Why Is My Puppy Acting Sad?

By Susan Paretts

Puppies are typically rambunctious balls of energy, so if you find little Fido moping around, something is wrong. While some pups can become depressed due to a change in their routine or environment, sadness and lethargy can also indicate that your pup is ill. After ruling out a medical condition as the cause of your pup's depression, cheer up Fido with a little extra attention.

Medical Causes

The immune system of a young puppy is still developing, opening the little guy up to a variety of illnesses and infections. Depression and lethargy are common symptoms of illness, meaning that your pup may appear sad because he's actually feeling unwell. An injury or illness, such as distemper or parvovirus, could be causing your pup's depression, along with changes in his energy level or appetite. These conditions are rare in fully vaccinated adult dogs, but a puppy is more susceptible to them. Other conditions, such as portosystemic shunt and hydrocephalus, can also cause depression in puppies.

Environmental Causes

When you adopt a new puppy, he can become overwhelmed by his new home and housemates, making him sad and depressed. A move to a new home, the addition of a new housemate, a change in his daily routine or even a lack of attention can all cause your pup to become depressed. As a new owner, you may spend lots of time with your pup initially, but may spend less time with him over time. This lack of attention can definitely make your pup sad because he simply wants to spend more time with you. Feeling ignored, he can develop issues with depression and separation anxiety.


Bring your pup to the vet for an exam to determine if an illness could be the cause of his depression. With treatment for an illness or injury, his depression should soon subside. If Fido's healthy, then try spending more time with him, engaging him in games and other enjoyable activities to lift his spirits. When you notice your pup behaving happily, reward him with lots of praise and treats to reinforce this behavior. Don't negatively reinforce your pup's depressed behavior by coddling him when he's behaving in a listless or mopey manner. Instead, get him out of his funk with a toy or game and then reward him with attention.


While most little pups quickly bounce back from a bout of depression, if Fido is perpetually listless and sad, he may need more help. Discuss his behavior with your vet, who can prescribe him a psychiatric medication to help treat his persistent depression. While you're gone during the day, have a dog walker come to not only give your little pup a potty break, but also some attention to cheer him up. During the day, leave Fido with a few toys to play with and chew on, so he doesn't get bored and depressed, especially if he's teething. You may also want to consider getting your pup a young canine buddy to keep him company during the day as well.