They learn to fake an injury and fake pain they when they want attention or they do it when they want to get their way. Perhaps your dog did not want to leave the dog park and you asked them sternly to come. Suddenly, your dog starts walking to you but they are limping and acting as if they hurt themselves. If you were watching your dog the whole time and could see they didn't actually get hurt, chances are they are just faking an injury to get their way.
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Signs of a Dog Faking an Injury
There are quite a few signs to look out for to tell whether your dog is faking an injury or not. It is important to note that it is challenging at times to distinguish if your dog is actually hurt or if they are faking their pain and injury.
The most important part is to keep an eye on them when you can so if they do start limping or showing pain in some way, you can evaluate whether or not they actually hurt themselves. Even if your dog starts showing signs of an injury and you did not witness it, you can still evaluate the situation.
For instance, some dogs will limp on their right paw when you are watching them. You may turn away or peek at them from another room only to find them running around the kitchen with their favorite toy. This is a sign your dog is really fine and they only fake an injury when they know you are watching.
Another way you can tell is if they have been faking some kind of injury for a while and then they suddenly are fine and act like there was never an issue in the first place. This may be hard to spot, so you want to keep a lookout for a rapid progression from severely limping to running around like normal within a few seconds.
- Averting eyes
- Sudden Improvement in "Injury."
- Limping for No Apparant Reason
- Sporadic Symptoms
- Symptoms Begin When They Notice You
History of Dogs Faking an Injury
We all know that dogs are very intelligent. Your dog connects very strongly with you, their owner, and over time, they can begin to learn your behavior, personality, and figure out how to manipulate you to get what they want. Since your dog has the ability to learn these behaviors, it certainly means they can learn how to fake pain and fake an injury to either get attention or to get what they want.
This is often a learned trait which they gradually remember over time. Perhaps one time they did hurt their paw and began to limp. You likely rushed over to your pooch and made a huge fuss over them just to make sure they were okay and not seriously hurt. For some dogs, it just takes one time for them to realize that when they injure themselves, you will rush over to them with lots of attention and care. Your dog has the ability to remember this for the future and can use it to manipulate you.
For example, one family had a dog with a medical condition that prevented the dog from jumping on the bed. The other dog learned he got special treatment and not her, and she was never lifted to the bed like her brother. She began to limp as well to gain sympathy and the same treatment as her brother. However, the female dog was able to turn her limp on and off and would also change which leg she limped on. This is a classic example a dog learning how to fake pain to receive attention.
Science Behind Dogs Faking an Injury
Unfortunately, there has not been any research on why dogs fake an injury and what their true intentions are, although much of that information can be determined through studying patterns in behavior on your own! It is even more unclear from a scientific standpoint how dogs are able to take this learned behavior and use it to their advantage in such a precise and manipulative way. There are tons of theories floating around on the Internet and in books as to why dogs fake an injury, however.
If your dog does appear to have an injury, whether you think they are faking it or not, it is always a good idea to take them to the vet for a checkup just to make sure there is no other underlying medical issue for their behavior. If your dog is cleared by their vet but they still have bouts of on and off fake injuries, you can safely conclude they are just doing this for attention.
Training Dogs to Stop Faking an Injury
If you can safely determine that your pet's limping or other fake injury is not due to a medical reason, your dog is likely faking pain and injuries for attention and sympathy, for one reason or another. In all cases, their ability to fake an injury is a fully learned behavior and it eventually becomes a habit. Although you may not want to hear this, this learned behavior is taught by you, and this can happen for a variety of reasons.
It is very likely your dog hurt their paw one time - maybe when you were out on a walk and they stepped on a rock, they winced and began to limp. You rushed over to them and coddled them, made a huge fuss, and gave them a lot of love and attention. You may have even found yourself in this situation with your dog more than once. Eventually, your dog is going to learn that when they injure a body part, they are going to get excessive amounts of attention and special treatment.
The good news is you can train them out of this behavior with time and persistence. You do not want to scold your dog or yell at them for faking any pain symptoms because it can still wind up reinforcing their behavior. For some dogs, even bad attention is still good attention.
What you want to do is simply ignore their behavior when they begin to fake an injury. That means no rushing to them, not asking them what is wrong, and no making a fuss over them. The goal is to break this cycle so they no longer associate faking pain with any attention. Therefore, only give them love, attention, and affection when they do not show any signs of faking an injury. This will teach your dog they will get attention when they are being good.
How to React if Your Dog is Faking an Injury:
Don't coddle them.
Ignore the behavior.
Don't punish them for faking pain.
Have your vet confirm there is no real injury.