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Senior Dog Behavior Changes To Expect Among Aging Pets

You’ve probably noticed some distinct senior dog behavior changes in your pet as he ages. From lack of energy to confusion and fear, our pups can experience several alterations in their behavior, which may be challenging to cope with, both for you and your pup.

The good news, however, is that these changes are actually quite common among dogs, so you shouldn’t fret so much. There are plenty of ways to help our best friends adjust to their age.

We'll explore typical behavior changes among senior dogs in this article as well as provide tips for adjusting to them. We hope to help you understand what’s going on with your furry pal and the best way you can support them.

Whether your pet has been with you for years or if they’re just recently adopted, you don’t have to worry. We’ll get you started quickly with this guide!

Why Senior Dog Behavior Changes Occur

An old Basset Hound sleeping on a couch

You may have wondered why your pooches start acting differently as they age. The truth is that, while age can definitely be a factor in it, there are plenty of other variables that may account for this phenomenon.

Pain or discomfort

Dogs are just like people in that they can develop some physical conditions as they age, which may result in them suffering pain or discomfort. A study of canine lifetime health also shows that some breeds may be more prone to the development of certain health problems. Some of these include arthritis, dental problems, and others.

If your old timer is playing less with you, then this is probably one of the reasons why. Identifying the root cause of the problem can help minimize the problem your dog is facing.

Cognitive changes

Perhaps unsurprisingly enough, dogs also experience some cognitive decline as they age. This can have some pretty severe consequences in their behavior.

For example, old dogs may experience more confusion or become disoriented with the slightest stimuli. They may also develop increased anxiety, which is why they would need more love and support from their owners.

Loss of senses

Their senses are probably the most important part of their quality of life. Unfortunately for our pooches, these, too, may deteriorate with age.

Dogs may develop decreased sensitivity in their sense of sight, smell, and hearing. Since they aren’t able to detect their surroundings as well as before, they generally become more prone to startling. They may also become less responsive to commands, even trained ones.

Changes in routine

Routine is a very important aspect for dogs, as they are quite the creatures of habit. Changes such as the introduction of a new family member or a pet can prove to be stressful for your canine friends.

Younger dogs are usually more able to tolerate changes in their lifestyle. This is also why adopting an older dog requires plenty of patience and care to help it adapt to its new home.

Environmental changes

Senior dogs may become more sensitive to environmental changes, such as loud noises or changes in temperature. This can lead to changes in behavior, such as increased anxiety or avoidance.

They may also be less responsive to commands. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t train them new tricks, as old dogs will also be less easily distracted compared to pups.

With that being said, there are many other senior dog changes that may be unexplained by these factors. If ever there is persistent destructive behavior in your pet, it is probably time to call in the opinion of an expert.

Remember, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. If you’re unsure whether or not the sudden change in their behavior is natural, it’s best to take them to a vet right away.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome In Old Dogs

A brown senior dog lying on the porch

Also known as CDS or doggy dementia, this condition hugely affects many dogs as they age. It is particularly similar in progression to Alzheimer’s disease among humans.

CDS happens when there is a progressive degeneration of the brain caused by the build-up of a certain protein called beta-amyloid. This build-up creates a toxic environment which results in the wasting away of many neurons.

There are several signs by which one can detect this syndrome, with the first being confusion or disorientation. Your pup may start getting lost even in familiar places or stare off into empty spaces at times.

They may also change interaction patterns with their owners, becoming either clingy or avoidant, or both. They may also fail to recognize people they know from memory.

Other common changes include alteration in sleeping patterns, forgetting basic potty training, decreased energy when it comes to making activities, increased anxiety, and difficulty in following commands or learning new ones.

Unfortunately, there is still no known cure for this condition. Fortunately, there are ways to manage CDS and make the quality of life better for dogs affected by it.

Vets, in particular, usually advise a change in diet, with nutrients that help boost the function of the brain. Owners can also provide enrichment through fun interactive dog toys or other types of exercise which can be mentally stimulating.

Medication is also an important part of making life better for affected dogs. Currently, selegiline is approved for prescription in North America. It’s also important to treat other conditions which may compound with the symptoms of CDS, such as anxiety or arthritis.

Supplements may also provide some needed boost for your pups, although they should only be taken with a veterinary recommendation. 

Adapting To Changes In Senior Dogs

An old brown dog being petted by his owner

These behavioral changes among our aging beloved friends can be a real source of stress among fur parents. However, in spite of these challenges, it remains our responsibility to adapt to this environment. Here are some tips on adapting to behavioral changes in our older furry friends.

Be patient and understanding

This should go without saying. Dogs may get slower as they age, both physically and mentally. It may prove harder to control certain behaviors as they get older.

As such, it is important to be patient and understanding of their condition. Remind yourself not to punish or scold your dog for these changes, as it is something beyond their control.

Adjust your expectations

If you’re expecting your old timer to be as frisky as he was back in the old days, then you’re doing it wrong. While some dogs may prove to be themselves to be exempted, in general, it should be expected for old dogs to have lower energy than in their youth.

Manage your expectations according to the reality of the situation. Moreover, do not burden your pet with something they are not able to provide. Doing so will make it easier for both you and your furry pal.

Make changes to the environment

Living conditions are necessary to make life comfortable for your senior pets. It’s worth it to invest in some things which can provide greater satisfaction for your furry friend.

For example, you can provide a more comfortable bed for them by adding softer blankets and such. You can also add some non-slip surfaces on places they usually hang out. Additionally, you can install ramps to help them navigate stairs better.

Provide mental stimulation

Senior dogs may actually benefit the most from mentally stimulating activities like puzzle toys or obedience training. This is because they’re better suited to it than puppies, which have shorter attention spans.

Aside from being a fun time for both you and your pet, these activities are also a good way to help them keep their minds active. It can also potentially slow cognitive decline.

Modify their diet

The importance of diet never changes for dogs of all ages. However, older dogs may develop more conditions that may make their meals quite restrictive. Talk with a vet to help plan and modify your dog’s diet, which will meet its nutritional needs. 

Consider medication or supplements

Medications and supplements might be quite pricey, but if you have the funds or the insurance for them, it’s worth a try for your pet. Some of them can help improve cognitive function or manage pain and discomfort that’s usually associated with aging.

Schedule regular check-ups

Last but not the least, scheduling regular check-ups with your vet is a surefire way to help keep your pooch healthy and happy. Aside from monitoring certain health issues, these professionals can provide advice that’s specifically tailored for your pet.

Having regular check-ups is also useful for identifying possible health problems early on. Thus, they can be managed more effectively.

Show your love for your pets by following these tips and wearing one of our animal lover clothing. A fourth of the proceeds are donated to no-kill animal shelters.


What are some senior dog personality changes?

While some of their distinctive personality traits may stay, in general, dogs will get less curious and active over time. While this may be normal, it's also important to note that it may also be a result of another underlying complication that is not age-related. Check with your vet to make sure.

What are some senior dog behavior issues?

Some common behavior issues among older dogs include lesser energy levels, higher anxiety, and cognitive decline.

What causes behavior changes in older dogs?

Dogs are no different from humans in that their physical bodies deteriorate with age. These changes, as well as other environmental factors, contribute to their behavior changes.

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