Most dog owners will agree that there is nothing better than snuggling with your pooch. So when sweet little Fluffy starts to avoid your company it can be cause for hurt feelings and concern. You may find yourself asking yourself a lot of questions regarding the behavior. What did I do wrong? Is something wrong with Fluffy? Why do dogs isolate themselves? And these are all valid questions in the event your fur baby becomes more elusive. There are multiple opinions on the matter from the field of experts that have weighed in on the topic of a canine isolating themselves from their humans and other animals.
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The Root of the Behavior
There are many possible causes as to why your dog may isolate himself. Just like with humans, dogs are susceptible to developing depression. If a dog experiences major life changes, they may slump into a depressed state that causes them to want to be alone and isolated. Changes ranging from moving to a new family member, or the loss of a companion (human or otherwise) can all bring about depression in your pup.
The loss of any companion from your dog's life will have a tremendous effect. Whether it be a human or other animal, canines mourning this loss is quite common. And like with a lot of humans, some dogs prefer to be alone during this time of grief. Just because we often think of our pups as emotional support for ourselves does not mean they don't need the same from us at times, including letting them grieve in their own way.
Anxiety is another condition that can cause your dog to want to hide or isolate themselves from the rest of the world. Poor socialization, trauma, and fear of loud noises are all possibilities to consider if you think anxiety may be the issue. Some experts have stated that with anxiety you will most likely see other behavior changes along with the isolation. Your pup may tremble, whine, bark, and even groom excessively when they are anxious.
Pain, injury, and illness all can play a part in your pooch wanting to be isolated as well. A natural instinct in dogs is to hide their pain and avoid showing weakness. Your pup may instinctively "den" himself as a way to find safety and comfort if he is not feeling well. The more primal desire to not slow down the pack may also come into play for the need to isolate themselves.
Encouraging the Behavior
Our dogs communicate a lot of their feelings and issues to us through body language. The attempt at isolating themselves is another form of that communication. It is your job as their pack leader to figure out what is wrong and what is the best course of action for their well being. Also, keeping your dog safe is your responsibility as their 'alpha' figure, which can mean putting them above your own hurt feelings when they are isolating themselves.
Letting your fur baby have this 'alone time' may be hard, but it may also be necessary. Trying to force your pup to socialize when he or she is hurting isn't always the best idea. Contact your vet for their advice on how you should handle any sudden changes in your dog's behavior. If you suspect that he or she may be in pain, getting them to the vet is definitely in order. A complete physical may be ideal to rule out anything major and to determine the best treatment if required. The need to isolate themselves could be either mental or physical, the same as it is with humans. Determining the root of the issue may prove difficult without seeking the help of an expert, such as your veterinarian.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog is not quite still a spring pup, age may also be a consideration for the need to isolate himself. There are experts who feel that in the final days of your fur baby's life, he or she will attempt to isolate themselves for a number of reasons. This is a point of controversy among some, but maybe something to consider. Aging and dying dogs are no different from you and me in that they may need special attention and care in their older age. There are dietary needs, grooming concerns, and possibly pain management that should all be considered for senior dogs.
Making sure that your dog is well socialized when they are still a puppy may help to avoid some of the fears and anxiety that can occur later on. Spending as much time as possible with your new fur baby is good for not only their health but yours as well. And remember, a happy and healthy puppy will love you 'furever'!