Why Has My Older Dog’s Behavior Changed?

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.

17 thoughts on “Why Has My Older Dog’s Behavior Changed?

  1. Kim R says:

    Good advice. “Listening” to your dog is so important. I hope this dog is doing well now.

  2. Azedine says:

    Hi Joan,

    I found your blog through LinkedIn and let me tell you that you have a great blog with so much info as an expert dog trainer.
    Interesting article by the way.
    I have a Shih Tzu Maltese lol.
    Keep it up
    Azedine Djedid

    1. Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Welcome Azedine! Thanks so much for connecting with us, and for the accolades. Your inquisitive canine sounds adorable – feel free to post pics on our Facebook page! Cheers to you and yours!

  3. Good article! having an older dog can be a challenge as their needs change. i saw this in both my labs – Morgan (the mom) and delaney – her pup.

  4. What an awesome blog post…Loved your post very much. Thanks for sharing your information to sudden change in dog behavior….

  5. Wilfred says:

    Great Article! This post is very interesting and informative. I like the way how you right this stuff, I find this helpful specially to those who are in need of advice.

    1. Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Thanks so much Wilfred! Poncho and I appreciate your feedback and support. Click-treat for you and your inquisitive canine!

  6. Wesley laird says:

    A dog obedience training is substantially more than educating a couple of charges to your new puppy. Dogs could be prepared in obedience and not be dutiful. A dog that is positively obedience prepared will dependably comply with your summons quickly.

  7. Very good info. Lucky me I came across your site by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve saved it for later!

  8. Andy Walker says:

    Absolutely correct reply, I feel the same that the canine owner needs to be more gentle with the dog. As the dogs grow up they suffer from internal pains and problems and as they can’t speak we often do not understand the real reason for the same. With growing age, little change in behavior is normal (as in human being too) but as the canine owner said the dog is behaving in this manner with only him/her than a little change in the way of playing and handling the dog needs to be done from your end. Owner don’t worry much, it won’t be a big problem, your golden days will be back soon.

  9. Kaeli says:

    I really enjoy your videos. Very inspiring!

    Happy healthy New Year to you and all your paws,

    – Kaeli

  10. Kaeli says:

    I really enjoy your videos. Very inspiring!

    Happy healthy New Year to you and all your paws,

    – Kaeli

  11. Great info! Thanks for posting. Keep the blogging up!

  12. Amber says:

    This is great information! Like humans, animals change as they age, and remembering to listen to them and adapt with them is a great tip! Thanks!

  13. Dog Training says:

    Great post! Been reading a lot about the behavior of older dogs recently. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here!

    1. Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Thanks so much for the accolades and for making the connection! We’re thrilled you’ve joined the paw-ty of inquisitiveness! 🙂

  14. Shawncowwen says:

    Amazingly written! Dogs mood keep changing. The owner needs to understand and act accordingly.

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