My dog is acting strange and hiding — What Can Be Done About It?
As pet owners, we sometimes notice odd behaviors in our pets. For instance, they begin to show a sudden onset of anxiety or become more aggressive than ever. Such situations make me wander — my dog is acting strange and hiding out of nowhere. After all, a pet dog is like a child to us. If it is scary and distressing, we feel the agony too.
Dogs feel fear and anxiety just like humans. However, while there are many triggers, that is no reason to worry. All problems have a solution. To start with, we can try to find out the cause. Then, we can customize a recovery plan.
As always, I’ve done my best to figure out the reasons behind strange behavior in dogs. Read on to find out more if you’ve found yourself thinking my dog is acting weird and hiding, but I don’t know what to do about it!
First things first — observe common behaviors.
If we notice that our pet is not greeting us in the usual manner or is refusing to come out for a walk, we need to stay alert. But for other stronger ones, it is a warning sign.
Observing a pet keenly for a few weeks can help us understand the triggers better. However, not only do we have to keep an eye on the pet, but we also need to observe the changes in their surroundings. Like us, dogs, too, find it hard to adapt to a change in their environment instantly.
It is distressing and saddening to see our pets suffering from anxiety. However, understanding the symptoms the dog is displaying and trying to find the causes are necessary steps. These can go a long way in helping our pets recover completely.
There are a few common causes of anxiety in dogs, whereas others are particular. If the onset of stress is sudden and we notice it fast enough, the road to recovery can be short. Nevertheless, we also need to ensure that the chances of relapse are minimal.
My dog is acting strange and hiding — It causes
If we notice that our dog has been displaying strange behavior for a substantial time, we should try to get to the root cause. However, keep in mind that every dog is unique. The answer to why a dog is acting strangely often is very subjective. Now, let us look at a few causes of odd behavior in dogs.
Where did it all begin?
A dog’s interaction with other dogs and humans impacts how it sees the world as it grows up. If it grew up on the street, it would be more resilient. In contrast, if the dog were abused on the street, the memory would get etched into its brain. The fear and negative experience remain throughout life even if loving parents adopt it because, in some corners of the mind, a fear of mistreatment will exist. Still, it’s debatable whether or not childhood experiences will continue to affect the dog as it grows up.
Genetically, a dog may be more vulnerable to anxiety. An overly anxious dog can give birth to a puppy that would later show signs of stress. The famous “Nature vs. Nurture” debate holds good in the case of dogs as well. Nevertheless, it is tough to distinguish whether a dog’s anxious nature comes from its genetic makeup or the environment in which it was nurtured. An early negative experience can sometimes trigger a fear that can manifest differently. As the dog grows and learns more about different situations, concern can show up.
Generally, a puppy takes about 2 to 4 months to adapt to its new surroundings. This is especially true if it comes from a shelter. During this period, it is flexible and adapts to changes quite easily. It forgets its old home quickly and begins to focus on adjusting to its new family life. It is eager to make friends with everyone.
But in this phase, all puppies may not get a loving family. Instead, if they are ill-treated, the negative consequences drawn from this experience are most likely to carry on throughout their lives. Also, the older the dog, the more difficulties it faces in adapting to a new environment.
It is possible to erase the fears to a certain extent, but never completely. For all these reasons, people prefer adopting puppies since it is easier on them and the dog.
Fear is the cause of why my dog is acting strange and hiding.
One of the most common triggers for flashes of anxiety in dogs is fear. Like us, dogs learn fear through conditioning.
There are various types of fears stemming from different life experiences. Sometimes, specific excessive worries may lead to expressive behaviors like aggression and biting. They may remember past events that caused them pain and learn to respond in pain every time the situation recurs. In addition, if the dogs become victims of phobias and do not seem to get over them, owners resort to letting them go. They end up giving them to dog shelters because they cannot handle their furry friends anymore.
Symptoms of fear
While it may be challenging to detect fear symptoms initially, we cannot help but notice a few situations. When the dog exhibits starkly contrasting behavior, it catches our attention.
