Ever have one of those days when your mood was just all over the place? Maybe one minute you're feeling balanced and content, then the next you can't tell if you're going to cry or scream? Of course you have! Mood swings are something everyone experiences from time to time, and it turns out canines can experience them too.
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What causes mood swings?
Mood swings can occur in humans and other animals for a number of reasons. One very common cause of mood swings is an imbalance or even a change in hormone levels. Puberty, premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy, menopause and thyroid disorders are all things that can affect a person's mood. Additionally, stress can also lead to mood and behavioral changes, both among people and canines. Finally, psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression, and ADHD can also contribute to a shift in moods in humans.
Puberty and mood changes
One of the moodiest points in a person's life is during adolescence when puberty hits, and the same thing goes for dogs. Like people, a dog's system is flooded with hormones during the puberty stage of life, and the brain undergoes reorganization. A 2020 study published by The Royal Society Publishing attempted to measure similarities in dog adolescence to human adolescence in response to dog owners and parents, respectively. The study concluded that just like with people, adolescence is a critical time in a dog's life and development, and what he experiences during this time can affect the relationship with his owner for the rest of his life. Dogs who showed insecure attachments with their owners not only displayed more signs of separation anxiety and risk-taking behaviors, but female dogs in this camp actually began puberty earlier than their more securely attached counterparts.
Adolescent dogs were also shown to be less responsive and obedient to their owners during adolescence, much like human children, who often begin to separate themselves from their caretakers during this time. However, these same dogs still responded to commands from a familiar acquaintance. Because dogs do eventually grow out of the adolescent stage, it's important to exercise patience during a dog's puberty cycle, and consider working with a trainer during this time especially, moody disobedience and all.
Mood swings in female dogs
Another time that a dog might experience mood swings is during the heat cycle, or estrous cycle, of an unspayed female dog. As the name states, large amounts of the estrogen hormone are produced to prepare the dog for mating, possible pregnancy, and to make herself more visible and attractive to male suitors for the purpose of procreation. On average, puberty starts around six months for most dogs, at which point a female dog will go into heat once or twice per year after that unless she is spayed.
Signs of mood changes in dogs
The signs and symptoms of mood swings will vary from dog to dog, so it's best to simply observe your dog's behavior over time and do your best to associate causes and triggers with specific moods. A dog's body language can be a good indicator of what kind of mood she's in — movement and positioning of the tail, the hackles on her shoulders, and her overall posture can offer fair warnings as to whether a dog is in the mood for play or would rather be left alone.
Physical changes in dogs can correspond with changes in mood, but can also indicate a more serious medical issue. If you notice that your dog is refusing to eat, is sleeping more than usual, or is irritable or gives warnings to stay away when touched, you should consult your veterinarian to rule out or diagnose possible ailments, like arthritis, which is common among older dogs.
Dogs can, and do experience mood swings. Like people and other mammals, common causes of mood swings include hormonal shifts due to adolescence, heat cycles, and pregnancy. However, your dog does not have to be undergoing any of those hormone-related situations in order to experience a shift in his or her mood. Stress, attachment styles, and health issues, both mental and physical, can also contribute to changes in mood and/or behavior.