Does your dog act jumpy, fearful, and terrorized out of the blue?
Those are signs of dogs being paranoid.
It’s understandable if you feel concerned.
But why does paranoia occur in dogs?
Read this article to discover:
- 5 helpful things to do when your dog has paranoia.
- Whether fly-biting disorder causes your dog to be paranoid.
- 13 true reasons why your dog’s acting paranoid all of a sudden.
- And a lot more…
Table of contents
- Why is my dog acting paranoid all of a sudden?
- 13 reasons why your dog is acting paranoid all of a sudden
- What to do when your dog is suddenly acting paranoid? 5 tips
Why is my dog acting paranoid all of a sudden?
Your dog is acting paranoid all of a sudden because of resource guarding, uncertainty, noise sensitivity, bad memories, aging, lack of socialization or punishment. Or they could also suffer from OCD, PTSD, sciophobia, fly-biting disorder, severe separation anxiety, or other illnesses.
13 reasons why your dog is acting paranoid all of a sudden
#1: Resource guarding
To what extent do you value your own personal resources?
To dogs these are essential. So they’ll guard them with all their might. It might even come to a point where your dog gets paranoid of someone taking something of theirs.
Such resources include their food, toys, sleeping spot, feeder, and even you.
“What?! I’m my dog’s best friend, not a resource…”, you might think.
Well… you’re both.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like your dog sees you as a walking wallet of dog treats. But your pooch is aware that without you they wouldn’t have all the great things in their life.
After all, you provide for their needs. And I don’t mean just the basic ones such as food and water. No.
You’re also your dog’s source of entertainment. And entertainment, or play, has a big role in a dog’s life. Not just for puppies and young canines, but also for adult dogs.
Don’t believe me?
You might want to look at what science has to say on the matter. The University of Bristol ran a study on 4000 dog parents who didn’t play a lot with their canines.
How did this affect the dogs?
The canines who lacked play showed anxious and aggressive behavior. What’s more, lack of play could lead to whining behavior. It could also make a dog jump up a lot. Or not come when called.
Note: Scientists found out that the lack of play can cause around 22 issues in dog behavior. On the contrary, getting enough play ensures your dog’s happiness and wellbeing.
Now you know. So, I want you to think about this…
We, humans, are blessed to have entertainment that kings and queens of the previous ages could only wish for. There’s the theaters, Netflix, bowling, computer games, nightclubs, board games, and what not really.
Compared to humans, a dog’s world of entertainment is quite limited.
Your pooch is blessed if they can get some quality time with you. Or a nice chew toy, or slow-feeder toy that occupies their attention while you’re away.
All of this makes your dog associate you with good things. But your doggo doesn’t have access to playtime with you 24/7.
So when another dog or human comes near you, your pooch might want to chase them off.
It’s like having limited access to a smartphone or a PC. You’ve finally gotten your hands on it when a peer says “Oh, let me use it too.” And you’re like “Seriously?! Get your own and beat it!”
So, going near your dog’s valuable resources might be impossible. Dogs will act out of fear that a human or another canine is going to take their valuable possessions.
Paranoid dogs who are resource guarding may exhibit:
Warning: Dog resource guarding may develop into possessive aggression.
Recommended read: Why is my dog suddenly aggressive to our other dog? 7 must-know reasons revealed
Another possible cause of a dog’s paranoia is unfamiliarity.
Any objects or beings that are new to your dog.
Research shows that unfamiliarity in dogs affects their social facilitation. Researchers gave an example that a dog will run slower when they encounter unfamiliarity.
Your dog will become aloof, extra uneasy, and careful around uncertainties. Such as:
- New situations.
- Other animal species.
- Change of environment.
- Babies (if they haven’t seen one).
Does your dog seem fearful and paranoid when they see a shadow?
If so, they could have sciophobia.
Sciophobia is a fear of shadows. Symptoms of this phobia are severe anxiety and panicking when seeing a shadow.
You might wonder what causes a dog to be afraid of shadows.
