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This is a pretty crazy era that we live in and asking questions such as “Can dogs be retarded?” is nothing unusual. We can all experience some sort of mental problems. In fact, rarely does anyone live without one, even if it’s a teensy tiny issue.

Sadly, our furry friends can be retarded, mentally challenged, impaired… Call it anything you like, the condition still won’t change what it is.

Mental retardation can be either mild and controllable, or severe and demanding medical assistance.

Today, I will point out all the signs of mental retardation, tell you where they come from, and how to treat these conditions.

Can Dogs Be Retarded?

black pug with worried expressionblack pug with worried expression

The simple answer to our question of the day is: Yes.

Sadly, dogs can really be retarded, but that’s not because some higher force decided this Fido will be okay, and this one will not. To understand mental retardation, we must first realize where it comes from.

Mental retardation comes from inside the brain. The brain is just another organ in our bodies and thus, it can develop certain abnormalities. The liver can fail, the heart can stop, and the brain can malfunction. Brain damage can happen due to numerous reasons and we’ll discuss these soon.

What I want you to realize is that dogs aren’t that different from their humans. I know you’ve probably seen dog owners and dogs looking the same, i.e. a long-haired woman and a gorgeous Afghan Hound. But, the similarities can occur on the inside too.

A dog’s brain is very similar to a human’s. It’s only natural to conclude that dogs can be mentally handicapped like some humans. It’s also possible for some dogs to develop mild mental illnesses that could cause troubles in daily life, but nothing too big to stop the dog from functioning.

The problem is that we usually don’t see the first signs of mental disorders in our canine buddies. But, if a dog is truly our family member, we should make a special effort to recognize the first symptoms in order to prevent any further complications.

Mental health is just as important as physical health.

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We’re about to learn together how to spot the signs of mental retardation or any other unusual behaviors.

What Are The Signs Of Mental Retardation In Dogs?

golden retriever in front of a full bowl of foodgolden retriever in front of a full bowl of food

The only way that a professional can diagnose your dog with a mental disorder is to examine the symptoms that the dog is showing. You can’t force your DMV into checking up on your dog just because you believe something’s wrong.

Your dog will usually exhibit certain symptoms that can be indicators of something odd.

Is your dog acting lethargic? Is he experiencing frantic episodes, zooming through the house? Does he show a lack of interest in everything all of a sudden? That could be the first clue.

Here are the first signs that you will notice if your dog is experiencing mental problems.

Lack Of Appetite

All dogs need to eat. All dogs love to eat. The moment that your canine friend stops being interested in dog food or treats, you can tell something’s not right. A lack of interest in food can happen for so many reasons.

Sometimes, dogs just won’t eat their food, but will eat treats. PupVine’s done a piece on this, so you might wanna check it out here.

However, sometimes, dogs simply show zero interest in their meals because they have physical discomfort. Take him to see the vet. If everything seems alright at the check-up, you may think that something is going on inside his head.

A lack of appetite will lead to weightloss, and that’s not something we want for our dogs.

Poor Attention Span

All dogs can be focused for some amount of time, but a problem occurs when their focus wanders off. Some dog breeds seem to focus better on a given task than others.

For example, German Shepherds are more concentrated than Beagles or Pugs. These two breeds are famous for their short attention spans.

The first signs that could indicate that your dog has a poor attention span, or that he’s having issues with his mental health, can be spotted during training.

When we train our dogs, we want them to be attentive and to concentrate on us and the command that we’re giving out. If a dog has trouble maintaining eye contact for less than a minute or can’t seem to listen to basic commands, you can suspect that a mental condition is bothering him.

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Aggressive Behavior

Fluffy was never an aggressive dog. But, Fluffy seems to be showing signs of aggression lately. He’s not the same dog anymore. He’s becoming a danger to everyone around him.

But, aggression isn’t something that comes naturally in all dogs. People often fear some dog breeds because they believe that they’re destined to be aggressive.

For example, Rottweilers are not dangerous by default. German Shepherds are kind, not aggressive. The Cane Corso isn’t aggressive either! These are all “dangerous” dog breeds.

People always judge a book by its cover. Rarely does anyone think that that a tough-looking dog might have a condition that causes its aggressive behavior.

A teacup Yorkie can also be aggressive if he suffers from some sort of disorder. There’s really no general rule here.

Clear signs of aggression because of a mental disorder include avoiding eye contact, growling, showing teeth, having a stiff body posture, etc.

