Being a dog owner can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Dogs provide us with companionship, love, and loyalty. They become a part of our families and our lives. But, just like humans, dogs can have their own set of challenges.
Some dogs are born with mental retardation or other cognitive disorders that make them different from other dogs. In fact, a study found that one in ten dogs in the UK (approximately 1 million dogs) are affected by some form of mental illness.
Retarded dogs can exhibit a number of different signs and symptoms. They may be less responsive to training, have difficulty learning new commands, or seem uninterested in playing with toys.
In this article, we’ll explore the signs of a retarded dog and what you can do to help your furry friend.
Mental Disorders In Dogs: At a Glance
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from a variety of mental disorders. After all, the brain is an organ, and like any other organ, it can be susceptible to disease.
Mental disorders in dogs can be caused by several different factors, including:
- Congenital defects
- Traumatic brain injury
- Infectious diseases
- Metabolic disorders
- Nutritional deficiencies
Some of the most common mental disorders in dogs include:
1. Take Them For Regular Walks
Arguably one of the most common mental disorders in dogs, separation anxiety typically occurs when a dog is separated from their owner or caregiver. This can happen when the owner leaves for work, goes on vacation, or even passes away.
Dogs are social animals and form strong bonds with the people they love. When they’re separated from their loved ones, it can be incredibly stressful. 20% to 40% of dogs suffer from separation anxiety, making it one of the most common mental disorders in dogs.
2. Canine Compulsive Disorder
Dogs with canine compulsive disorder (CCD) display repetitive and obsessive behaviors. These behaviors may be seemingly innocuous, such as licking their paws or chasing their tails. However, they can become so all-consuming that the dog starts to neglect other important activities, like eating and drinking.
Like humans suffering from OCD, the dog’s compulsions are typically a way to self-soothe and relieve anxiety.
3. Anxiety Disorders
Dogs can suffer from a variety of anxiety disorders, including separation anxiety, social anxiety, and noise phobias. These disorders can be caused by several different factors, including genetics, early life experiences, and traumatic events.
Dogs suffering from anxiety may pant, pace, tremble, or hide. They may also try to escape from their homes or yards.
Signs That Your Dog May Be Retarded
If your dog is displaying any of the following signs, it may be retarded. However, it’s important to note that not all retarded dogs will display all of these signs.
1. Excessive Chewing Or Licking
It’s no secret that dogs love to lick and chew things. However, if your dog is excessively licking or chewing, it could be a sign of a mental disorder.
Dogs that are suffering from anxiety may lick their paws or chew on themselves as a way to self-soothe. This can lead to hair loss, open wounds, and infection. If you notice your dog excessively licking or chewing, it’s important to take them to the vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
2. Lack Of Social Interaction
Dogs are social animals, and they typically enjoy interacting with people and other dogs. If your dog seems uninterested in social interaction, it could be a sign of a mental disorder, specifically social anxiety.
Mentally challenged dogs may seem aloof or indifferent to their owners. They may also avoid eye contact, seem uninterested in playing, and hide from visitors.
While it’s possible that your dog is simply shy or introverted, it’s always best to have them evaluated by a veterinarian or animal behaviorist to rule out any underlying mental disorders.
3. Poor Appetite
A loss of appetite can be a sign of many different things, including a mental disorder. An anxious or stressed dog may not have an appetite because they’re too distracted to eat. This can lead to weight loss and, eventually, malnutrition.
If you notice that your dog is eating less, it’s important to take them to the vet to rule out any medical causes. If there are no medical causes for their poor appetite, it’s possible that they’re suffering from an anxiety disorder.
4. Compulsive Behaviors
Dogs with mental disorders like Canine Cognitive Disorder or Canine Compulsive Disorder may display repetitive and obsessive behaviors. These behaviors include excessive licking, chewing, tail chasing, or pacing.
While these behaviors may seem harmless at first, they can quickly become all-consuming and destructive. As a result, it’s important to get your dog help if they’re displaying any type of compulsive behavior.
5. Changes in Urination or Defecation Habits
A change in urination or defecation habits can be a sign of stress or anxiety. Dogs that are anxious may urinate more frequently or start to have accidents in the house. They may also defecate more frequently or start to eat their own feces.
If you notice any changes in your dog’s bathroom habits, you should get them evaluated by a veterinarian. You may have potty-trained your dog, but it may be suffering from an anxiety disorder that’s causing it to regress.
6. Panic Attacks
While panic attacks in dogs are relatively rare, they can happen. Dogs that suffer from panic attacks may pant excessively, tremble, or hide. They may also have a rapid heart rate and appear to be in a state of extreme fear.
If you think your dog is having a panic attack, it’s important to stay calm and try to remove them from the situation causing the panic. It’s also important to get them to the vet as soon as possible so they can be treated for any underlying medical conditions.
A rather worrying sign of a mental disorder in dogs is self-mutilation. This can include excessive licking or chewing, leading to hair loss, open wounds, or infection. Dogs may also bite or scratch themselves as a way to relieve anxiety or stress.
Self-mutilation can be extremely dangerous for dogs and can lead to serious health complications or even death. If you notice your dog excessively licking or chewing, the first step is to calm them down and get them to the vet for an evaluation.
How To Train A Retarded Dog
Training can play an important role in helping a retarded dog lead a happy and healthy life. The key is to find an activity that your dog enjoys and that provides them with a sense of purpose.
Here are some tips for training a mentally challenged dog:
1. Start With Basic Obedience Commands
Basic obedience commands like sit, stay, come, and down are a good place to start when training a mentally challenged dog. These commands can help your dog learn basic manners and can provide them with a sense of structure.
Retarded dogs may take longer to learn obedience commands, so it’s important to be patient and consistent. Reward your dog with treats or praise when they obey a command and don’t punish them if they make a mistake.
2. Consider Playing The Searching Game
The searching game is an excellent activity for mentally challenged dogs. This game involves hiding treats or toys around the house and then having your dog search for them.
This game can help to stimulate your dog’s mind and can provide them with a sense of purpose. It’s also a great way to bond with your dog and build their trust in you.
3. Avoid Negative Dog Training Methods
While most dog owners are familiar with positive reinforcement dog training, some may still use negative methods like punishment or scolding. These methods can be harmful to retarded dogs and can make their condition worse.
Punishment can increase anxiety and stress levels, which can lead to more serious behavioral problems. In fact, a study revealed that dogs trained with aversive stimuli were more likely to develop fear and aggression problems.
By using positive reinforcement methods, you can help your mentally challenged dog feel more secure and confident. Reward them with treats or praise when they display desired behaviors, and avoid using punishment.
4. Take Them For Regular Walks
Regular walks are important for all dogs, but they can be especially helpful for mentally challenged dogs. Walks provide mental and physical stimulation and can help to relieve boredom and anxiety.
Make sure to vary your walking route, so your dog doesn’t get bored, and keep an eye out for any triggers that may cause them stress. If you notice your dog getting anxious or agitated, calmly remove them from the situation and try another day.
5. Give Them A Safe Place To Escape
Retarded dogs may become overwhelmed in certain situations and may need a safe place to escape. This could be a crate or a quiet room where they can go to calm down.
When choosing a safe place for your dog, make sure it’s large enough for them to move around and that it has plenty of ventilation. It’s also important to provide them with a comfortable bed or mat so they can relax.
Excessive chewing and licking, self-mutilation, and a lack of social interaction are just some of the signs that a dog may be retarded. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it’s important to get them to the vet for an evaluation.
There is no cure for mental retardation, but training can play an important role in helping a retarded dog lead a happy and healthy life.