Can Dogs Fake Being Confused?

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Confusion is something that nobody likes, and often when we are confused or we're otherwise put out of our element, we can easily become anxious, scared, or even frustrated! There are many causes of confusion, the most common one being simply not understanding what is being asked of us. 

One common reason why this happens is aging. As the mental sharpness declines, confusion becomes much more likely. Other reasons that often lead to confusion are cognitive issues, like not being able to see or hear clearly. This makes it difficult to respond to a request accordingly, which can lead to various reactions, confusion being one of them.

Confusion is also something our dogs can feel, and they can become confused because of the same reasons we can. But how can you tell if your dog is confused? Is it the head tilt that they do when we talk to them? Are there some other signs? Could that adorable head tilt be something else, like dogs faking being confused to get our attention? Do dogs actually fake such things?

Introduction of Can Dogs Fake Being Confused?

Signs of Dogs Faking Confusion

Every dog owner has seen the adorable head tilt that dogs sometimes do when we talk to them. Most commonly, they will have their head slightly tilted to one side, with one ear up and the other, down. Some might even alternate from one side to another, which makes them even cuter!

Well, that head tilt seems to indicate that they are confused about what we are telling them or what we want from them. Then again, researchers aren't entirely sure it really means that the dog is confused, as it could be a tactic to get our attention, instead. 

Before knowing to spot whether your dog is actually faking confusion, it's good to know the common signs of confusion in dogs. These include the following:

  • Head tilting – This is the most prominent sign that dogs will make when they are confused. Oftentimes, this looks quite adorable, like your dog is actually asking what you mean. Many agree that head tilting indicates confusion, but experts can't agree on what exactly dogs accomplish with head tilting. The most popular theories include that the dog is trying to understand what you are saying, to hear your intonation more clearly, or to see you more clearly. Generally, researchers agree that a head tilt indicates confusion and that your dog will try to resolve something that they don't understand.  

  • Chewing – Dogs that are confused over something will often show signs like chewing even though they have nothing in their mouth, or they might start licking lips. This means that they are under stress, and often, this behavior will be followed by other signs.

  • Ears down – A confused dog is often a stressed dog, and one indicator of that is the position of their ears. Very often, when under stress, your dog will have their ears down instead of having them in a neutral position.

  • Barking – When your dog is confused, barking is one more thing they might do. Because they can't interpret something, they will often bark to try to change the situation and make it clearer.

  • Panting – A confused dog, when trying to resolve the issue, can often become very easily startled and stressed, and such dogs will often start panting to calm down.

  • Pacing – Often when under a lot of pressure, dogs will start to pace around and become more and more frantic as they try to resolve the issue, that seems to be unsolvable and confusing from their point of view.

There are also other indicators your dog is confused, like the change in how they perceive their environment: they will check around much more, with their head down, and might even start whining.

There are, however, instances where your dog might simply just fake various symptoms because they wish to get your attention. There's quite a number of cases where dog owners reported that their dog faked injuries to get more attention after actually having an injury. Because we tend to our dogs much more when they are sick or injured, they might try to mimic the symptoms to get us to care for them more.  

Body Language

Signs your dog might be faking being confused include:
  • Barking
  • Head tilting
  • Panting
  • Chewing
  • Pacing
  • Dropped Ears

Other Signs

More signs that your dog could be a faker are:
  • Mimicking behavior after healing from an injury or illness
  • Staring at you while exhibiting the behavior
  • Confusion disappearing when you are not around

History of Dogs Faking Confusion

History of Can Dogs Fake Being Confused?
Dogs have been our companions for centuries, and our co-evolution made them develop very distinct features and behaviors. They perceive the world around them a bit differently from us, however. When they communicate, they will do that by vocalizing, fidgeting with their nose and ears, and changing their posture and activity level. 

They can discern how we feel by looking at our body posture, intonations, and behavior, too. This is the wonderful thing about co-evolution: that our dogs can do such unbelievable things. They are highly intelligent, and they are more than capable to fake various issues to get our attention. But why do they do this?

Science of Dogs Faking Confused

Science of Can Dogs Fake Being Confused?

Senior dogs become confused much more often, as their mental sharpness slowly declines. Another reason this happens is that their senses aren't as keen anymore, and often, age-related conditions like blindness or deafness play a role there too. Other conditions, like the Canine Cognitive Disorder, can contribute to why dogs can be confused.

When it comes to faking confusion, however, the reason behind this is much simpler: dogs want more of our attention. When dogs fake confusion, or some other symptom of an illness, this is part of a wider behavioral issue known as attention-seeking behavior. Some dogs will go to great lengths to get the attention they want.

Training Dogs Who Fake Confusion

Training of Can Dogs Fake Being Confused?

A very common injury our dogs get is a sprained leg, so they might limp for a bit before they get better. As we are worried about them, we give them more attention at that time to make sure they recover as quickly as possible and not aggravate the condition. Dogs might start faking a limp to get more attention, and such behavior is often called a "sympathy limp." Dogs can start doing that with other symptoms as well, confusion being one of them. This is an attention-seeking behavior that should not be encouraged.

The best way to deal with the issue is to ignore such behaviors. Of course, first you have to rule out any real issues. If your dog is healthy, it is definitely a behavioral issue.

It might become worse before it stops, as the dog is used to getting attention usually, so they might try harder. It's important to be persistent, because giving in might encourage the dog even more. If such behavior continues, it's important to consult a dog behaviorist to help you work through the problem.

How to React to Dogs Faking Confused:

  • If you are finding your dog is faking certain behaviors, it could be due to a lack of attention and they could be reaching out. In the same way that toddlers will mimic certain emotions if they feel it gets a result, dogs are intelligent enough to do the same.