Just as puppies have their own behavior problems, so do senior dogs. If you’ve noticed your usually sweet elderly dog has become quite aggressive lately, it’s only natural to ask “Why does an old dog become uncharacteristically aggressive?” This sudden change of behavior can be puzzling, but it usually has its causes. In the case of senior dogs, it’s not about their difficulty in understanding the rules you’ve set out for them. In fact, it’s more about their increasing difficulty in following the rules, due to the physiological changes that are slowly going on inside them.
One reason why your previously gentle elderly dog has become unusually aggressive is separation anxiety. This is the result of your older dog’s difficulty in dealing with changes, like a change in routine. Being separated from you, his owner, may be an anxious experience for your furry pal. When you’re away, he could bark, howl, and even urinate or defecate anywhere.
To counteract this behavior, try not to make your leaving or arriving a big deal so as not to reinforce the aggressive behavior. Make your going away appear to be something good. To do this, why not give your dog a treat before you leave the house? Make it a treat he has to work at, like something stuffed in a Kong or a frozen treat that he can occupy himself with the treat while you’re out.
Another reason an old dog become uncharacteristically aggressive is she’s trying to express her feelings. Although undesirable, aggression is a form of communication. Your dog could have arthritis, or he could be experiencing vision loss. Pain makes people cranky, and dogs are no exception. If you suspect your dog is having physiological problems, bring him to the vet immediately. The vet could prescribe something to improve your pooch’s condition, eventually making your furry friend less grouchy and aggressive.
External stresses help fuel your dog’s aggression too. Moving to a new home or having a new pet can make your dog feel uncomfortable, and he could be venting by being aggressive. This is particularly true in the case of a new pet, especially a new dog. Your beloved senior dog may feel his dominance shift from his hands (or paws, in this case) to the newer and younger four-legged hound in the house. Your elderly dog deals with his frustrations by being suddenly aggressive.
The answer to “Why does an old dog become uncharacteristically aggressive?” can be found by taking a closer look at the outside forces that are affecting your old dog. Remember to be receptive to the changes and needs of your elderly dog. Pay attention not only to his basic needs, but to his behavior patterns and emotions as well. A great friendship, after all, is built on understanding. Your dog has always been patient with you. Now you need to be patient with him too.