Why Has My Older Dog’s Behavior Changed?

Want to Share this story?

Dear Inquisitive Canine,

I’ve had my dog for about 11 years. We’ve been best friends ever since I can remember, but for the last year she’s been acting very strange. She used to love when I pet her and snuggled up to her, but now she growls and snaps at me. I use to play a little rough with her all the time and she used to nibble at me lightly like puppies do, but as of recent she will bite me very hard and that scares me.

She also doesn’t listen to me when I call to her, she acts as if she can’t even hear me. I feel as though she respects everyone except me, and that really hurts me because I feel like I’ve been the closest to her because she’s my dog. What can I do? I just want to be close to my precious dog again. -Lulu

Dear Lulu,

Thank you for contacting us with your question. Poncho and I appreciate inquisitive people too.
My immediate thought to your query would be to have your dog evaluated by your veterinarian. From what you’ve described it sounds as if she might be experiencing some sort physical discomfort? Age, sudden change in behavior, not wanting to play like she used to? If you haven’t done so already, we highly recommend you contact your vet for a complete physical to rule out anything medically related – from orthopedic to internal issues. Your veterinarian will be able to assess properly and possibly provide answers to your concerns. If it turns out she’s in perfect health, we can then address the behavioral aspect.
In the meantime, keep in mind that if she is uncomfortable, or what she once found motivating has changed, you’ll want to interact at her level. You seem to be very keen in your observational skills – we commend you for that – so continue to watch her body language, allowing her to communicate her preferences. Maybe changing up your play style to more gentler type of activities? Teaching her tricks such as a “wave” (paw raise) or hand-targeting (having her touch her nose to the palm of your hand) might be fun for you both. She learns new stuff, as do you, while engaging in both physical and mental activities.
Thank you again for writing in – please keep us posted – we love updates! And, if you have any other questions, feel free to respond here or contact us directly.