As your dog gets older what behavior changes can you expect?

Older dogs also exhibit unique behaviors that need to be understand so that as a pet owner you’re not worrying that something is wrong.

By April 06 | See Comments

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As your dog gets older what behavior changes can you expect?

Dog’s at all ages of their life have unique behavior traits. Puppy’s are a handful and bustling with energy and we’ve all got an idea of how a puppy acts. On the flip side, older dogs also exhibit unique behaviors that need to be understand so that as a pet owner you’re not worrying that something is wrong. Let’s take a look at these behavior changes.

Dog’s at all ages of their life have unique behavior traits. Puppy’s are a handful and bustling with energy and we’ve all got an idea of how a puppy acts. On the flip side, older dogs also exhibit unique behaviors that need to be understand so that as a pet owner you’re not worrying that something is wrong. Let’s take a look at these behavior changes below:

  1. Separation Anxiety

As dogs get older, separation anxiety is a common trait that will begin to occur more frequently. This occurs when routine that a dog is used to changes, and an older dog is going to be less adaptable to change. The changes can result in your order dog becoming more disruptive, aggressive, and self urinating or defecating.

To counter this there are a few strategies:

  1. Establish cues in your routine so your dog can understand when you’re away and that you’ll be coming back. For example, most dogs are aware that the morning alarm means you’re headed to work and that you’ll be back.

  2. Ease them into the change by making your disappearances shorter at the start. That way your dog starts to feel reassured that you’ll always come back and then get them accustomed to longer times away. 

  3. Any long absences should take into consideration whether you should have a pet sitter or friend give your older dog company. 

  1. Aggression

As your dog gets older there’s a good chance he or she will become slightly more aggressive. This can occur due to a variety of factors such as:

  • Medical issues have side effects that make them more irritable.

  • Vision or hearing loss from old age can result in older dogs becoming more startled by sudden sounds or sights.

  • Difficult moving around means any stimulus that’s irritating is harder to get away from.

Understanding the trigger that’s causing your dog to become more aggressive,  you can then consult a veterinarian on adjustments to your dog’s medication, or removing them from exposure to any fearful or anxiety inducing events in their environment. 

  1. Afraid of noises

Older dogs will become more sensitive to noise. This is compounded by mobility issues or vision issues which make dog’s a lot more reactive to sudden noises or loud noises.
Be sure to keep an eye on whether certain noises are scaring your dog and whether medication is needed to help with desensitizing them to sounds. Also keep in mind that dogs have a far more acute sense of hearing than humans and there may be frequencies that we don’t pick up but your older dog does. 

Conditioning your dog into being okay with identified sounds they’re afraid of can help, such as exposing them to lower volume and length of those noises and rewarding them when they’re showing signs of not being afraid. Then build up their tolerance to louder volumes over time. 

  1. House soiling

Your dog may be housetrained but as they get older it’s natural that they may defecate or urinate by accident. This is due to poorer bladder and rectum control as they get older, and in some cases medication that your dog is taking may have side effects that cause this. In any case, it’s important to take a look at your dog’s diet and ensure it has been adjusted to be more appropriate for your dog’s age and look into possible mobility issues that’s causing them to soil in the house. For example, if your dog suffers from arthritis, it may be too painful for your dog to get up and signal it needs to go outside and as result ends up urinating inside the house. The best course of action here is to consult a vet and look into what lifestyle changes can help your dog. 

  1. Poorer sleep

Older dogs will also encounter poorer sleep and you’ll find them pacing about the house at odd hours, sometimes even vocalizing their restlessness. This can be due to not being able to urinate or defecate, joint pain, and just neurological conditions. There’s no real solve for this besides medication to help ease their time during old age and creating necessary measures to ensure you as a pet owner can get a good nights rest (e.g. having your dog barred from climbing upstairs to near the bedrooms)

  1. More vocalization

Older dogs will tend to be more vocal in expressing their emotions or needs. This is mainly due to more mobile abilities to signal a need are limited as they get older and encounter joint pain and other ailments. Because of this, as a pet owner you’ll hear your dog a lot more often as they try to signal when they’re hungry, if they need to go for a walk, or are experiencing discomfort of any kind. 

  1. Lower cognition

Naturally, with old age a dog will also exhibit symptoms related with what’s known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). This can mean your old dog will look confused and disoriented more often. Your dog will have a decreased amount of energy and activity around the house, with a lot more instances of being ‘zoned out’. As your dog gets older at some point memory loss will occur that has them not recognizing friends or family. 

Medications are the best countermeasure to this such as Selegiline that alleviate some of these symptoms and make your dog’s end of life stage a lot more comfortable.


As dog’s get older, they’re going to encounter a myriad of issues cognitively and physically that change their behavior. This is the same for humans. Because of this, any reactions to their change in behavior must keep this in mind. As a pet owner, remember your goal now is to ensure the last remaining years for your dog are as comfortable as possible. To help you with this, a vet is the best person to consult on how to adjust to your dog’s changing behavior. 

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