When Rescue Dog Seems Sad and Depressed [7 Causes + 7 Solutions]

When Rescue Dog Seems Sad, Depressed

Are you concerned that your rescue dog appears sad and depressed? In this article, we will explore the seven main reasons why this may happen and provide seven approaches to address the problem.

A rescue dog may seem sad and depressed due to the adjustment period, learned helplessness, missing their previous owner, past traumatic experiences, psychological issues, and health problems. These issues can be addressed by forming a strong bond with the dog, using positive reinforcement, building their confidence, and seeking professional help if necessary.

However, the reasons for a dog’s sadness and depression can be both normal and abnormal. Identifying the exact causes can guide you in the right direction to address the issue effectively.

Why does a rescue dog seem sad and depressed?

Before we start, thank you for being such a great human being, and congratulations on your new pup.

Generally, newly adopted canines aren’t in perfect mental health as well as physical health as they’ve gone through so many troubles during their lifetime.

So, without any further ado, let’s head over to the 7 possible reasons. Please note that one or more reasons may influence this behavior.

1. Going through the adjustment period.

Usually, newly adopted dogs take considerable time to adjust to the new environment. The speed of adjustment depends entirely on their personality, troubles they faced, and current mental health.

So, there is nothing to wonder if a newly adopted dog seems sad or depressed during the first few weeks of your house.

However, a typical shelter dog takes about 6-8 weeks to adjust to a new home. In contrast, some others need even more adjusting time. During this adjustment period, some rescue dogs may not even want to leave their crate or room.

The good thing is I’m gonna share with your special tactics to speed up this process which we will cover under solutions.

2. Learned helplessness.

The “Learned helplessness” condition is a significantly common condition among newly adopted canines, making them sad and depressed.

It’s sad to even think about this condition because it happened when a canine learned that it can do nothing to escape from frightening occasions. In this situation, they have no hope, no soul, and in the fullest sense of the word, their life is utterly chaotic. I feel so bad to even write about this.

Building a path of freedom from learned helplessness to a life of hope for tomorrow is your primary job at the movement. Don’t worry. Let me help you with how to do it.

But for now, let’s move to the following reason.

3. It misses the previous owner.

It is clear that the previous owner was rude to this innocent dog. If not, how this lovely canine has ended up in a shelter? So, let’s forget about that.

However, your newly adopted dog may seem sad and depressed might be because it misses the previous owner. It doesn’t matter how badly the previous owner treated this innocent dog; the dogs’ love is unconditional!

Here is why a dog hurts itself inside the crate.

4. Past experience.

It is crystal clear that your rescue dog didn’t have a beautiful life with the former house, making it depressed and sad.

Can you find information on the lifestyle of its previous owners and how he treated this dog? It’s evident that the previous owner was very unkind to the dog.

If so, one of the main reasons for this behavior to happen is past experiences.

Apart from that, this dog has been in a shelter for quite some time. You know what, shelters are one of the worst places to live for canines.

Since the dog is stressed, It may think that your home is another shelter or something similar. What all this makes us understand? Your friend desperately needs your help.

Suggested Reading: Why do some dogs afraid of light reflections and shadows?

5. Due to psychological issues.

If a rescued dog seems sad and depressed, chances are this innocent canine suffering from one or many psychological issues, including anxiety, stress, fear, separation anxiety.

It needs a significant effort and time to recover this newly adopted dog, and it’s not an overnight process.

6. Due to old age.

Is this rescued dog quite old? This may be due to its personality.

Usually, the older dogs are fond of lying on the floor and tend to exhibit indolent conduct. However, being less active and sleeping through the day is terrible, even for older dogs.

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7. Health issues.

If a rescue dog seems sad and depressed, one of the prominent causes could be specific health issues. Usually, dogs that live on the road or in a shelter are more likely to have certain health problems.

Therefore, it’s vital to have a complete medical examination after bringing the dog.

Here, why does your dog keep throwing his head backward?

What can do if a newly adopted dog is sad & depressed?

Enough about reasons. It’s time to dig deep into solutions. But, ensure you have the exact reason(s) in mind before reading in order to get the maximum out of it.

Here, we gonna look into 7 possible approaches you can work on.

1. Make the dog see yourself as a friend.

It’s pretty sure that this canine has been abused by the previous owner. So, this newly adopted dog may seem sad and depressed because it has trust issues with humans.

