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Help! My Senior Dog is Showing Aggression

Close up of a dog in a snowy environment snarling

Some changes, such as a shift in activity level or sleep patterns, are expected as dogs mature. However, some pet parents are astonished to see their senior dog biting or becoming violent as they become older. Understanding the changes your dog is going through is vital for dealing with aging pups. Keep reading to know why your senior dog is showing aggression and how you can control it.

Why is My Senior Dog Showing Aggression?

Make sure to notify your dog’s veterinarian about any changes you see. Don’t just assume that your dog is “growing old” and that there is nothing you can do to assist him. Many behavioral changes might be signals of curable medical conditions, and there is a range of therapies that can help your dog feel better. Aggression in an older dog can be triggered by various factors and some of them are as follows.

Anxiety

Extreme close up of an old white chihuahua

Increased fear of unfamiliar pets and people (sometimes accompanied by aggression), decreased tolerance of touch and restraint, Increased sensitivity and irritability, increased following and desire for contact, and increased anxiety, when left alone, are common concerns raised by guardians of aging dogs. Hearing loss can cause some dogs to become more agitated and talkative because of noise sensitivity. Your dissatisfaction with your dog’s conduct might exacerbate your dog’s nervousness.

Restlessness

Side view of a grey pug's head

Dogs who sleep a lot during the day may become agitated and energetic at night. Some dogs start reacting inappropriately to something they ignore, such as the garage door opening or the newspaper delivered. Keeping a journal might assist you in determining what causes your dog’s evening activities.

Sensory changes, such as vision or hearing loss, might impact your dog’s sleep depth. Cognitive dysfunction or other central nervous system diseases may affect sleep-wake cycles.

Site of Excretion

portrait of a golden retriever sitting outdoors in grass

Sensory loss, neuromuscular illnesses that impact your dog’s movement, brain tumors, cognitive dysfunction, endocrine system abnormalities, and any disorder that increases your dog’s frequency of elimination or lowers his bladder or bowel control can all contribute to home soiling.

If your dog only soils in the house when you’re gone and exhibits other indicators of separation anxiety (see Anxiety—Including Separation Anxiety, above), he might be suffering from separation anxiety.

If there’s a shift in their routine, surroundings, or home, some senior dogs may start soiling in the house since they’re less tolerant to change. Even if you’ve cleaned it thoroughly, if your dog has used an indoor site to excrete when you’re gone, that area might become entrenched as a favored spot.

Exaggerated Vocalization

Dog looking up and barking

If your senior dog vocalizes too much, or at inopportune times such as when you’re sleeping, it might become a problem. Anxiety vocalization frequently takes the form of a sorrowful wail or excessive whining. If your dog only does it while you’re not around, it might be a sign of separation anxiety. If your dog does it when you’re home, you’ll need the advice of a behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist to figure out what’s causing him to be so outspoken.

Excessive vocalization in your dog can have various factors, including hearing loss, cognitive dysfunction, central nervous system abnormalities, and medical illnesses. If he has to eliminate more, if he’s overeating and wants you to feed him more, or if he’s in pain, he can whimper or howl.

If your dog has grown more scared and nervous, he may start vocalizing when he hears or sees anything that scares or stresses him, such as sounds or guests. Showing your annoyance or disciplining your dog for vocalizing might exacerbate the situation by increasing his nervousness.

Pain

Golden retriever laying down with it's head between its front paws

One of the most prevalent reasons for an older dog starting to bite is pain. Uncomfortable or achy dogs may not want to be handled and may respond with anticipatory growling, a warning air snap to deter contact, or even a bite if approached.

Dogs may express their suffering in ways too subtle for pet owners to see, or they may refuse to recognize it until they are unwittingly forced to react.

What to Do if My Senior Dog is Showing Aggression?

You may regulate or minimize your senior dog’s hostility in various ways. Read on to know about some of the best solutions.

Get a Medical Checkup

Long haired dog laying on an exam table with vet nearby

The first step is to take your dog to the veterinarian. Aggression in senior dogs is typically due to a health problem, so don’t wait to see what happens. Any change in behavior, from overt antagonism to a “gut sense” that something is wrong, should be probed. A treatment plan can be made once you have a diagnosis.

Provide a Serene Environment

It’s crucial to keep your pooch away from stress to avoid negative behavior. Make sure your dog has a secure place to go where he can relax and no one will annoy him. You can either add a covered cage for him to climb into (leave the door open) or put up a bed in a calm area or another room.

Note the Triggers

Human hands taking notes in a notebook with a pin

Take note of any instances in which your dog has displayed hostility. Provide your veterinarian with as much information as possible. You can also consult an animal behaviorist if you need more assistance.  The following are some questions that you may need to answer while visiting the vet or animal behaviorist.

  • At what time of the day does your dog become aggressive?
  • What kind of conduct did you see? (film it if possible)
  • What was your dog doing before the incident?
  • Was the dog being bothered by anyone?

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