Common Behavior Issues in Aging Dogs

March 24, 2014

By Linda Cole

One thing no scientist has been able to do is slow down the hands of time. Like us, as dogs grow older they can start to experience the effects of an aging body and mind. Steps may be harder to go up and down. Hearing isn’t as sharp as when your dog was younger, and he might have a harder time “holding it” in between trips outside. We can’t stop the aging process, but we can recognize and understand difficulties that cause some common behavior issues in senior dogs. Canines are adaptable, and they usually handle getting older better than most humans.

Hearing Difficulties

When it comes to a dog’s senses, hearing loss – partial or complete – is the most common loss. If your older dog doesn’t respond when you talk to him, it’s possible he can’t hear you. As canines age, high pitched sounds are harder to hear. Women generally have a higher pitched voice, and praise is given in a happy, higher pitched tone. It might be necessary to lower the tone to help your pet hear you.

Just because he’s watching you as you talk to him, doesn’t mean he hears you, and most dogs aren’t lip readers. Not coming when called or ignoring a command, even when he’s watching you, is a good indication of hearing loss.

If you used hand signals along with commands when you trained your dog, it’s a huge advantage when he gets older and loses his hearing. But if you didn’t, you can still teach him hand signals or use other ways to get his attention to help him understand what you want.

Use a flashlight or laser pointer to get his attention, but remember to never shine a laser light directly into his eyes to prevent damage to the eyes. You can turn on an outside light and flash it to send a signal when it’s time to come inside. Reward him with CANIDAE Pure Heaven treats so he can learn what the light means.

Never stop talking to your pet, even if he has complete hearing loss. His hearing may be gone, but he still enjoys the time you spend with him when talking to him.

Failing Eyesight

Losing their hearing is one thing, but problems with their eyesight can be more frustrating and even scary. It can cause your pet to become anxious, clingy, overly dependent on you and more vocal, or it can cause him to lie around sleeping all the time and lose interest in what’s going on around him. He isn’t looking for your sympathy, but he does need your understanding and patience to learn how to get around the house and yard.


Senior dogs can suffer from arthritis and other age related joint problems. It can make getting around harder, especially if inflammation and pain restricts a dog’s movement. It can cause some dogs to be grumpy and more apt to snap at you or someone else. Older dogs are inclined to sleep more, but they still need exercise to maintain good health. A stroll around the neighborhood or on a favorite hiking trail will fit the bill as long as you limit the distance so he doesn’t overdo it.

Walking gives him mental simulation as well. Keeping your older dog moving is important. Physical exercise and toys that stimulate him mentally can slow down the aging process and help him sleep better through the night. Diet is also important. The CANIDAE Platinum Formula is made with senior dogs in mind, to boost their energy and control weight gain.


As pets age, it can be harder to control elimination. When an older dog that has never peed inside suddenly starts to have accidents, we can unknowingly cause behavior problems by overreacting. Punishing them for going on the floor sends the wrong signal to the pet, who is only doing what’s natural to him.

Crating a dog that has never been crated or forgot what it was like can increase his anxiety, especially if he can’t control his bowels and bladder. The better solution is to confine him to a room where he can be comfortable, and his accidents can be easily cleaned up. Once a dog eliminates inside, he will likely return to the same spot. Housebreaking pads can be useful to try and retrain your pet, or as a solution to keep him from ruining the floor.

Memory loss can cause an aging dog to forget commands, and medical issues may cause him to be anxious, have accidents or misbehave. Don’t discount other reasons for behavior issues in senior dogs. Discuss any changes you notice with your vet, just in case it’s something other than his age causing the problem.

Top photo by Don Graham
Middle photo by Pauly March
Bottom photo by Michael Coghlan

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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