or stimulation
Boxers are highly energetic and need sufficient stimulation both physical and mental in order to be happy, calm, and well-behaved. When left understimulated boxers can react in a range of negative ways including bad behavior, destructive behavior, aloofness, aggression, stress, anxiety, and depression. Consider your Boxer’s daily exercise routine (physical AND mental) and be honest about whether it’s enough. Ways to keep Boxers entertained and stimulated
6. Being left home alone too much
If your Boxer spends many hours home alone every day this can certainly lead to anxiety and depression. Dogs are social animals and do not like being left alone. Some breeds are more sensitive to this than others, and Boxers are definitely on the sensitive side. Each Boxer will tolerate a different amount of time but in general 4-5 hours is the threshold for most.
7. Not receiving enough attention
Boxers absolutely love nothing more than receiving their owner’s undivided attention, so when they don’t receive it, it affects them badly. Boxers are particularly sensitive to their owners and are generally love being close and affectionate with them. Without your love, time, and focus, your Boxer will feel down, sad, and eventually depressed.
8. Dietary Issues
If you have recently tried a new kibble or diet plan with your Boxer, there’s a chance it isn’t working out too well. In rare cases (but still possible) a change in their diet could lead to depression. Typically, a range of other reactions will happen first, like food refusal, upset stomachs, and diarrhea, however, if your Boxer remains eating food they are not happy with, depression could be the result in the long run.
9. Underlying chronic pain or health issues
Last but not least, chronic pain or other underlying health issues are a very big factor when it comes to your Boxer’s day-to-day emotions and feelings. Dealing with any kind of consistent pain (mild or severe) can have a huge effect on how your Boxer feels. Unfortunately, there are myriad of health issues that Boxers are prone to, and without a detailed health check-up, are often hard to diagnose.
As mentioned above, many of the signs and symptoms of depression are shared with other issues like chronic pain and health problems. This is why it’s crucial to consider a vet visit if the cause of depression isn’t immediately clear or obvious to you.
How To Help Your Boxer Dog Overcome Depression
I won’t sugar coat anything here, for some situations the solutions are fairly simple, but for others, it can be quite complicated.
The solutions ultimately depend on the cause. And some are more easily dealt with than others.
For example, if it’s likely that the cause of your Boxer’s depression is a change of diet, not receiving enough of your attention, or being underexercised and stimulated, then you can make simple changes in the right direction. Prioritize his exercise, training, and socialization, or make that important switch back to his old food…
Other things can be a little tricker. If you’ve recently lost a pet or family member, we can’t really do much to help with grieving other than to be there for our dogs if they want our support and attention. In cases like this, it’s actually best to keep your Boxer’s routine the same and be sure to show plenty of attention and offer chances to play, train, and take their mind off the situation. Time is your friend with a grieving dog.
If you have moved house, gained a new partner, child, or pet, then you’ll need to take measures to build positive associations between your Boxer and the newcomer. Be sure to show your Boxer plenty of attention, and encourage him to interact with the new addition in a friendly positive way. Ample treats and praise are the tricks.
Perhaps you need to hire a dog sitter or rearrange a work schedule (if possible). If your Boxer is spending several hours home alone every day then I would personally address this right away. This could definitely be the cause, so it’s best to take action on resolving this. I have a full article on leaving Boxers home alone here.
If you have no idea as to a potential cause, then I encourage a vet check-up to rule out health issues. You will also have the chance to consult with your veterinarian who likely has experience in behavioral issues such as canine depression.
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