As a proud Shiba Inu owner, I am no stranger to the "dramatic" antics that dogs sometimes give off. What if I told you that dogs don't know how to act dramatically? Well, not in the way that they are accused of.
When dogs act dramatically, they try to communicate with the people around them. Most of the time, dramatic dogs are just trying to express their fear or anxiety about something. However, dogs sometimes also act "dramatically" when they are in pain or need something from their owners.
Here I will explain the science behind this method of communication from dogs and why dogs sometimes exhibit unusual and dramatic behavior. Alright, let's get to the bottom of this.
Do Dogs Act Dramatic or Are They Trying to Communicate?
Dogs don't know how to act dramatically as humans do. This is because to act dramatically, the dog must see the gravity of every given situation and give an appropriate response through reason.
Though dogs are intelligent, it is improbable that they can apply reason in this way simply because they are not human.
Instead, most "dramatic" dogs are just communicating or have learned that the behavior gets them what they need.
Here are the most common causes behind this dramatic behavior and some helpful clues to help you discover why your dog behaves this way.
1. Communicating Fear
Dogs can sometimes behave as being dramatic when they are afraid of something. However, the dog is experiencing fear and cannot reason in the way humans can. Therefore, it is arguable if they are really being dramatic.
After all, would you call someone terrified of something they believe to be dangerous dramatic?
A fearful dog will likely shake or tremble, whine, or bark. It is also common for a fearful dog to exhibit specific body language, such as:
- Whale Eye (the whites of the eyes showing)
- Hair standing on end
- Ears pinned back
- Tail tucked between the legs
- Body crouched low to the ground
Dogs prone to anxiety are more likely to have bouts of fear now and again. Still, it is not uncommon for dogs to be afraid of loud noises, unusual environments, and unpleasant situations like vet visits.
2. Communicating Anxiety
Many dog owners confuse signs of anxiety in dogs for dramatic behavior.
This is especially true if the dog is experiencing frequent anxiety around a large variety of stimuli. Some common symptoms of anxiety in dogs that could be confused for dramatic behavior include:
- Excessive barking or howling
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Pacing and other restless behaviors
- Excessive chewing and other destructive behaviors
- Suddenly having bathroom accidents
- Refusing to eat
- Trembling or shaking and exhibiting fearful body language
Anxiety is a more common problem that dogs face than some may believe. Speaking with a vet about this issue can be extremely beneficial.
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3. Communicating Pain
Dogs will also exhibit behaviors often confused with dramatism when they are sick or in pain. Signs of pain in dogs often overlap with the symptoms of anxiety. This is most likely because the pain they are experiencing is anxiety-inducing for them.
However, other signs of pain or illness may also come along with this anxiety. Limping, favoring one leg over another, lethargy, and other troubling symptoms are all signs of a medical problem. Please note, dogs do not tend to fake illness and injury, so you should visit a vet if something does not seem right with your dog.
4. Communicating That They Need Something
Dogs are incredibly intuitive, and they learn what gets them the things that they want and need from their owners pretty quickly. So, there is a chance that your dog learned that dramatic behaviors get them things like food and attention.
A great example of this is a dog crying loudly whenever he wants to come back inside. While we perceive this behavior as dramatic, the dog is simply doing it because he knows that doing so will get him what he wants: going back indoors.
Can Dogs Fake Being Hurt?
No, dogs do not know how to fake being hurt or sick. While dogs can sometimes fake signs of anxiety when they learn it gets them what they want, dogs do not tend to fake things like limps and physical signs of injury or illness. This means your dog is not likely to fake being sick just to stay home from doggy daycare.
Will Dogs Act Dramatic to Manipulate You?
In a sense, yes, dogs can exhibit dramatic behaviors to manipulate their owners into giving them what they want. However, this is not done with malicious intent as some may believe.
Dogs behaving dramatically to get what they want is just a means to an end. Dogs are not consciously taking advantage of your emotions. Rather, dogs just sometimes learn that dramatic behavior gets their owner's attention, and the things that they want or need come with it.
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How to Help Your Dog Work Through Anxiety and Fear
It is definitely possible for dogs to learn to behave dramatically to get what they want. However, “dramatic” behaviors rooted in fear or anxiety are much more common.
Luckily, addressing this behavior and helping your dog through this anxiety will also stop this dramatic behavior from occurring. Here are some tips on how to do this.
Take Things Slow
All dogs move at their own pace, so you shouldn’t feel discouraged if your dog seems to be taking a while to work through their fears or anxieties. Taking the time to really work through these things will bring you more success throughout the process. It will also make your dog feel better in the long run.
Remember to Encourage Your Dog Throughout the Process
It is also a very good idea to encourage your dog with praise, toys, and treats throughout the process of helping your dog get over their fears. This process is called counter conditioning, and it is the best way to help dogs work through their anxiety and phobias.
Pairing positive reinforcement with an anxiety inducing stimulus will help dogs realize that the stimulus is not actually that bad. When this is done repeatedly at small intervals over time, the dog will become less and less fearful. It is important to go through this process slowly to prevent further frightening the dog.
Seek Professional Help if You Need It
Of course, it can never hurt to seek help from a vet, animal behaviorist, or certified dog trainer if you need it. Veterinarians can prescribe effective anti-anxiety medication. This can be very helpful for dogs with severe chronic anxiety. This is especially true if they are not responding well to counter conditioning training without it.
Meanwhile, animal behaviorists and dog trainers can help guide you through the counter conditioning process. They will also be able to provide you with additional dog training pointers aimed at increasing your dog's confidence. Seeking this kind of professional help is beneficial to many dog owners, particularly if their dog’s anxiety is severe.
So, is Your Dog Just Being Dramatic?
Most likely your dog is trying to communicate something to you rather than just being dramatic. Most of the time dogs act dramatically to communicate their anxiety, fear, or pain with their owners.
However, it is also possible that dramatic behavior is a learned way for your dog to get things that they want such as attention, water, or food.