4 Behavioral Changes in Senior Dogs

behavioral changes in senior dogsJust like your children, your pets grow up too fast. One minute they’re puppies filled with energy and the next, they are showing gray hair and have trouble getting around the house. We know that these changes can be heartbreaking at times. Because your furry friends can’t verbally express to you what’s wrong, it’s important that you are aware of any behavioral changes they may exhibit. If you have a senior dog, be on the lookout for the following changes in behavior.


1. Increased barking or noise

Stress in older dogs may cause more vocalization like barking, howling, or whining. This may occur as a result of separation anxiety, a means to gain attention, or because of cognitive disfunction. It is best to find out the cause of increased vocalization and medication can be given if appropriate. If your dog is vocalizing in order to gain attention he should be ignored. You may also want to set aside more one on one time with your dog.


2. Aggression

Senior dogs may become aggressive for several reasons. They may be in pain from arthritis or dental disease, vision or hearing loss which may result in your dog becoming easily startled, decreased mobility could inhibit him from leaving an irritating situation, or he may have another disease that hinders cognitive function. By figuring out which factors are causing the extra aggression, we can attempt to reduce or eliminate them.


3. Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavioral issues in senior dogs. A dog who suffers from separation anxiety becomes extremely anxious when his or her owner is about to leave. After the owner leaves, the dog will start to bark, howl, may become destructive, may urinate or defecate, and may salivate profusely. A dog with separation anxiety will also become over excited with the return of his or her owner. Senior dogs have a harder time adjusting to change in routine, especially if they are separated from their owner.


4. Noise phobias

Along with stress and anxiety, older dogs may become more sensitive to noise. You may think this would be the opposite since older dogs often acquire hearing loss. However, the following factors actually contribute to noise phobia:

  • the inability of the dog to remove himself from the source of the noise.
  • cognitive disfunction.
  • reduced ability to manage stress.

Again, you should try to identify the source of the noise phobia and treat accordingly. The source of the noise may be something we can hear like thunderstorms, or it may be something more high pitched that we can’t hear. Treatments for noise phobias can include counterconditioning, desensitization, and medication.


When your dog begins to age, you may notice changes in his physical and emotional demeanors. By being mindful of your senior dog’s behavioral changes, you’ll be able to take action to provide them with a comfortable and fulfilling life during their later years. To learn more about helping your dog age gracefully, download our free eBook by clicking the image below.


Comments 9

  1. My dog is 8 yrs old and in the last few months he has lost weight. He eats like usual nothing has really changed in his habits it’s just his weight. I’m not sure what to do?

  2. Our 8yr old American Bulldog is losing weight slowly and but is losing weight and hair he is very tired and want to be in the sun. He has a great appetite but still has little energy and is very sensitive. I’m very worried he is dying and any way you can help would be appreciated.

    1. My chorkie is the same, i am so worried about her, i have wormed her, we go and see my mother and she has another dog and still no difference, she is always hungry, but she is just so sleepy all the time. When she lie down her breathing looks like she is almost having to really breath hard

    2. It could be Cushing’s or thyroid or Addison’s (cushings and Addison’s are the opposite of each other but there are some overlapping symptoms). Is the hair loss just around the middle or mostly around the middle? Increased thirst and/ urination? You need to get to diagnostic hospital to rule out other things, but ask about Cushing’s. My dog has it, and the medication will bring them back to life.

  3. My 7 yr old Bull Mastiff has lost a lot of weight in the last 10 days. Treated her for worms 4 days ago but no worms showed up in her stool yet. She started pooping way too often and can’t hold it during the night now. She’s eating and drinking like normal but maybe a bit more drinking. She just vomited for the first time consisting mainly of her dry dogfood and clear liquid. What can be causing this rapid weight loss and extra bowl movements? Thank you!

  4. My 14 year old Belgian x German shepherd has started having separation anxiety and has panic attacks, it seems I’m the trigger, we can all be in the room and my husband or son can come and go as they please, but as soon as I go out of sight, even if it’s just to the bathroom or kitchen, my dog has a panic attack and starts barking high pitched or screeching, it’s only in the last 6 months he’s started doing this. What can I do to make him calm.

  5. My female dog 8yrs has not been well she’s just lost her hearing we found out Friday as well she’s had samples taken from 3 lumps 9 needles all in all & she seems so bewildered & looks so sad ? Can I do anything more to comfort her thank you

  6. Our American bulldog liked to lay in the sun as well. She lived until 14. Weight changed with age and she became extremely lazy. I wouldn’t worry too much unless he loses memory (potty in the house) etc. We eventually had to do hand signals with her because of sight and hearing. We were worried about her sun bathing habits but I think that’s a bulldog thing. Hope all is well.

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