Can Dogs be Paranoid?

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Introduction

It's probably happened to you before: you've felt fine, but suddenly, you're overcome with a flash of paranoia, anxiety, nervousness, or fear. This a brief, moderate tinge of paranoia, a mental condition characterized by delusion, hallucinations, and conspiracies in a person's head that is manifested in fear and anxiety

You know people get it, but have you've ever stopped to wonder, can my dog get paranoid? 

The short answer? Kind of. While doggos don't have the exact mental capacity for the complex, mental emotions and conditions that humans do, they can still have paranoia-like symptoms that manifest themselves in fear, anxiety, and other emotions. So, how can you combat paranoia for your pup? How can you tell when your dog is feeling paranoid, nervous, or scared? And, what can you do about it? 

If you want to ensure that you're keeping an eye on your pup and understanding his paranoia-like tendencies, you've come to the right article. We've put together a list of things you should look for, body language your dog may give you, ways you can help your pup deal with paranoia, and what you can do to prevent it from happening with your dog. 

Signs Your Dog May Have Paranoid-Like Symptoms?

As we said before, your dog can't really suffer from paranoia the way that people do. They likely cannot dream up conspiracies or hallucinations about people who are out to get them, or have illusions about themselves, either. 

They do, however, have some of the same paranoid-like manifestations, like fear, aggression, unpredictability, and anxiety. These could stem from a number of different causes, many from the environment they're in, the elements around them, the people they're surrounded by, or even an internal imbalance (yes, dogs have those, too). 

What's more important, your dog knows how to give you all the signs you need to determine whether or not he's having paranoid tendencies. Keep a lookout for a few of these signs. Check to see how your dog is reacting to things. 

Does he have his tail tucked between his legs? Is he hiding? Does he cower? How about the hair on the back of his neck - is it raised more often than not? What about his ears? Are they flat back or perked up high? 

There are tons of smaller details, too. For example, look at your dog's eyes. Can you see the whites all around? If so, he's giving you the big, scared, "Whale-Eye" look. 

What about his pupils? Are they dilated? If they are, he might be feeling fearful or anxious. Paranoid dogs will also have a few physical symptoms, too, such as pacing, drooling, panting, and loss of control over their bladders. 

Body Language

Here are a few body language cues your dog may be giving you to alert you to his paranoid-like tendencies. Make sure you're keeping an eye out for cues like:
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Howling
  • Chewing
  • Cowering
  • Shaking
  • Guarding
  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Growling

Other Signs

But that's not all. There are plenty of signs your dog may be giving you that could determine he's suffering from fear or paranoia. Make sure you're looking out for some of these signs, too:
  • Loss of Bowel Control
  • Biting or Growling
  • Distance from Owner
  • Clinginess
  • Drooling
  • Wide Eyes
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Hiding or Cowering
  • Acts of Aggression
  • Submissive Urination

Historic Causes of Canine Paranoia-Like Symptoms

Historically, a dog's paranoid-like symptoms come from a specific trigger - think about how dogs get scared in thunderstorms, with loud noises, or with certain kinds of people. A lot of dog paranoia and fear can come from past experiences, abuse, shelter environments, life on the street, and more. 

However, paranoia and nervousness can sometimes just be part of your dog's personality or breed. Small dogs tend to shake or be nervous around larger animals and people - this is just a tendency of their breed.

In other cases, you may just have a dog who is naturally a bit more introverted and nervous. Much of your dog's personality is based on nurture, but a lot of it comes from nature, too. Many dogs simply have a more nervous and anxious demeanor.

The Science Behind Paranoia and Anxiety

Paranoia has often been called a brain attack when it's referred to in humans, and it's not that much different with canines. Paranoia, though different between the species, manifests itself in dogs in many of the same ways as it does in people - fear, nervousness, and anxiousness.

Paranoia is essentially your brain giving you an unreasonable fear of something - harm from others, harm from yourself, non-existing threats, and things like these. For people, this can include delusions, unrealistic persecution, conspiracies, and more. 

This type of behavior can happen in dogs, too. The way dogs' brains function is a touch different, though. In a lot of ways, they don't have the same complex thought processes and are unable to have the same conditions humans do. Instead, they'll have paranoid-like symptoms because of irrational or unreasonable fears, or even, from fears they've been accustomed to, like abuse, mistreatment, and more.

How to Train Your Dog to Deal with Paranoid-Like Symptoms

Owning and loving a dog who is fearful, anxious, and has paranoid-like symptoms can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be a no-deal situation. In fact, lots of paranoid or anxious dogs can live great, full lives with the right ownership. Think about providing your dog with endless patience, lots of love, and tons of affection. 

Often, training your dog with obedience commands can be a welcomed distraction for him and can take his mind off of his paranoia and anxiety. Just be sure to be patient and use lots of positive reinforcement when it comes to training your pup - aka, treats are a definite win! 

Additionally, train your dog to enjoy his space, and train yourself to let him. Give him a comfy, safe, and cozy crate that he can make all his own. If he's feeling unsafe or paranoid, he has a safe, cozy place to retreat.

Your vet might recommend giving your dog anti-anxiety medication. If this is the case, make sure your dog is comfortable taking pills - the last thing you want with an anxious dog is to shove something down his throat. Train your dog to participate in a throw-and-catch game with his pills, teach him to take it gently from your hand, or how to eat it out of his bowl with his regular food.

How to React if Your Dog Gets Paranoid

  • Talk with your vet about anti-anxiety medications.
  • Distract your dog with strict obedience commands to learn.
  • Show your dog a lot of love and patience.
  • Show your dog a lot of affection and give a lot of treats.
  • Give your dog a safe, quiet, comfortable crate.