Firstly, a dog’s posture speaks a lot about its mood. If its head is stooped, looks for a hiding spot, and doesn’t come out even when we call it, the dog could suffer from anxiety. Some dogs even lose bladder control and begin to urinate frequently, especially females. Previously cheerful dogs may start tucking their tail between their legs and growling at people they know well. Also, those with sharp ears may stop paying attention and focus on staying away from people.
Like humans, when a dog feels stressed, it resorts to the fight-or-flight response. An urge to escape and find the cover is quite noticeable. On the other hand, something subtle, like tensed muscles, can be easy to miss.
There’s a good chance my dog is acting strange and hiding due to fear. However, as dog owners, we must stay vigilant and identify such symptoms early on. The earlier we remember them, the quicker we discover the reasons behind such behavior.
My dog is acting strange and hiding — fear of separation.
Dogs are initially packed animals. They live in groups, hunt in groups, and eat in groups in the wild. Therefore, being left alone can be scary for them.
Separation anxiety is more common in dogs than we think. We know when we’ll be back when we leave our house in the morning. We make arrangements accordingly for our pet’s food and other needs. But, think from their perspective. It probably looks like we are making those arrangements because we are not planning to return. Every single day, our pet goes through this cycle of anxiety, pain, waiting, and joy at regular intervals.
If our dog spends many hours alone with no company, that could lead to many medical complications. Psychologically, the dog gets affected since it is anxious and scared all day. It may feel depressed, so it may start shedding excessive hair. It may also chew on its paws to ease the situation and temporarily calm itself.
Similarly, the dog might get bored. However, toys can keep the dog occupied for some time, and hiring an affectionate dog walker can reduce anxiety to a large extent. In addition, sometimes, symptoms of early-stage anxiety can be mistaken for signs of old-age conditions like dementia and arthritis.
My dog is acting strange and hiding — fear of loud noises.
It is common knowledge that dogs are more sensitive to noises and can hear frequencies that we humans cannot. Dogs dread the sound of thunder — presumably the most widely recognized of all dog fears. However, in a few cases, thunder might cause a little tension, which stops when it’s over.
If we notice that our puppy is scared because of the thunder, we could hold their paws, pet them, and cuddle them. Reassuring the pup that we are there for support goes a long way in building a relationship of trust. On the other hand, if the symptoms are severe and the dog runs away and refuses to come out, we need to find another solution.
This is also dangerous because the dog might run straight out of the house, and we all know that running onto a road like that can sometimes be fatal. The dog can get out of control, and managing it will be quite a task if it has grown big. Also, as the dog grows older, its sensitivity to noise increases. Thus, they might be in a few years, even if they are not anxious.
Another point to note is that if we are anxious about a thunderstorm, it is more likely that our dog will reflect our feelings. Dogs can sense human emotions very quickly, and if they feel that their owners are uncomfortable, they quickly mirror the sentiment.
The best way to help our dogs would be to keep them away from places with excessive noise. However, if everything fails, we should take them to the vet and get a tranquilizer injected if necessary.
My dog is acting strange and hiding, fearing seasonal disturbances like fireworks.
Usually, dogs that are sensitive to thunderstorms and other loud noises are also frightened by fireworks. The flashes of light and the sounds of bursting crackers are not a regular occurrence in a dog’s life. Any sudden instance of such sounds can make a dog tremble and run away to hide.
Some dog owners try to desensitize a dog to such sounds by playing them on a music player, but this is helpful only for certain dogs. If the dog is predisposed to fear noise, playing loud noises might worsen its condition and phobia. A better option would be to gently distract the puppy from loud noises and make it feel comfortable and safe.
Over time, firecracker noises can cause chronic pain in dogs. The trembling can become more frequent, along with drooling and running berserk. Older dogs can hurt themselves easily due to such behavior. However, distracting them from the noise will not work because they are conditioned to respond in a particular manner every time they get triggered by loud noises. So in such situations, it is best to see the vet because several factors, such as the dog’s age, determine the best recovery solution.
