How do I help my dog shutting down? Find Out Here

It is important to note that a dog that is in a shut down state is not necessarily exhibiting learned helplessness. Learned helplessness has a scientific definition, and although animals in that state are shut down, the reverse is not true. All shut down animals are not in learned helplessness.

Learned helplessness occurs when an animal has been repeatedly hurt by an aversive stimulus that it has learned that it can’t escape. Nothing works. The animal shuts down, and in some cases is almost paralyzed or catatonic.

When learned helplessness experiments were done to animals (including humans), there was a subsequent experiment where there was an opportunity to escape the aversive (shock in most cases). But the animals no longer even tried. Those who were subjected to these brutal experiments stayed shut down.

The video shows the aftermath of what appeared to me to be a very minor tiff between my then 18-month-old hound mix Zani, and my senior rat terrier, Cricket. Zani was 18 lbs to Cricket’s 12 lbs. Cricket was a strong resource guarder of me and did not care for other dogs. The incident consisted of Zani walking too close to Cricket and me on the bed. Cricket air-snapped at her.

It was very surprising to me because Zani has always been a feisty little thing. She spent her first three months with me deliberately and repeatedly provoking my larger dog Summer to play with her. Summer doesn’t play very nicely, and the play always had an edge to it. Yet Zani started it again and again, and never acted afraid of Summer during play. (She did act afraid of her one time, as I talk about in “The Look of Fear.”)

Help With An Emotionally Shut Down Dog

The dog rescue world often comes across dogs who have emotionally shut down. It is hard to observe and takes time and patience to get these poor dogs to start interacting again.

Here we will take a look at why this happens and how to get a dog who is shut down to start trusting a human and enjoying his or her life again.

Making the Decision

Unfortunately, Rex’s passing was not as easy as him just falling asleep one night and not waking again. As much as I wanted him to stay with us, the point came when I knew we had to intervene.

He was deteriorating, and I could see in his eyes that he wasn’t really there anymore. I had done some research online by that point and had chosen a vet who would make house calls. I set an appointment for the next day.

That day we spent time saying goodbye. Saying goodbye to your dog here in these last long hours is a very personal private thing. Each person does it in their own way.


Stress is a commonly used word that describes feelings of strain or pressure. The causes of stress are exceedingly varied. Perhaps you are stressed out by your job, you become nervous when meeting new people, or you get anxious when your daily routine is disrupted.

To reduce stress levels, you may seek comfort in several ways. Maybe you find solace in the company of a trusted friend. Perhaps you relieve stress when occupied by routine chores like cleaning the house. Or maybe you blow off some steam with physical exercise.

Our dogs can become stressed too. Since we know how stress makes us feel, we certainly want to help alleviate our pet’s stress as well. However, our dogs do not voice their feelings, slam down the phone, or have a tantrum, so how can we tell they are stressed? The signs of anxiety in dogs are often subtle. In fact, some stress-related behaviors mimic normal behaviors.