Once you have owned your dog for a reasonable amount of time, you will have gotten used to their normal temperament, behaviours and their response parameters to everyday situations. However, if you spot that your dog’s behaviour is changing, such as by means of them becoming more snappy and less tolerant than normal, less interested in play or somewhat nervy, it is important to work out why this might be.
As well as the issues that negative behavioural changes can cause in and of themselves, behavioural changes in the dog might be one of your earliest warnings of a potential problem, such as pain and sickness in your dog, or elevated stress levels. For this reason it is important to get to the root of the issue, and do what you can to address it.
Read on to learn more about some of the potential reasons for personality and behavioural changes in the dog.
Fear is one of the main reasons behind significant behaviour changes in the dog, and this response usually manifests directly when faced with the negative stimulus, making it easier to work out what the problem is.
If your dog responds negatively to one particular person, you must find out why this is, and if something bad happened to your dog when the person in question was present. The same is true if your dog begins to act out of character in certain locations or situations; something may have happened there that holds bad memories for your dog.
Anxiety is a close relative of fear, but while fear will manifest in set situations that will come to pass, anxiety can be a constant and unwelcome companion to your dog, which does not ease off in different situations. A great many different things can trigger anxiety in your dog, making it harder to get to the bottom of than actual fear, so you may have your work cut out for you here.
Some of the potential anxiety pinch-points and triggers to look out for include a change to their normal routine, the addition of a new person or pet to the family, or even the smell of another dog around the area that they regard as their own territory.
Pain and discomfort can manifest a whole range of behavioural changes in the dog, from outright aggression to simple lethargy and disinterest in doing the things that they usually enjoy. Check your dog over physically and see if they have any sore spots or painful areas of the body, and remember that even if your dog does not respond negatively to your touch, there might be something going on internally.
If your dog has simply contracted a minor bug or ailment, their behaviour should go back to normal within a day or so when your dog starts to feel better, but if the problem persists for more than a couple of days, take them to the vet to get checked out.
We all get annoyed or irritated with things from time to time, and your dog is no different! A dog that has a short temper and a tendency to irritation is likely to become unhappy and possibly either morose, or aggressive, and so it is vital to find out what triggers annoyance and irritation in your dog and protect them from it.
Make sure that your kids know when to leave your dog alone, and not to poke them in the face or pull their tail! Supervise your kids around your dog is your kids do not have good control of their boundaries, or if your dog has already had enough of your children’s attentions for one day!
This will ensure that your children are kept safe, and also that your dog’s living environment does not prove stressful to them.
Once dogs enter old age, their brains go into the natural end-of-life decline that all animals experience. This can be likened to Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia in people, and a great many studies are currently in progress to ascertain the true effects of brain aging in the dog.
Dementia and a lack of mental faculties can manifest in the dog in a great many ways; they may begin losing their hearing, vision and sense of smell simultaneously, which take away even more of the senses and means that the dog uses to navigate their world.
Dementia can also lead to memory loss, a failure to recognise their favourite people, a heightened propensity to get lost, and the stress and anxiety that can accompany all of these things.
While there is nothing you can do to prevent your dog from growing old and beginning to lose their faculties, you can ease their transition into old age with careful care, and potentially some brain-boosting supplements. So when you start to notice your dog beginning their decline into old age, talk to your vet about the things that you can do to make old age easier for your pal.