The main reasons for that are…
Your dog may fear shadows if something traumatizing happened in their past. It could be that your dog has been abused before.
Seeing a shadow could remind them of their abuser. Let’s say the dog was hiding somewhere outside while the abuser went looking for them.
Before the person started abusing them, the dog saw their shadow. Which indicated the human threat is coming closer. And then something bad happened.
If that’s the case, shadows might make them think now that they’re going to be hurt again.
Lack of socialization
Imagine being locked up at home ever since you’re a child. Then now that you’re a grown-up, you are forced to go out and socialize with people.
That’ll be scary. Being around creatures that you’re unfamiliar with. A dog who lacks socialization will feel the same way.
Seeing a shadow might cause fear. They might think that it’s somebody else’s shadow coming their way.
Paranoia might occur if your dog is a senior pooch.
What age is a dog considered senior?
WebMD says that in general, smaller dogs reach their senior years around the time they reach 7. While 5 and 6 years for larger breeds.
Keep in mind that senior years in dogs are where behavioral problems start to occur. And that could be the cause of their paranoia. One of these is…
Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD)
CCD is a behavioral disorder that can be compared to human dementia. It often occurs in old dogs.
Signs of CCD in dogs include:
- House soiling.
- Barely moving.
- Posture changes.
- Changes in activity.
- Altered social interactions.
- Sleep-wake cycle disturbance.
Further reading: 9 reasons why your (old/senior) dog suddenly pees in the house + 27 tips
#5: Noise phobia
Some dogs may appear paranoid. But in reality, they might be suffering from noise phobia.
Noise phobia is an intense fear of loud sounds. For example, fireworks, thunder, and other banging sounds.
This type of phobia may appear in any dog breed. But mostly on those that have a more sensitive hearing than others. Such as:
- Norwegian Buhund.
- Lagotto Romagnolo.
- Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.
Dogs with noise phobia will do anything to escape the noise that’s ringing in their ears.
They might seek the presence of their human pack more. Or try to jump out of the windows.
Some may chew things and scratch walls. And others might escape by running away.
Dogs with a noise phobia may show:
Read also: Why does my dog suddenly poop in the house? 9 must-know reasons
Paranoia in dogs might be a result of punishment.
Dogs can accidentally pee on carpets. They may also appear stubborn during training.
For this reason, some dog caretakers end up punishing dogs. Either verbally or physically.
These people think that punishment will correct the behavior. The truth is it only makes everything worse.
Punishment affects dogs greatly. It makes them fearful and jumpy. Your dog might also become distant which will affect your relationship.
Study shows that physical punishment causes dogs to become more aggressive.
These canines will act paranoid. Their paranoia may be caused by their anxiety. They’d worry that they’ll be punished again for whatever they do.
Signs of paranoia in dogs are:
You might also want to check out: Is your dog avoiding you all of a sudden? Find out 9 reasons why
#7: Bad memories
Did your dog have a hard past?
Then they’d likely have some bad memories. These can get triggered by a person or a certain environment.
If your dog comes from a shelter, maybe they had an abusive caretaker in their past home. If the person was yelling at them, your dog could get triggered if you raise your voice.
But what if the caretaker punished the dog physically?
Now your dog might cower at the sight of certain people. If they look like the abuser. Or if they have a threatening posture.
So, if your dog was punished in the past, they could be paranoid in the present.
“Pets may become confused or conflicted if they cannot determine whether the approaching hand represents a friendly gesture or another incident of punishment.” say experts.
Pets may also act guilty if they have learned which situations lead to punishment. In reality, dogs aren’t feeling guilt. They’re just afraid.
A guilty-looking dog’s body posture may show:
- Tucked tail.
- Ears down.
- Diverted gaze.
Don’t forget to also read: Why does my dog not like me touching his face? 7 real reasons
Lack of social interaction can lead to problems. One of which is paranoia.
