When caring for a dog, it’s imperative to know when to seek veterinary care. This sounds simple enough, but it’s not quite that easy to know exactly when your dog needs help and when he is faking.
Yes, some dogs actually fake injury to get attention. It’s not a behavior they are born with; rather, it is learned. Some animals will fake an injury to draw attention away from their nest or den where their babies live.
Dogs use whatever means possible to get what they need, whether it’s food or dominance in the pack. In the human world, they learn many ways to do this that we might think of as human characteristics.
For instance, a hungry dog might stare at you until you get the message. Some will paw you to gain attention. Yet others will show their status in the pack by pushing pack members away or nudging their owners.
It Takes Time to Figure out What Your Dog Wants and Needs
Dogs have been known to do some odd things to gain their owners’ attention. They cough, chew on their own legs or tails, drink large quantities of water, vomit, and chase imaginary creatures and damage items around the house.
Homes with more than one dog or pet can elicit jealousy and an increased demand for attention. “Sympathy lameness” is one way dogs will get noticed. Moping is another common symptom of a bored dog that just wants a response from you.
Competition can do strange things to animal behavior. Dogs will exaggerate, too. If you step on a dog’s paw or tail, he might cry out as if his leg was broken.
Dogs learn this behavior from their owners. If you have ever become overly compassionate when your dog has been injured in some way, he will use your “weakness” later whenever he wants your attention.
While this can be amusing sometimes, you have to be able to distinguish between serious injury and a faked injury. But how do you do that?
Unless your dog is crying out, bleeding or obviously ill, give it a bit of time to see whether the behavior persists. Fakes will be temporary and intermittent. It might only appear when other animals are present and getting the attention. Crying usually will stop after a few minutes, although he might continue if he is isolated and otherwise upset.
Remember that you cannot take the dog’s behavior logically. He doesn’t recognize the difference between attention received from an angry owner and that which he gets from a sympathetic one. It’s all attention to him.
If he is clearly faking his illness, the best thing you can do is ignore him. It will be difficult, but refrain from acknowledging his condition. Leave the room the moment his behavior begins. Only give attention when the behavior stops.
If you are unsure if he’s faking it, take him to the vet and watch his reaction. Most likely his symptoms will disappear before he gets there or shortly after he leaves the environment that triggered the behavior.
Caring for a dog means understanding his behavior, but do not neglect a persistently ill dog as it’s quite possible he truly is sick and needs veterinary care.