PupVine’s done quite a lot of research on which dog breeds are aggressive or believed to be aggressive.

I’d recommend that you check out the following articles, especially if you’re still planning to get a certain dog breed:

Shiba Inu Aggression

Dachshunds And Aggression

Aggression In Samoyeds

Cane Corso’s Aggression

Frenchie’s Proneness To Aggression

Aggression In Chihuahuas

Lack Of Good Communication

Dogs and dog owners can communicate. Just because a dog can’t speak, this doesn’t mean that he can’t tell his owner a word or two about his condition or a specific situation.

Dogs communicate by wagging their tails, going into a stiff posture, putting their ears down, showing their teeth, etc.

A dog that avoids eye contact, stares into a blank space, and doesn’t really bark could be experiencing some mental health issues.

So, the next time that you see your Husky avoid communication, cut to the chase, and approach the problem. Dogs like Huskies love to howl, and if they stop doing it all of a sudden, that should be a clear sign to you.

Difficulty With Learning

Since learning, or dog training, comes first, immediately upon getting your new pooch, you should be able to tell if your dog has any problems with learning.

Dogs suffering from any mental condition seem to have issues with learning the basic commands or even learning their name.

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Hand in hand with this difficulty goes memory loss, your dog may suddenly forget where his bed is, where you guys go for walks, or even who your spouse is.

What Are The Reasons For A Dog Being Mentally Disordered?

close up portrait of beautiful beagle dog at homeclose up portrait of beautiful beagle dog at home

Believe it or not, there are several reasons why a dog might be experiencing mental retardation. Trust me, it’s not just because some higher force decided that that doggo will be special. Severe complications may lead to mental disorders.

Problems At Birth

Most mental issues can start at birth. Birth complications are normal, not only with humans but with dogs too.

A problematic pregnancy, bad position during the birth, lack of oxygen, catching an infection in the uterus, etc. can all be reasons why that little pupster might need extra help, because he’s so special.


Speaking of infections in the previous paragraph…

Common dog viruses such as parvovirus or rabies can lead to conditions like encephalitis.

Encephalitis affects the dog’s neurological system. If not treated, it could lead to brain cell degeneration or trigger autoimmune disorders.

Brain Trauma

Brain trauma can be something mild like a small thud to the head, or something forceful such as getting hit by a car, falling down the stairs, or getting attacked by other dogs.

Any accident like the above-mentioned ones can cause brain trauma and thus, lead to neurological damage and behavioral problems.


Sometimes, the problem with the dog’s behavior lies in the fact that it’s inherited from the parents.

Certain dog breeds are more prone to genetic-related mental problems. For example, Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds are highly likely to develop anxiety.

Genetics can’t be manipulated as we want them. However, poor breeding practices can lead to lots of genetic disorders. The importance of finding a good breeder is higher than ever.

What Are The Most Common Mental Problems In Dogs?

owner hugging his dogowner hugging his dog

A dog’s mental problems don’t only mean cognitive dullness. There are other behavioral issues, some less severe, some more, that can affect your dog.

We’re about to discuss each and every one of them and give you some helpful tips on handling them.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is definitely the most common condition that a furry friend can experience. Sadly, lots of dogs, no matter their breed, size, or gender can experience it, and it happens when they first get to stay at home alone.

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All dogs are sociable creatures and they enjoy a human’s company all of the time. Some dogs are more clingy like Doxies. They want to stay with their owners no matter what. Unfortunately for our little buddies, we have to work. The time will come when you’ll need to go to the office and your Fido will stay alone.

So, what happens then?

You may not see it (unless you have surveillance inside your home), but your dog will bark, howl, cry, jump, whine, and wait by the door for you to get back. If he sees that that’s not bringing you back, he’ll start acting destructively. Don’t be surprised if you come home and see all of your shoes chewed up.

Destructive behavior goes hand in hand with separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety can happen because of two reasons. Either your dog lacks attention, which you must provide, or he wasn’t trained properly. Now you know why your dog won’t leave your side all of a sudden.

We’ll talk about handling these mental conditions soon.

Social Anxiety

Just like separation anxiety, social anxiety can strike pretty much any dog breed. However, it strikes more dogs that come from bad breeders, pet shops, and puppy mills. It’s all because of a lack of proper socialization.

Every dog must be socialized on time. That is why reputable breeders enforce early socialization. It gets tricky if the dog grows up without proper socialization. He’ll act aggressively around unknown people and animals. It even goes so far as the younger dog can attack the older dog.

