DO DOGS GET SCARED WHEN LOST?
As all dog owners know, dogs are quite capable of feeling emotion, just like humans! And while your furry friend may appear happy-go-lucky most of the time, what will they feel if they end up lost and alone?
Do Lost Dogs Feel Scared?
Fear is one of the most ancient and useful emotions for any living creature. Fear is what drives the fight or flight response and, ultimately, saves lives. All dogs will feel fear to some extent once they realize they’re alone and can’t find their way home. This can manifest as pacing, panting, trembling, salivating, and attempting to hide. Scared dogs may also display fearful postures such as tucking their tail between their legs, pinning their ears back, rolling on their back, or shifting their weight backwards. Lost dogs with an already nervous and guarded temperament will feel this characteristic exacerbated by the distressing situation. They may run from people, hide in the shadows, and even display defensive aggression like snarling, snapping, and lunging. This can lead to lost dogs being mistaken for wild animals and make it harder to track them down.
What is Dog Survival Mode?
If lost for a long time, dogs can go into what’s known as “survival mode” in which they regress to their primal instincts. If this happens, your dog may forget who you are, temporarily or permanently. This is due to the loss of a hormone called serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a happy hormone that the body uses as a mood stabilizer. When the body’s serotonin level is suddenly depleted, due to the stress of a traumatic event like a dog getting lost, the short-term memory function is compromised. In survival or “feral mode”, a lost dog may forget all about its home and owners, and resort to searching for more basic needs like safety, food, water, and shelter (in order of priority). This means that no matter how well trained your dog is, if they have switched to survival mode, they may not come back to you when called.
How Do I Get a Lost Dog Out of Survival Mode?
Thankfully, dog survival mode is almost always temporary. Once a dog in survival mode has been found and captured, they usually return to their former personality. If you come across a dog that is displaying any of the behaviors mentioned above, approach it very carefully with your body turned to the side to appear less intimidating. Remain calm and positive, and keep your distance until the dog seems less concerned with your presence. Pay close attention to the lost dog’s body language and look for signals that indicate the dog is relaxing, such as a loose body and relaxed ears. The trick is to make the lost dog feel comfortable enough to approach you so that you can then keep it safe and satisfy its basic needs. This will hopefully lead to the lost dog coming out of survival mode and being reunited with its owner!