My dog is acting strange and hiding — fear of vehicle rides.
Early experiences with automobiles can affect them for as long as they live. For instance, if the pup got separated from its mother at a very young age and was brought home in a car, it could remember the negative experience the confined space created. Also, if we take the dog to the vet in a vehicle, it will learn to associate the car with a trip to the doctor, which may not always be a pleasant experience.
In contrast, since pups are adaptable and learn quickly, they will become comfortable. If we can train them early on to love cars and teach them to love cars, they will become comfortable. Dogs that have been in shelters for a large part of their puppyhood will not have the same luxury, but with patience and love, they, too, will learn. Generally, pups develop trust in their owners faster than older dogs. Keeping this in mind, we can train our puppies to adapt to their new surroundings — cars, a large home, muddy gardens, etc.
If the dog is reluctant to get into the car, we can try bringing a carrier along with its favorite blanket. Otherwise, the people closest to the dog can sit and pet it until the vehicle reaches its destination.
Another way to help dogs get into cars without fear is by giving them an incentive — a treat or a snack. But this will not work if the dog is sufficiently complete. Instead, playing with the dog near the car or walking it close to a car park may help get it used to vehicles. The next time the dog sees the car and has to take a ride, it will feel more comfortable.
Fear of going to the vet
Nobody likes visiting a hospital, especially children. Similarly, pups dread visiting the vet. It may be because previous experiences, such as vaccination, stung quite severely. Also, dogs are sensitive to certain smells, and the vet’s office usually has all sorts of smells. There are unfamiliar people and new dogs; if the pup has been to the vet before, it knows that the examination table means no good.
Since dogs have a heightened perception of smell, they can easily pick up distress signals other dogs are giving out due to pheromones. Pheromones are secreted by the body and released into the atmosphere to be picked up by other animals.
Dogs, in particular, can sense pheromones quickly and understand their meaning. So, if our dog is in the presence of other dogs suffering from more severe conditions, it will get anxious. It will begin to feel threatened and show anxiety. The vet’s staff will have trouble calming the dog even for a routine examination because the dog is convinced that the pain is near.
Also, dogs can gauge our emotions precisely and mirror them. Therefore, they might lose all hope if we are stressed and show it openly. This is why some vets prefer to conduct examinations privately without the presence of the owner. The owner’s company can make the dog more anxious than it already is and unnecessarily delay the investigation.
Fear of hygiene
Some dogs don’t like bathing, while others are scared of getting into the tub. Consequently, it cannot be easy to keep our dogs clean. But that does not mean we can skip giving our dog a nice, clean shower.
Special itch-removal shampoos are available for dogs, which can soothe our puppy’s dry skin. We can also make the bath exciting and fun for the dog by taking the tub outdoors. If the dog is in the garden or a place that it is familiar with, it may not feel as uncomfortable.
Furthermore, distracting the pup with a toy is also a great idea to make bath time easier for everyone involved. Ultimately, the dog will feel refreshed, having forgotten its troubles in the beginning!
Besides baths, clipping a dog’s claws is very difficult. Dogs fear claw clipping a lot because their paws are susceptible. Among all the body parts, a dog’s paws are the most sensitive and soft-skinned, so the process is a struggle both for the owner and the dog.
If the dog spends a lot of time outdoors, there is a good chance that the nails are automatically trimmed to the optimal length due to wear and tear. But nowadays, very few dogs get that much exercise. So, we must cut the claws frequently to ensure that dogs don’t hurt themselves. They could break if the nails are too long and the dog collides with a solid object. That is very painful, as the claws have sensitive roots — even the slightest damage to them can cause a lot of distress.
The fear of house objects like staircases
Many popular videos online show puppies learning to ascend and descend staircases in the house. However, while they are adorable, only the dog’s owner knows how stressful this is for a puppy. It is even more difficult if a person adopts a slightly grown-up dog that spent its puppyhood in a shelter with no stairs.
