If you have ever experienced a similar situation, you may have wondered if your dog could be faking pain or pretending that they injured a paw or leg. The funny thing is, your dog can indeed fake pain to help get what they want, get attention, or slow down the process of leaving the park after a walk! Let's see how they learn to fake pain, why, and how you can help prevent this unwanted behavior.
Sings of a Dog Faking Pain
Faking pain can vary from dog to dog, so it is important you keep a close eye on your dog's behavior to distinguish between real versus pretend expressions. For instance, one dog may limp on their right paw on and off for a few minutes before they forget about their fake pain and begin to walk and run normally again. On the other hand, another dog could continuously fake their pain for a longer period of time before they return to normal like nothing happened. This kind of differing behavior must be observed over the course of a few weeks or months to truly understand how your dog's "fake pain" functions.
One of the easiest ways you can tell if your dog is faking pain is to determine if their limping and/or crying started for no apparent reason. Maybe they were just simply walking as you were heading back to your car after a walk and then they started to limp - this is your first sign that may indicate they are trying to seek sympathy or have the walk last longer. This will usually be followed by your dog acting completely normal soon after, with no more limping or crying.
Here are some signs you may notice if your dog is faking pain:
- Averting eyes
- Symptoms Begin When They Notice You
- Different Sounding Cries or Whimpers
- Sporadic Symptoms
- Limping for No Clear Reason
History of Dogs Faking Pain
There are numerous stories about dog owners sharing how their dogs like to fake pain and illness all over the internet. For instance, one dog owner said when their dog was a puppy she stepped on her paw accidentally. She screamed and yelped in pain and limped away. When the dog did not think her owner was looking, she would walk normally without pain, whining, or limping. However, when the dog knew her owner was looking at her, the dog would begin to limp. Furthermore, if the dog got in trouble and the owner said "no," the dog would begin to limp as well.
This story is a prime example of a dog faking an injury for sympathy and manipulation. In essence, the puppy knew if she limped on the foot the owner stepped on, especially when she was doing something bad, the owner would feel guilt and run over to see what was wrong. The dog quickly learned to partake in this type of behavior because it didn't just get her attention but also lessened any punishment that may have followed after chewing on a shoe or begging for food.
Science Behind Dogs Faking Pain
It is important to note that most of the time a dog that is showing signs of illness, pain, or injury, they are generally not faking symptoms and their ailment must be taken seriously. Taking them to the clinic for a checkup and a chat with your vet can help eliminate any serious issues your dog may suffer from.
If your dog is cleared by their vet, yet you continue to notice on and off symptoms that correlate with certain situations, you can eventually determine their behavior and pain is fake. Monitoring your pet closely in situations that trigger this fake pain is the key to understanding their behavior and making sure they don't have any underlying medical issues.
Training Your Dog to Stop Faking Pain
Say your dog has been feeling neglected because you have a new job with long hours. You are not giving them as much attention as you usually do. Maybe they hurt their paw jumping off a couch once and you rushed over to them to love, coddle, and make a fuss over them, ensuring they were ok. You noticed they limped and whined when walking on that paw and every time they limped around you fussed over them.
Very quickly, your dog learned that every time they limp, they get an abundance of affection. They will then reenact this behavior every time they want extra attention, and it can turn into a habit. It's the human's overly sympathetic response that teaches to dog this bad behavior.
So, how can you stop this undesirable behavior? The answer is a little tricky because if you choose to scold or punish them for their limping (or other fake pain symptoms) it can still reinforce the behavior. For many dogs, negative attention is better than no attention at all.
The best way to stop this behavior is to ignore it and to not rush over to them as they start crying or limping out of the blue. You must break the cycle and retrain them to learn they won't receive affection for this behavior. Rather, you want to love and coddle them during the times they do not display their fake pain. This will help them associate love and affection with behavior that is not faked.
How To React If Your Dog Fakes Pain
Have your vet confirm it really is fake.
Don't punish them for faking pain.
Don't run over to coddle them.
Ignore the behavior.