Can Dogs Be Autistic?

Just because I’m a dog, doesn’t mean I’m biased when I say that every dog is beautiful in our own way. We can be very similar, but also hugely different.

As a dog with different traits myself, I’m here to tell you that yes, we can have autism. Well… sort of.

Autism in pups like me is very different to your human experience in many ways.

Our dog brains aren’t as developed as your human ones (though don’t tell any Golden Retrievers that I told you that!) but we are very clever creatures like you, so it becomes obvious when we behave differently to “normal”.

Let’s woof about it!

How Can You Tell If A Dog Has Autism?

Much like for those on two legs, autism in dogs is idiopathic. This is a big word from your human English language that means there is no obvious cause of it. I think the dog translation would be bark bark grr woof.

However, there are certain signs you can look out for in general that might indicate your pup is, like me, very special.

Again, like with people, getting me diagnosed with autism was difficult. Mom says it’s something to do with a lack of scientific evidence, whatever that is.

You probably know that all dogs like to chase their tail. I’m chasing mine right now! We also like to lick the same spot over and over again. My fur just tastes delicious, I don’t know why!

However, if you are concerned about repetitive behavior in your pup, and they also show some of the other symptoms, that could be an indication of autistic tendencies.

Lots of dogs love people! Snuggling with family, meeting friends at the park, playing ball with kids – it makes our tails wag so hard!

However, some of us autistic pups are unsociable and prefer the company of you, our beloved humans, and staying home.

When your pup has had a hard time, like if some jerk human was cruel to them or they got hurt by one of those big metal road thingies in an accident, that could also cause withdrawal and a lack of social behavior. It’s not always autism!

I would happily fetch for my mom all day if I could, but some pups with autism don’t show that huge tail-wagging enthusiasm to play or go for walkies. Wait… are we going for a walk? Can we go now?

Anyways, if your dog seems lazy or tired a lot of the time, and is showing some of the other behaviors I barked about above, you should talk to the vet about the possibility of canine autism.

What Mental Illnesses Can Dogs Have?

This is a tricky question for a pup! When I puke my mom says I’m ill, so that must be a bad thing, and I’m pretty sure we’re still talking about brains here.

So mental illnesses must be when things are going wrong in your noggin? Okay! Woof! I got it.

I’m not quite sure what a study or a college is, but Emory University did some research and found that my dog brain is actually very similar to your human one.

So our mental illnesses are pretty similar too I guess.

I did some reading (with mom’s help) and PetPlan says we can develop “forms of anxiety, especially separation anxiety…compulsive disorders, many fears and phobias…even PTSD” – I hope that clears things up!

Can Dogs Have Anxiety?

Yes! Anxiety is a universal emotion of distress, so all animals – canine or otherwise – can experience it in some form. It doesn’t mean your pup is barking mad though, it’s very natural.

I am a very nervous pup, so I often show signs of anxiety with my mom. I asked her what signs she looks for, and she gave me this list:

  • I start barking or howling a lot when she tries to leave me at home. I’m just trying to ask when she’s coming back!
  • I shake and hide under my favorite blanket when loud bangs and bright lights are happening outside, and sometimes bark at those too.
  • Even when the sun isn’t out and we’re hanging out in a cool breeze, I can start panting like I really need my post-walk drink.
  • If I am really scared, I might hide in a corner because I feel safe, or run away because I don’t.
  • Sometimes I pee where I’m not supposed to and it makes mom very sad, but she doesn’t yell at me ‘cause she knows I don’t mean it.
  • When I just can’t relax or settle down, my ability to cope ranges: I might be generally kinda spooked or so stressed that I don’t want to eat my dinner – and I am one hungry doggo, so that doesn’t happen often!

Why Does My Dog Keep Barking At Nothing?

There are many reasons why we might bark: just ‘cause it’s nothing to your human eyes and ears, doesn’t mean there’s nothing to bark for!

As I already barked about earlier, I often bark when I am scared or lonely, related to my anxiety and not wanting Mom to leave my sight. I hate when she’s more than a paw away from me!

Other reasons that pups could be communicating include:

  • Greeting or playing! It’s exciting to chase a ball or a frisbee or say hi to a friend or even a bug! Bugs are so fun to chase and bark at! 
  • Wanting your attention! Duh. You’re our best friends and we’re obsessed with you, of course. We want you to be looking at us at ALL times.
  • Being bored is a good reason to bark if you ask me. There are NO toys or treats or friends or bikes to chase in here! Let me tell you how mad I am about it!
  • Much like some humans, certain dogs just love the sound of their own voice, which is a thing my mom said is called Compulsive Barking and you should probably talk to your vet about it. I would say heck the vet, but my mom is always right!