5 Behavior Changes You May Notice in Your Senior Dog

3 min read
Jan 25, 2022

No one wants to admit that their canine companion that has been with them for many years is aging. Oftentimes, you might not even notice behavior changes that occur gradually as your pet ages.

Sometimes changes in your senior dog’s behavior indicate that he is in pain or has an underlying medical condition that needs treatment. Some behaviors need a little correction or mean your dog needs some extra TLC from you. As we age, we all experience some decline in physical ability and cognitive function.  

If you are aware of potential behavior changes, you can seek treatment early for possible medical conditions. Most importantly, knowing what behaviors to expect will help you make your furry friend’s senior years the best they can be.

With that in mind, here are five behavior changes that are common in senior dogs:

Bumping, Falling, or Hesitating

If you notice your dog bumping into things, falling, or hesitating on walks or going up or downstairs, he may have vision loss. Loss of vision is normal in older dogs.  While most dogs adapt to vision loss quite well, it is not unusual for some older dogs to show signs of fear.

If your dog’s eyes look cloudy or appear irritated, these may also be signs of vision loss. Ask your vet what you can do to make things easier for your pooch.

Speaking Up

Has your dog become more vocal with age?  You might notice frequent barking, whimpering, or crying.  There are several reasons your older canine companion may do this.

  • Your dog may be trying to let you know he is in pain. 
  • Your dog could start speaking up more could be confusion resulting from cognitive impairment
  • Your dog may also become more vocal if he is losing his hearing.
  • Some senior dogs also may be experiencing anxiety. There are a variety of prescription and non-prescription sprays and (non-shock) collars that can calm anxiety.  

If you notice your senior dog has become more talkative, speak to your veterinarian to rule out any possible medical conditions. Then ask if medication for anxiety or a calming collar might help.

Decreased Energy

Does your dog appear to be less enthusiastic about things that used to excite him, such as greeting you when you return home, playing fetch, or going for a walk?  As your dog gets into his golden years, he may not have the boundless energy he did when he was younger. If you notice a sudden lack of interest in activities, have your dog checked out by your vet to rule out an underlying medical condition.  Your pup should still get some level of daily physical activity to help with movement and stimulate his mind.  It’s okay if he no longer climbs the steep hills or runs the half-marathons with you. He will be happy to just get outside and be with you.

Sleeping More

As your dog ages, you may notice him sleeping more during the day. Older dogs need more extended periods of uninterrupted sleep, so it’s best not to wake him.

It is also possible that your senior dog is sleeping during the day because he isn’t getting a good night’s sleep. Some older dogs will overreact to noises that never bothered them earlier in their lives, according to PetMD.

Loss of senses, such as vision and hearing, which affect all older dogs to some degree, can also impact how deeply one sleeps. If you suspect your dog isn’t sleeping through the night, try adding an extra walk and an extra game to tire him out. Additionally, let him out to go potty right before bed.

Increased Anxiety

Some senior dogs develop new fears or anxiety; This may include separation anxiety that did not previously exist.  

A dog suffering from separation anxiety may follow you around and show visible signs of nervousness when you are getting ready to leave. In your absence, the dog might be destructive, particularly around doors and windows.  He may not eat anything while you are gone.  He may also soil the house or crate.

If your dog displays signs of separation anxiety, talk to your vet. Once the vet rules out underlying health conditions, you may want to consult a certified behaviorist.

As your dog’s vision declines, it becomes more difficult for him to make his way through the world.  Shadows and objects may appear scary to him - be mindful of this. Keep rooms and hallways clear, so he has an easier time navigating his way. It's important to understand that he is afraid.

Speak with your Vet Regularly 

Always report changes in your dog’s behavior to your vet. - don’t just assume they are part of the aging process.  Some acts are your dog’s way of alerting you that he isn’t feeling well. It's common that behaviors related to aging can be managed or treated. 

Consider Investing in Dog Insurance  

Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Our dog insurance policies can provide the coverage and care your furry family member deserves.  Get your free quote today. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.