Dogs need to be exposed to other canines or animals. Because if not, they’ll be paranoid that every new animal they meet is an enemy. What’s more, this could result in a fight.
Their exposure to other beings doesn’t only limit to animals. They should also be exposed to other people.
Just imagine having visitors in your area. Those people are strangers to your dogs. And since your pooch isn’t used to people, they’ll act paranoid.
Some dogs will become aggressive as if someone’s trying to fight them all the time. Some may also fear every being they see and will result in hiding.
Other signs are:
- Whale eyes.
- Dilated eyes.
- Loss of bowel control.
You might also like: 17 shocking reasons why your dog barks at certain people + 5 tips to curb the behavior
#9: Separation anxiety
Some dogs get paranoid when their human leaves the house. The reason? The canine has separation anxiety.
They get very distressed if you leave them alone in a confined space.
You don’t plan to abandon your dog. But your pooch can’t know that.
“But why would they think that?”
Some dogs have been abandoned before. That’s why when you leave, your dog might act paranoid as if you’re going to leave them forever.
If they’ve experienced this, it could have traumatized them. Their paranoia shows they’re afraid it’ll happen again.
Experts say that dogs with severe separation anxiety will exhibit:
- House soiling.
- Excessive barking.
- Overattachment to dog parents.
- Reluctance to go outdoors alone.
- Destructive behavior (such as chewing).
- Willingness to escape when their human is gone.
- Unwillingness to spend time with other people and dogs.
Check out also: 9 reasons for excessive dog barking + 7 anti-barking tips
Post-traumatic stress disorder, a.k.a PTSD, is a type of mental illness. It might happen as a result of seeing or experiencing a tragic event.
Dr. Lori Teller says that canine PTSD affects between 5 to 17% of dogs.
Now, your dog might have had painful experiences. They might suffer from being hit, slapped, abandoned, or starved.
If their PTSD is triggered, they’ll start to show paranoia.
Dogs with PTSD are paranoid they might experience the same events again. This may result in:
- Acting timid.
- Aggressive reactions.
You might also want to read: 13 reasons for sadness in dogs + 9 tips
There’s a possibility that your dog’s paranoia is due to illness.
When dogs feel unwell, they act differently. But the cause of their paranoia could be more than just being uncomfortable.
Let’s say you always bring your pooch to the vet whenever they’re sick. But the fear of going to the vet could cause paranoia in dogs.
Your dog might associate feeling ill with going to the vet. And they could also think that going to the vet means they’re getting an injection. And some dogs are very afraid of injections.
A study suggests that yearly vaccination causes paranoia in dogs. The reason is they don’t want to get injected.
#12: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Your dog’s paranoia may be due to obsessive-compulsive disorder.
OCD is a mental illness. It’s often caused by persistent thoughts or feelings. Thus, it produces obsessive behavior.
Dogs who often face stressful situations are prone to OCD. This disorder can develop if a dog starts repeating an action. They do it as a coping mechanism to stress.
As a result, the dog becomes reliant on that particular action or sensation. Some dogs will do this every time they’re anxious or in distress. They’ll keep doing it until it becomes an obsession.
Symptoms of OCD in dogs are:
- Air biting.
- Tail chasing.
- Excessive licking.
- Staring at nothing.
- Chasing shadows.
- Eating inedible objects (a.k.a pica).
#13: Fly-biting disorder
Have you heard of fly-biting disorder in dogs?
It makes the dog bites the air. It may be at random times or on a regular basis.
A dog’s air snapping might appear with:
Dr. Coates says that fly-biting disorder is caused by a partial seizure. And in some cases due to gastrointestinal problems.
How does a partial seizure occur?
It’s when an abnormal brain signal happens in a tiny area of the brain. As a result, it causes hallucinations in dogs.
That’s why they’ll appear paranoid. So they’ll snap at the air. As if they’re seeing an imaginary fly.
Just like in this video:
Other than that, fly snapping can be due to eye problems.
Have you ever looked at the sky during the day? At times you might have noticed some worm-like shapes.