Socializing an aggressive dog is tough. If you can’t handle it, you better call a professional.


Depression isn’t something that only humans suffer from. Dogs want to be alone too. Dogs can experience depression.

What once was a happy dog, looking forward to seeing you, is now a lethargic mass sleeping in the corner or staring into blank space. Depressed dogs have zero energy. They’re not interested in anything, not to mention their food. You’ll notice your Fido refuses to take walks, and he barely touches his food bowl.

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Another symptom of depression, besides a change in behavior, is severe hair loss.

The biggest reason why depression occurs is a sudden change of routine. Dogs like routines, just like us humans. If you’ve started a different job lately or introduced someone new into your life, the chances are that your dog will sense the change and exhibit some discomfort through depression.

PTSD And Dogs

This is another condition that can occur in dogs too.

PTSD, or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, is something that happens after a severe trauma has been experienced. For example, your dog might have been attacked by a bigger dog, and that could have left trauma that will be embedded into your dog’s mind.

PTSD is a fearful response, where your dog is anticipating the same trauma happening again, just because something triggered it or made a resemblance to the situation again.

Other than the mentioned conditions, your dog can also experience Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, phobias, as well as OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Dogs can’t be born with Down syndrome, no matter what some vets might diagnose because that condition only occurs in humans.

How To Take Care Of A Mentally Retarded Dog

cute puppy napping on owner's lapcute puppy napping on owner's lap

Love, support, care, and assistance from your DMV. That’s all that a mentally retarded dog needs.

A lot of the mentioned conditions can be treated with proper training and socialization. However, no one said it will be easy. It’s extremely difficult to train an adult dog into obedience, especially if he’s acting all stubborn and doesn’t care about your authority.

I urge you not to be shy and to ask for professional help, whether it’s from your vet or a professional dog trainer.

What you can also do is shower your dog with attention. Bring out toys that will serve as a mental challenge for your canine and help him through those long hours when you’re not around.

Of course, I’m talking about conditions that can be treated, such as anxiety or phobias. Sadly, genetic-related mental problems rarely have a treatment, other than sedatives, to keep your dog acting calm. Once again, this is where a good breeder proves to be highly important.

Does A Mental Disability Affect A Dog’s Lifespan?

Living under constant stress, phobias, or a severe mental impairment can significantly shorten a dog’s life.

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Dogs with mild problems can still lead a somewhat normal life, but dogs that have to go through medical treatments because of a condition surely live shorter. On top of this, such dogs also have a poor quality of life.

If you have a special needs canine, you should make sure that you ease his life as much as you can. You’re not just an owner, you’re a pet parent and you should help your pup as much as you can.

Can Dogs Be Retarded And Still Show Intelligence?

cute dog stares into spacecute dog stares into space

This depends on how you define intelligence.

When you ask dog experts, they’d say that dog intelligence is the capability of solving a task or a command in an appropriate time, with satisfying results. In other words, it’s dog training and the ability to master it.

Not every dog breed can be as intelligent as the Border Collie. Still, even they can show signs of mental problems when it comes to training.

You can definitely train a retarded dog and let him show off his intelligent side that’s usually stuck in the shadow. The training should be short and packed with praise and positive reinforcement.

See, there’s really no need in asking yourself “Can dogs be retarded and still intelligent?”.

Is Autism Possible In Dogs?

Even though the research is still being conducted, scientists have found something that they believe is a link between dogs and autism.

We all know that autism is a condition that affects humans, but some new information claims that dogs can get it too.

Some dog owners have reported symptoms of autism in their dogs, as well as symptoms of Fragile x Syndrome.

To Sum Up…

I hope I helped you to answer the burning question: Can dogs be retarded?

The truth is really sad. Dogs can be retarded and experience severe mental problems. Some conditions can’t be affected, while some can.

If you suspect your dog has some issues because he’s showing off odd symptoms, you should consult your veterinarian. Your Fido might need some medication to treat the discovered condition. However, most dogs can get along with proper training and socialization lessons.

By Andy Marcus

Hello, my name is Andy Marcus, and I am a passionate dog lover and enthusiast. For me, there is nothing quite like the joy and love that a furry friend can bring into our lives. I have spent years studying and learning about dogs, and have made it my mission to share my knowledge and expertise with others through my website. Through my website, I aim to provide comprehensive information and resources for dog owners and enthusiasts. Whether it's training tips, health and nutrition advice, or insights into dog behavior, I strive to create a platform that is accessible and useful to everyone who loves dogs.

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