While most people think of dogs as happy-go-lucky creatures without a care in the world, the reality is that dogs are more emotionally complex than you may realize. And if you’ve ever seen your dog sprawl out on the floor and let out an exasperated sigh, you’ve probably wondered what he could possibly have to sulk about. 

So, why does your dog sulk? There are many potential reasons, ranging from stress/anxiety to boredom, illness, or having recently been scolded. By having a better understanding of why dogs sometimes sulk, you can get to the bottom of your own dog’s emotions.

Why does my dog sulk?

Explore some common reasons as to why dogs often sulk and what you may be able to do about them. Remember that it’s not always a problem if your dog appears sad or dejected from time to time. Just like humans, dogs occasionally just need some time to brood in their emotions. Unless you’re noticing that your dog is frequently sulking, there is generally nothing to worry about.

Your Dog is Stressed or Anxious

Some dogs suffer from depression or anxiety, which may be manifested by frequent sulking. There are many potential causes of stress or anxiety in dogs. Most often, this occurs when a dog has experienced a sudden life change. This could include the death of an owner or another pet, for example. Moving to a new home or even getting a new pet in the house could also lead a dog to feel stressed, anxious, or depressed.

Sometimes, these problems will go away on their own in time—especially as the dog learns to adjust to these changes. If the sulking continues or if it is accompanied by other troublesome behaviors (such as a lack of appetite), then it may be time to visit your dog’s veterinarian for further assessment. There are anxiety and depression medications available to dogs, and these may help your canine companion.

Your Dog is Bored

A more innocent and common cause of sulking dogs is that of sheer boredom. Think about how you feel when you’re cooped up in the house for too long or aren’t getting enough physical activity. You probably feel not quite like yourself—and you may even begin to feel sad. Your dog is the same way. Dogs, like people, have an inherent need to be entertained and to form meaningful relationships with others. They also have a need to get some fresh air and occasional exercise.

If you notice your dog sulking, take a minute to consider when the last time you did something fun with your dog was. If it’s been a while, try taking your dog on a walk or visit your local dog park. You’ll probably notice that your dog’s mood perks right up and stays there!

Your Dog is Injured or Sick

While less likely, it is also possible that your dog could be sulking due to an underlying injury or illness. Don’t assume that if your dog was hurt or sick that he or she would let you know; as a survival mechanism, sick and injured dogs will often become withdrawn and may appear sad or disinterested in their surroundings. 

If you’ve noticed your dog sulking more often recently, try to give your dog a quick physical examination to look for any obvious problems. Lacerations, broken bones, sores, or even bug bites are just a few things to be on the lookout for. You’ll also want to watch out for any other symptoms that could indicate the presence of an underlying illness, such as a lack of appetite, vomiting, or change in potty habits. If you have any inkling that your dog may be sick or injured, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Your Dog is Being Submissive

If you have recently scolded your dog for doing something he or she shouldn’t have done, you may also notice that your dog is sulking. This is because many dogs are submissive to their owners and will thus express this kind of behavior when they have been punished.

There’s nothing you need to do if your dog is sulking as a result of being scolded. In fact, it is actually a sign that your dog respects you and understands that his or her behavior was unwanted. Give it a few minutes and your dog will likely return to his or her happy self.

Why does my dog sulk when I leave?

If you’ve been told that your dog sulks when you leave the house, you may be wondering why this is the case. There are a couple of possibilities to consider here.

Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety

The most common reason that your dog may sulk when you leave the house is that of separation anxiety. This is a condition that affects many dogs. If your dog is used to you being home and receiving frequent attention from you, then it only makes sense that your dog will become dejected when you leave. 

Dogs express separation anxiety in many different ways. Some dogs become anxious to the point of being destructive, whereas others may refuse to eat until their owner returns. Many dogs will simply sulk and appear sad. If this is the case with your dog, there are some things you can try to help ease the separation anxiety while you’re gone. 

Consider, for example, taking your dog for a walk before you have to leave the house. This may help to tire your dog out so that he or she simply naps while you’re away. Some pet owners have also found success with leaving out worn clothing items so that their dogs can still enjoy their scent while separated. If your dog’s separation anxiety seems more severe, you might want to talk to your veterinarian for more tailored recommendations; some dogs do well with anxiety medications when their owners are away for extended periods of time.

Your Dog is Bored When You Leave

It is also possible that your dog is simply bored when you’re not around. As a result, he or she may sulk.

Fortunately, it is pretty simple to alleviate boredom in your dog while you’re away. Consider picking up a few new toys and make sure that they are only available to your dog when you leave the house. This can create a great distraction that will keep your dog occupied until you return. You might also want to try taking your dog on a walk or letting him spend some time outdoors before you leave, as this will increase the chances that your dog will be tired enough to relax and sleep while you’re away.

Some pet owners even find that their dogs are happier and less bored if the television or radio is left on for them while they’re home alone. Think about it; sitting in an empty and quiet house would probably make you bored. Your dog is likely the same way.

Do dogs hold grudges?

Another common question dog owners have is whether or not these creatures are capable of holding grudges. Many dog owners swear that their dog has held a grudge against another human or pet as a result of something that happened in the past. By having a better understanding of how dog psychology works, you can better differentiate between a true grudge and a negative association.

Understanding Grudges vs. Associations

Studies have shown that dogs are not actually capable of holding grudges in the same sense that humans are. Their short- and long-term memory simply does not work in that way. However, it is possible for dogs to form negative associations based on events or repeated actions. 

For example, if you take your dog to the dog park and he gets into a squabble with another dog, there’s a good chance that he will form a negative association with that dog or even the entire dog park. The next time you take your dog to the park, he may appear disinterested or anxious. Or, he may appear perfectly content unless he sees the same dog again. 

These reactions are not necessarily grudges in the sense that your dog is not intentionally reacting in a certain way. Instead, a negative experience has become deep-rooted in your dog’s memory to the point that those negative feelings are brought back up in a similar context.

How to Handle a “Grudge”

Whether you want to call it a grudge or a negative association, you may be concerned if your dog seems to have trouble with certain people, pets, or situations.

Typically, the best way to handle a grudge in a dog is to try and replace any negative associations with positive ones. For example, if you’ve recently started dating somebody new and your dog seems to react with jealousy towards that person when they come over, you might want to try having your significant other bring a small treat or toy to the house for your dog. Over time, this can help your dog form a positive association with this person, which may help him or her to get over that so-called “grudge.”

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.