Is your dog acting paranoid? It's probably surprised you to realize that your dog is even capable of acting paranoid, but dogs can and do. Has he followed you, nose stuck to the back of your leg, while you're putting out the trash and even though you've reassured him you'll be right back, he's acting as if you're going to leave him forever? When you reached the door of the vet's surgery, did your dog dig in his paws and refuse to budge another centimeter even though you did your best to let him know he's not due for a vaccination? You might even have arrived home to find your dog trembling and looking scared, but you haven't got a clue why? If you have and he's shaking more than you would be on Halloween night opening the shower curtain thinking someone was about to play a Shining prank on you, then you'll have an inkling of just how paranoid dogs can be.
But why do dogs act paranoid?
The Root of the Behavior
Fear and uncertainty are often the root of all phobias, not just for humans but for dogs too. While it's not known just exactly how a dog's memory works, they do remember things. The same as with people, bad experiences or the times when they've been afraid are more likely to stick in a dog's mind than just how tasty that last juicy bone he ate was. He may well recall how unpleasant the injections were the last time he went to the vet and even though you know he's not going to get another one, he doesn't, and he may well display paranoia at the sheer thought he might be going to get another jab. Who can blame him?
Have you ever heard the saying, he's afraid of his own shadow? The same as humans, dogs have an inborn fight or flight mechanism. If you arrive home to find your dog cowering in a corner and acting as if he'd seen a ghost, it's quite possible he's been frightened by a loud noise while you were out or by something he couldn't physically see. Being unable to either confront it or run from it, he's succumbed to a bad bout of paranoia. Though, if you live in a haunted house, you may want to consider if your dog has any psychic abilities before you classifying him as paranoid.
If you've been watching a great game of football on the TV and let out a flow of verbal expletives because your team missed out on a touchdown, and your dog flies off the sofa and hide under the kitchen table? Has his paranoid behavior left you confused? After all, he hadn't done anything wrong, had he? Well, he hadn't this time, but he may well have connected your tone of voice or even the words you used with a previous moment when he'd committed a common canine crime. It might have been when he was a pup and he chewed up your slippers or ripped a cushion to shreds and you gave him a serious verbal telling off. Your shouting at the TV could well be misinterpreted by your dog. It'll make him act paranoid because he thinks he's in a whole lot of trouble when all that's wrong is your football team is in dire need of a new coach.
Encouraging the Behavior
While dogs do act paranoid, it's not something, as a pet owner, you'll want to see your dog suffer. Dogs who act paranoid are undergoing some serious anxiety and that's not a pleasant sensation for man or beast. Your dog's anxiety, if left undealt with, can evolve into full blown panic attacks which, if your pet is home alone, could mean he'll destroy something or even begin to urinate or poop in the house.
Fear or paranoia in a pup can lead to aggressive behavior. It's natural for a dog to try and protect himself when he's scared, even though he may have no idea what it is he's afraid of. If your dog is feeling under stress, other than acting paranoid, he may well act completely out of character and he could either growl or snap at you.
It's nice to be loved and great that your dog misses you when you're not at home. What's not good is if he's so nervous when you leave him, that it makes him paranoid you won't be coming back. You want him to be comfortable while you're gone, not to sit whining at the door because he feels he's been abandoned. To help him adjust to being alone, try leaving him for shorter periods of time until he gets used to the fact that you haven't gone for good.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety and destroying the house every time you go out, you might want to consider taking a few training sessions with a professional dog trainer. They'll be able to advise you on some positive training techniques which will help you reassure your dog and prevent him from acting paranoid when you leave him.
A dog suddenly starting to act paranoid, particularly if they're older, can be indicative of a serious medical condition. If you think your pet might not be as well as he should be, is losing weight, is overactive or displaying symptoms of paranoia, the best thing to do is consult with a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible.
A dog's mental health is as important as a human's. While we'd like them to be happy and content all the time, it doesn't always happen because they have mood swings too. Dogs do act paranoid for various reasons including being left alone. If your pup is suffering from anxiety separation, you might want to consider, instead of leaving him home with a bone, getting him a mobile phone and calling him three times a day to let him know you're missing him as well.