2001-Tue Jan 23 10:59:15 EST 2018
Vetstreet. All rights reserved. Powered by Brightspot.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Not all dogs get as much physical and mental activity as they need to be fulfilled in both mind and body. The combination of a lack of training and an excess of physical and mental energy can result in behavior problems. For example, a dog who doesn’t get enough exercise might expend his excess energy destroying your couch.
Your senior canine is probably less energetic than his younger counterparts, and he may appear to need less mental and physical stimulation, but when a senior dog is not challenged physically and mentally, his brain and overall behavior can suffer.
The adage “You can't teach an old dog new tricks” is false; many senior dogs are capable of and enjoy learning new things. But there is an underlying truth to the saying: The longer a behavior issue persists, the more established and harder to change it becomes, particularly in an older dog.
Behavior issues in senior dogs may escalate because the emotional reactions that cause the problem behavior — for example, barrier frustration or fear of a specific stimulus— can become stronger with continued exposure. As your dog is exposed to a problematic situation or experience, the resulting emotions, especially strong emotions like panic, create new neural pathways that elicit intensified and more immediate reactions.
Issues such as separation anxiety are more easily addressed in young dogs, when the brain is more malleable and the emotional response and habit of reacting is less intense. However, many pet owners don’t seek help until a problem behavior has been ongoing or escalating for years. Fortunately, though it can be a challenge, an older dog can still learn new ways of responding to stressful stimuli.
Sudden and dramatic changes to your senior dog's behavior may be unrelated to training or socialization; instead, they can be caused by a condition called cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) that affects the brain and behavior of senior dogs. The condition causes behaviors similar to those seen in humans with Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs with CDS may display behaviors like changed sleep and waking cycles, disorientation, potty training mishaps, anxiousness, confusion and decreased appetite or desire to play or interact. These age-related changes to the brain affect about 50 percent of senior dogs to varying degrees, and they are yet another reason to monitor behavioral health under the guidance of a professional.
It’s important for dogs in their senior years to have regular veterinary visits to check for mental and physical health issues. Keep in mind that physical issues such as Cushing’s disease and joint disease (like arthritis) can cause changes in behavior, such as unwanted elimination in the home, so it is important to monitor all changes with your veterinarian’s guidance.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Bartonella is a type bacteria that can be transmitted to cats, dogs and humans from exposure to infected fleas and…
Want to give your pup yummy, low-calorie treats? We’ve got the skinny on which foods are OK to feed him.
Not sure about food puzzles? Our veterinarian reveals why the payoff for your pet is well worth any extra work.
With these simple dental care tips, you can help keep your canine’s adorable smile shiny and healthy for life.
The friendly and inquisitive LaPerm has an easy-care coat that comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.