Skip to Content

What to Expect From Senior Dog Behavior?

Shaggy, longhaired, senior dog with a white face and one ear poking up, standing outdoors in grass

By the time dogs reach the age of 10, they become significantly less active. Even the most active breeds become less lively. The change is more noticeable in bigger dogs, but if you observe closely, you can also see it in smaller canines. Read on to find out the changes that you must expect in your senior dog behavior.


Old dogs are prone to diabetes and kidney or liver problems. Your vet may recommend a change in diet depending on your dog’s health. This is because any change in the diet can directly impact your dog’s behavior. 

You should expect a greater range of testing at routine veterinary visits as your dog grows old. This is because endocrine issues, such as Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism, are quite common in senior dogs. These illnesses are treatable and should be detected as soon as possible.

Older dogs often require extensive teeth cleaning and care. Many owners will refuse this crucial treatment because of the fears of anesthesia. However, there’s nothing to worry about because your vet will do pre-anesthetic bloodwork and some other diagnostics to determine any risk.

The advantages of dental cleaning outweigh the hazards of anesthetics. It will prevent severe dental issues that can result in major complications. For example, periodontal disease and tooth decay are serious hazards that can be quite difficult to address.

Mental Changes

Senior dog smiling while sitting in a field of wildflowers

A 10-to-12-year-old dog is around the same age as a 60-to-90-year-old person (depending on the size and individual breed). Therefore, it will require extra care and attention to stay healthy. For instance, older dogs still require enough exercise to maintain their physical and mental health. So, you must take them on walks or schedule some playtime to keep them satisfied.

You’ve probably noticed that your dog is slowing down. He still enjoys a lengthy walk, although he isn’t as nimble as he once was. You may notice that he sleeps more or takes longer to wake up or respond to orders. Regular veterinary checkups can help evaluate whether the changes you’re experiencing are due to natural aging or are symptoms of sickness.

Behavioral Changes

Longhaired grey dog, happily running down a path in tall grass

It’s critical to keep an eye on your dog’s behavior at this stage of life. Some are natural as people become older, while others may suggest a health problem. If your dog no longer enjoys jumping or climbing the stairs, he/she could be experiencing joint pain or stiffness. 

Mild-mannered dogs who have suddenly become aggressive could indicate an underlying problem. For example, they could be in pain or acquiring dementia that will result in frustration. As a result, it’s critical to keep track of any changes in your dog’s behavior and report them to your veterinarian.

You should also observe the behavior of your pooch around children. Senior dogs may become less tolerant of tiny children and can react negatively to unexpected squeals or movements.

Similarly, they can become distressed when alone or get upset by loud noises, such as fireworks or thunderstorms. On the other hand, some canines become less susceptible to such cues because their hearing or eyesight is deteriorating.

Pacing at Night

Black and white dog laying in a dog bed

Canine cognitive dysfunction (also known as CCD) is a condition that is comparable to dementia in humans. It can affect a dog in several ways and disorientation, confusion, and anxiety are the common symptoms of this condition. These signs can worsen in the evening and stay that way throughout the hours of darkness (known as ‘sundowning’). Similarly, sleep problems are a common sign of CCD, and they might make your senior dog sleep more or less than usual.

Certain drugs or supplements can help soothe your dog in the evening and lessen the disruption to his sleep. Likewise, CBD oil for dogs can also be beneficial for managing this problem. Other than that, you can consult your veterinarian for several prescription treatments.

Many senior dogs experience pain or discomfort, which is especially obvious at night when there are fewer distractions. Dogs are notoriously stoic when it comes to pain, and the indicators that they’re in pain aren’t always visible. This is particularly true if the pain is mild to moderate and has developed over time.

If your dog is restless at night or wakes up when he would typically be sleeping, something’s wrong. If your pooch shows no other signs of cognitive dysfunction, he could be in discomfort due to injury. In this situation, visiting your vet is the best possible solution.

Breathing Variations

Senior basset hound with a greying face, walking in wood chips/ mulch outdoors

Breathing patterns in older dogs differ from those in younger pups and this is frequently due to illness or disease. This breathing change might manifest as excessively fast, slow, or heavy breathing. Several different reasons could be responsible for this variation.

For example, the accumulation of fluid in the lungs or around the lungs/heart could be the cause of heavy breathing. This laborious breathing in older dogs is called dyspnea. Likewise, heart illness and pneumonia are also among the common causes of difficulty breathing in senior dogs.

Tachypnea, or unusually rapid breathing in elderly dogs, is another breathing change that you might notice. It can be caused by various factors, including bronchitis, fluid in the lungs, anemia, hyperthermia, or even nervousness.


Senior boxer with greying face with head tilted outdoors in agrass

This condition is quite common in aging dogs and you must handle it with a lot of patience. Don’t assume your dog is being rebellious or disobedient just because he doesn’t respond to your orders. If he is becoming deaf, don’t try to teach your dog any new tricks. Instead, you should devote time to hobbies that will bring joy to both of you.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.