Those are vitreous floaters. Mayo Clinic defines this as a jelly-like material inside the eyes. It becomes liquid as you age. As the liquid clumps together, floaters appear in the form of shadows.
In your dog’s case, they might mistake it for flying insects. And that explains why your pooch air snaps.
Note: Do you wonder if your dog is suffering from visual impairments? A canine ophthalmologist can help.
What to do when your dog is suddenly acting paranoid? 5 tips
#1: Leave and come back
This is for dog parents whose dog acts paranoid because of separation anxiety.
Get your dog used to being left alone.
You can do this by doing a gradual leave. What I mean is leaving your dog for a minute as a starter. Then come back right away.
This is to make your dog understand that when you leave, you’ll still return.
When your dog doesn’t act paranoid anymore, try increasing the duration of your leave.
Do this until they no longer show paranoia when you leave them.
#2: Provide a comfy environment
Some dogs may display paranoia without their fur parents’ supervision.
So, it’s best to provide them a comfortable and safe environment. You can do this by:
- Providing good ventilation.
- Making sure that their area is dry.
- Cleaning your dog’s surroundings.
- Giving them a nice and soft dog bed.
- The room temperature should be warm.
- Leaving enough food and water in their feeder.
Also, you may give your dog something to do while you’re away. This is to keep your pooch occupied and prevent them from doing something unpleasant like chewing.
Keep your dog entertained by giving them:
- Kong toy.
- Treat dispenser dog toy.
- Hide N’ Slide puzzle game toy.
- SmartSticks Peanut Butter Chews.
- Jack&Pup Pork Femur Dog Bones.
A way to address your dog’s paranoia that’s caused by phobias is desensitization therapy.
According to research, desensitizing your dog can help. It can speed up the treatment process.
How does it work?
You should expose your dog to their phobia little by little. Then, intensify it as your dog gets used to it. Up until they don’t react to it anymore and they appear to be calm.
You’ll know if your dog is calm if their:
- Soft gaze.
- Head high.
- Ears are up.
- Tails are down.
- Relaxed posture.
Some of the desensitization you can do for your dog are…
This will be useful if your dog has a phobia of human actions.
You may start by standing or sitting near your dog until your dog seems fine with it.
Then, you may proceed to walk. After that try jogging and running.
This applies to dogs who have a noise phobia.
Start by playing soft music around your dog. Then, proceed to play louder music as you go on with desensitization.
If your dog has a storm phobia then you can use the sounds of thunder to desensitize them.
Check out next: Learn if dogs can die from stress of fireworks (9 dangers revealed)
Now, this is for pooches who’re lacking socialization. These dogs will be fearful of seeing and being around new people.
When desensitizing them, you should start exposing dogs to small children. A baby for a start then followed by young children.
Then you may proceed to older ones as they get used to the presence of people.
You can also increase the number of people that they encounter. Start with only one person from the family. And then increase gradually.
Lastly, is for dogs who’re afraid of new environments and situations.
Start into places that cause a tiny effect of anxiety to them. For example is if your dog’s afraid of stepping outside, you may start with exposing them to your front door.
Then, you can gradually move away until your dog is relaxed when they’re outside.
#4: Positive reinforcement
As I’ve said previously, you shouldn’t punish your dogs.
Apply positive reinforcement instead. It’ll be effective when changing your pawed baby’s behavior.
You can do this by giving treats and praises when they stop acting paranoid. While ignoring them when they do.
It’s a way to teach Fido to determine what’s right behavior from wrong.
Also, a rewarded behavior will make dogs repeat it.
#5: Get expert help
Keep in mind that your dog’s paranoia will only be cured if they’re attended to.
If your dog’s paranoia is caused by medical issues. Then it’s best to head to the vet right away. The vet will give a proper diagnosis and treatment on your dog’s paranoia.
And when it’s due to behavioral issues, bring your dog to a dog trainer. The dog trainer will be able to modify your dog’s behavior.