Behavior Changes in Older Dogs

As your dog’s body changes in his older years, his behavior will very likely change as well. Here, a Ludington vet discusses some of the more common changes and what you can do about them.

Waking at Night

Many older dogs have trouble holding their bladders the whole night through. Hearing loss, vision loss, or pain could also be affecting his sleep patterns, leading him to wake up and pace around the house. You can try to get him to sleep all night by wearing him out in the evening—take him on a walk or have an active play session.


Your dog’s environment becomes scarier as he ages, again largely due to vision and hearing loss. Try to keep your dog’s immediate environment safe, quiet, and calm as best as you can. In severe cases, a certified animal behaviorist might be needed to get your dog’s fears under control.


Cognitive deterioration, partial or complete deafness, or pain from conditions like arthritis could make your dog more vocal. Anxiety issues also might make your dog whine, bark, growl, or otherwise vocalize his discomfort in his old age. Take your dog to see the vet so any medical issues can be treated. If there is no medical or physical trigger, you can try training your dog to be quieter. Ask your veterinarian how to do this.


An older dog can often be startled more easily when someone or something interrupts his space. He might react aggressively, especially if pain is wearing him down at the same time. Avoid the aggression triggers as much as you can, and call your veterinarian or an animal trainer for help.

Destructive Behavior

Cognitive dysfunction and deteriorating health might lead your dog to participate in destructive habits, like chewing up furniture or household items. He might dig in the yard, scratch up the walls, or eat things he shouldn’t. Do you part to dog-proof your home, and call your veterinary professional to find out how you can train your dog to stop his destructive behavior.

You aren’t alone as your dog changes with his increased age—call your Ludington veterinarian’s office with any questions or concerns you have.

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