The dog feels terrified to go up and down the stairs since it needs the right level of balance. Also, since dogs use all four limbs to move around, even a tiny mistake while descending a staircase can throw them off balance. The dog will tumble down and tremble at the thought of ascending the stairs again.
The best way to help dogs learn how to move on a staircase is to teach them while they are still puppies. We can keep a small treat or snack on the first step. If the pup is hungry and wants to be adventurous, it will try to climb onto the first step and grab the treat. On the other hand, staircases can be so frightening that dogs will never try to get on that first step.
Teaching a pup to climb staircases requires a lot of patience. We must train them daily and shower them with praises irrespective of their progress. One person can stand on top of the staircase and call the dog up, while another one can coax it from the other end. Eventually, the puppy will learn how to climb and get off the staircases effortlessly, but this process will feel like a nightmare until then.
A fear of strangers
Meek dogs have trouble hiding their fears of certain people. For example, my aunt got a dog when she was about a year old. The dog constantly barked at the mailman and hid under the table every time he appeared. However, when he was not wearing his uniform and stopped by to chat, the dog had no problem. It took my aunt a while to notice this connection and deduce that the mailman’s attire was scaring the dog.
Such dogs are generally submissive and show signs of fear by tucking their tail between their legs. They also resort to hiding for many hours at a stretch. In addition, salespeople who come to our doorstep to sell products may also scare the dogs. They become defensive, trying to protect themselves and their master.
A fear response to strangers may also stem from prior experiences. For example, if a young boy hurts a dog’s pup, it may growl at all the young children it sees. In the dog’s childhood, if an older person abused it, it is bound to remember that and transfer its feelings to other similar-looking people.
It is hard to understand why dogs fear certain people, but with patience and a sharp sense of observation, we can ascertain the cause.
The fear of electronic devices
Sometimes, electronic devices let off signals that we cannot detect. But, our dogs very well can.
This is a tough trigger to detect. If we buy a new electronic device for our house and our dog starts behaving peculiarly almost immediately, we should find a way to protect our dog from it. We can try placing it in another part of the house or removing it if it is unbearable for the dog. The best thing to do would be to inquire about the potential effects of the device on pets before buying it.
My dog is acting strange and hiding — how can I help?
There are a few ways in which we can help our dog become more comfortable and relaxed.
This technique involves rewarding our pets for good behavior. However, bad behavior does not imply punishment. Punishing our puppy for lousy behavior may harm its trust and loyalty. If our puppy has climbed a flight of stairs and we reward it with treats, it is positive reinforcement. But if we punish it for not improving even after a few days of trying and refuse to give it treats, it is punishment.
Conditioning and behavioral modification
In his famous experiment, psychologist Ivan Pavlov showed us that conditioning could help cultivate certain behaviors. We can use similar principles to help our pets get over their fears. For example, convincing a dog daily to stay by our side (and not hide) in the presence of loud noises is a great idea. Doing this for a significant amount of time can help us overcome the fear.
Anxiety reduction techniques
If our dog is suffering from anxiety, we can help it to calm down by showering it with lots of love and affection. Taking a day off and spending time with our pet can make a difference in its perception, considerably reducing anxiety. Also, if we notice that our dogs feel very lonely during the day while we are running errands, we can appoint a caretaker. It might take a while for the dog to get used to the caretaker, but once we get past that, the dog will surely be happier. Therefore, in contrast to an anxious and tired one.
Dogs need as much care as humans and are part of our family. Any struggle they are going through affects all of us and adds to the pressure we already feel. Though dogs cannot directly communicate their feelings, we pet parents can sense their emotions.
After going through the causes of fear in dogs and tips on managing them, the answer to why our dogs are acting strange and hiding is quite clear. To sum it up, patience can go a long way in helping our dogs overcome their fears and lead pleasant life!