Can Dogs Fake Being Hurt?

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Let's just get this right out in the open - your dog might be a dog, but that doesn't mean that he or she can't feign drama. That's right, your pup is a dramatic over-exaggerator who can fake pain to milk - you guessed it - your attention.

But let's get into what that means. Your dog's brain works a little differently than yours does. So, while you can think through the process of "if I fake this, I'll definitely get this person's attention," your dog just sort of falls into it. 

For example, if your pup actually hurts him or herself and you give them tons of love and affection (as you should), they might pick up on the fact that they get your undivided attention when they're injured. Which means, they might connect the dots and fake being injured every so often. Sneaky, huh?

Bet you didn't know your dog was so crafty. Read on to get a better idea of why your dog might fake an injury, how you can tell they're faking, and how you can train your pup to quit faking that he or she is hurt.

Introduction of Can Dogs Fake Being Hurt?

Signs Your Dog is Faking an Injury

Dogs learn by practice - a neat tool when you're training them to do something, but less neat when they're faking an injury to get attention. It might seem cute at first, but being the attentive dog owner that you are, you'll likely have to check out each and every ailment they're pretending to have. This costs you time and sympathy, and only trains your dog further to fake injuries (if they get the attention, why wouldn't they?).

It's better to understand when your dog is faking an injury so you can know when to start training them out of this behavior. First, watch for consistency. Your pup might have an inkling of what they're doing, but they won't be able to grasp that they have to keep the fake injury consistent. 

Notice your dog limping? Don't freak out right away. See how long the limp lasts, how consistent it is, and if your dog gives up on it all together. Your dog might also howl, too. See if your dog continues to howl, bark, or whimper even when you don't give them any attention. If they stop, they might realize that their fake pleas for help might not be doing the job they thought it might. Additionally, keep an eye out for things like coughing, scratching, and out-of-character behavior. 

Body Language

Here are a few body language symptoms your dog might give you to let you know they're faking an injury:
  • Barking
  • Panting
  • Scratching
  • Low tail carriage
  • Ears back

Other Signs

Here are few other things to watch out for, too:
  • Mimicking another dog's behavior (dogs with actual injuries)
  • Fake limping
  • Excessive coughing
  • Whimpering
  • Sad eyes

Historic Causes of Dogs Faking Injuries

History of Can Dogs Fake Being Hurt?
The number one reason a dog will fake an injury is for attention. Your pup may not fully understand what he or she is doing, but they do know that when they fake some kind of ailment, a good pet owner (hopefully you!) will run to their aid (as you should!). 

This often happens when you have two or more dogs and one of your pups is actually injured. Dogs certainly maintain the ability to be jealous, so if they see you reacting to your other dog's actions, as well as giving an unequal amount of attention to your other pooch, it only makes sense they might try to mimic your other pup's actions. 

Dogs will fake injuries or other reasons, too. For example, some dogs fake injuries when they're scared, anxious, nervous, or want to avoid stressful situations.

Science Surrounding Dogs Faking Illness

Science of Can Dogs Fake Being Hurt?
There's not too much supporting science to help determine why your dog fakes an illness or fakes pain, but it's certainly fair to evaluate that it has quite a bit to do with gaining some extra attention. Feelings like nervousness, anxiety, and stress are often the causes of this behavior for your dog. 

It's important to always remember that your dog is most likely not faking pain or illness. In most situations, dogs will show signs of illness, injury, or pain because they're actually feeling these things. That being said, you should monitor your pup to ensure that they're not faking in order to avoid any kind of positive reinforcement of bad behavior.

Training Your Dog to Stop Faking Injuries

Training of Can Dogs Fake Being Hurt?
You might not know it, but you've potentially trained your dog into faking injuries or illnesses. We don't mean this in a bad way, but it's possible that you've provided your dog with the fodder he or she needs to understand and justify faking pain or an illness to get your attention.

If you find that your pup is definitely faking sick for your attention, there are steps you can take to undo this behavior, it just requires a bit of patience and some serious willpower on your part. If you find that your dog is limping, coughing, scratching, or faking other kinds of symptoms, first ask yourself why. 

Does your dog get more attention when they do these things? Do you give your other dogs who might be actually suffering from these ailments extra attention? Your dog is smarter than you think, and they're perfectly able and ready to get the attention they seek. 

The best way to begin training your dog to quit faking illnesses is to ignore them. We know, that's tough, but give it a try. Ignore your dog's fake symptoms all while carefully observing if they're genuine or not. Retrain them to understand that they will not receive any additional affection for doing these sorts of things. Don't coddle your dog when they fake symptoms, don't give them treats, and don't do anything that would make your dog associate love and affection with faked behavior.

How to React if Your Dog is Faking an Injury:

  • Give your dog a fair amount of observation time to ensure they're faking.
  • If your dog isn't faking, react appropriately.
  • In order to not train your dog that faking gets them attention, ignore your dog's antics.
  • Keep in mind you might be dealing with a series of faked and genuine symptoms, so don't ignore your pup until a vet has given you the clear.