Chances are, this innocent canine might be thinking you are the same as the previous owner. Give him a specific space, maybe a crate or specific room, just to help him recover.

Lay on the floor nearby the dog and read a book or browse on social media. Essentially you wanna make him comfortable around your presence.

Make sure to speak to her with kind words. They cannot understand your words for sure. However, she can realize that you’re such a kind human being with the tone and heartfeltness.

2. Offer treats.

After introducing yourself as a friend (at least to some extend), consider offering yummy treats as the next most step.

However, if she seems afraid of you, don’t attempt to approach her and offer treats so closely. Instead, try to observe what the edge of her comfort zone is.

She will start eating treats as you gently throw them toward her. She might be uncomfortable with your presence at the movement. So, leave the treats on the floor and go a little farther and see what’s going on.

Consider doing this multiple times in a row and wait for a while and start again. Be sure to monitor if there is at least some progress. If so, consider gradually decreasing the distance between you and the canine.

3. Observe her body language.

Do the above offering treats activity at least for three days while progressing at the speed of a tortoise.

If you did the above #1 and #2 activities correctly, this rescue dog wouldn’t seem to be sad or depressed, at least to some extent.

So, observing her body language and letting her guide your activities is the very next step.

She should be comfortable with your presence at this stage, or maybe she let you touch her. Whenever she comes to you voluntarily and lies nearby, start talking nicely while offering yummy treats.

If she allows you, consider petting areas like the back and side. But, be mindful to stay away from sensitive areas like the mouth, under the chin, ears, tails, head, and paws.

4. Start forming a strong bond.

Start forming a thriving bond with your loving pooch if you have done a great job with the above three approaches!

Note: If this rescued dog still seems depressed and sad, Please consider restarting from the first or second step.

Here are some of my suggestions to build a strong bond with your dog.

  • Start watching TV on the couch with her.
  • Pet her whenever it’s possible.
  • Be sure to use kind words at all times.
  • Occasional hand-feeding is highly effective.
  • Consider bathing and grooming her by your own.
  • Maybe starting basic obediance training by your own.
  • Teach new tricks.
  • Regularly brush her.
  • Start playing small games. Indoor mini-games are also preferable.
  • Spend most of your time in the same room as her.

5. Start building her confidence.

Building her confidence and forming a strong bond with her can be done simultaneously.

However, if she still seems depressed and sad, the reason could be a lack of confidence. So, here are some tips worth considering.

  • Start clicker training.
  • Stick with a daily routine.
  • Play games in the backyard.
  • Feed her with puzzle toys.
  • Teach new tricks.
  • Provide basic obedience training on your own.
  • Start house training.

6. Start socializing.

After completing the above 5 approaches, consider gradually start socializing with her. However, taking her straight to the dog park can be confusing.

It’s a good idea to think about arranging a doggy date. Consider asking one of your friends that has a well-behaved, trained, and calm dog. Spending a whole day with another dog lets your newly adopted dog learn a whole bunch of new things.

After that, consider taking her walks along the road. But, prior to that, she must have completed leash training. Then, gradually expose her to new people, creatures, vehicles, and pretty much every kind of new thing, and eventually the DOG PARK!

7. Get professional help

If the above approaches don’t suit your rescued dog and she is still sad, depressed, çonsider getting professional help.

Things to be aware of.

Before we finish, there are some essential things you need to know as a rescued dog owner.

  • Being extremely patient throughout the process is so vital. Please understand that this isn’t an overnight process, and it takes a lot of time to adjust.
  • NEVER, EVER attempt to punish or yell at.
  • Be gentle with training.
  • Even though luring her with treats and verbal encouragement so vital, ensure not to encourage the fear.
  • Keeping a diary to track her progress is a good idea. As time goes on, you may get discouraged due to slow progress.
  • Do necessary things if she is prone to psychological issues.
  • Don’t skip regular vet checkups.
  • Always respect her space and ensure to give some private time.
  • Prepare a proper diet plan and exercise schedule with the help of your veterinarian.


Thanks for being such a good human being! Some rescue dogs seem depressed and sad during the first few weeks of their new home. We’ve discussed 7 possible causes for this problem and 7 things to do about that. Hope you found this helpful.


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