5 Sudden Canine Behavior Changes: What You Can Do to Help Your Dog

If your adolescent, middle-aged, or aging dog suddenly starts manifesting behaviors that you have never before seen in her, it is time to take notice. The behaviors can have many possible causes, however, certain types of behavior may point to different types of problems. This article discusses 5 sudden canine behavior changes and what you can do to help your dog get through this.

Be Aware of Your Dog’s Normal Behavioral Habits

To recognize behavior changes more quickly in your dog, you need to be more aware of her regular behavioral habits. Such as how much water she consumes, how frequently she has bowel movements, urinates, and her normal activity level.

Some dogs, believe it or not, are actually picky eaters. Be aware of your dog’s eating habits so you will notice if there is a change. Most dogs love to eat, but if your dog is a picky eater just know this fact. If your dog suddenly barely touches her food this could be a sign of underlying health issues. Especially, if she normally eats all her food and continues licking the bowl looking for more.

If the behavioral changes last longer than a couple of days, take your dog to the vet. The sooner this is addressed the more likely you are to catch a medical issue at a more treatable stage.

1. Aggression – This is Very Noticeable and Very Serious

One such behavior is sudden aggression appearing in dogs that have never displayed this type of behavior before. This type of behavior often has an underlying cause of pain. Dogs are very adept at covering up pain as if it is known to other dogs, they feel vulnerable.

Dog displaying Aggression - 5 sudden canine behavior changes

Your dog could possibly have been tolerating the pain for a long period of time. When the pain finally reaches a level that is intolerable her behavior could suddenly change.

Take your dog to a veterinarian and have her thoroughly examined for any possible medical causes. These cases should be dealt with as soon as possible to catch them early enough for the best possible outcome.

If an underlying medical cause for the pain is found, then hopefully it is a treatable condition. In this case, the condition could be controlled with medication, physical therapy, or in the worst case, surgery.

Your Dog’s Age Can Be a Reason for More Aggressive Behavior

If your veterinarian finds no medical reason for this behavior, then consider your dog’s age. Dogs between the ages of one and three years are considered adolescents. Adolescent dogs often start testing their boundaries to see what they can get away with.

Your dog is no longer a small, vulnerable, puppy. She is now bigger and stronger and may start engaging in unwanted behavior. You should put a stop to this behavior as soon as possible. If you need help, ask your vet to refer you to a reputable dog behavioral specialist.

She needs to learn what are acceptable behaviors and what are unacceptable. Hopefully, with the help of the behavioral specialist, you will get this situation under control. You will want this aggression and bad behavior to stop before it becomes a more serious problem.

Aggression in Older Dogs

If your dog is older then the reasons for aggression are very different than the reasons for the adolescent dog. Aging dogs sometimes begin to lose their hearing and eyesight. This can make them feel more vulnerable and result in aggressive behavior.

Also, an older dog is more likely to suffer from chronic pain due to arthritis and muscle pain. Chronic pain that has gone on for a while may come to a point where your dog becomes more irritable, growling, and snapping. Older dogs should be examined by a veterinarian at least twice a year in order to catch the onset of a condition earlier. This will definitely have a much better outcome.

2. Stress and Anxiety – More Difficult to Determine the Cause

Another reason for your dog’s sudden behavior change could be stress and anxiety. These can take a longer period of time to reach the point where your dog suddenly starts displaying strange behaviors. These behaviors are more difficult to determine the exact reason your dog is stressed or anxious. Especially if the behavior takes two to three years before showing up.

Frightened Dachshund - 5 sudden canine behavior changes

You should still start by taking your dog to the vet for an examination to rule out any medical reasons for this behavior. Once the medical reasons are ruled out you can start thinking about anything traumatic your dog has experienced in the past 2 to 3 years or recently.

An example of this behavior is all of a sudden your dog doesn’t want to go for a walk. Another example would be if your housebroken dog suddenly starts relieving herself in the house. Another example is a dog suddenly displaying signs of separation anxiety.

Try to Narrow Down What Caused this Anxiety or Stress

To try and determine the cause of this behavior, you should try and think of several things such as the time of the year it occurs if it is sporadic behavior. If it is an ongoing behavior try and think back to where your dog experienced some stress in your household or some stressful situation that occurred while on a walk.

Was your dog attacked or intimidated by another dog while on a walk? Is your dog frightened by thunder, fireworks, and other loud noises? If this is a sporadic behavior, it could be related to July 4. It’s very common to hear firecrackers and fireworks for a couple of weeks before and after July 4. The best way to handle these situations is to gradually desensitize your dog to what is causing the anxiety and stress.

Be sure you don’t push your dog into a situation in which she is completely frightened. This has to be done gradually over time. Also, be sure to praise and reward your dog with treats when she makes any progress at all in facing her fear.

3. Loss of Appetite – Many Possible Causes Depending Upon Dog’s Age

Loss of appetite in a dog could have a very serious cause or could be temporarily caused by your dog eating something off the ground that caused a temporary upset. If this condition persists for more than a couple of days then get her to a vet as this could have a serious cause.

It is more likely that the reason for this upset is more serious if your dog is older. Most dogs are considered to be seniors at the age of seven years. This can vary from 1 to 2 years depending upon the breed and size of your dog.

However, younger dogs can also have serious health issues so it is just as important to get your younger dog checked by a vet also. Whatever the age of your dog you need to get all health reasons ruled out before thinking about changing her diet.

4. Canine Cognitive Disorder – Your Dog Could Have Dementia

Another reason for sudden canine behavior change is that your dog is beginning to show signs of Canine Cognitive Disorder. This usually doesn’t start until your dog is close to nine years of age.

Senior Dog sitting on Grass and Howling - Misbehaving Schnauzer sitting on the couch he just destroyed - 5 sudden canine behavior changes

Some of the symptoms are lack of sleep and wandering around the house because they are unable to relax. Sometimes they may start barking at night, howling, or whining, and have changes in appetite.

If your dog is displaying these types of symptoms, then again your first step is a trip to the vet. Your vet should be able to give your dog medications to help her to feel less anxious and be able to sleep. You may have to try a few different medications before you find a treatment that has the best results for your dog.

Hopefully, your vet will be able to find a medication that will help your dog to live out her remaining years with the best possible quality of life.

5. Increase in Quantity of Water Consumption

An increase in water consumption should also be taken seriously. Especially if the weather is not especially hot and your dog hasn’t just increased her amount of exercise. Consuming mass quantities of water can be a symptom of several serious health conditions. Again, I would highly recommend a veterinarian examination.

Some of the illnesses that have symptoms of increased water consumption include Cushing’s Disease, Kidney Disease, Diabetes, and more. These are serious illnesses so don’t waste any time getting your dog diagnosed as she may possibly have a serious condition.

6. Boredom – Lack of Mental Stimulation

Misbehaving Schnauzer sitting on the couch he just destroyed - 5 sudden canine behavior changes

This reason for behavior change is less likely to be caused by an underlying medical cause. If your normally well-behaved dog suddenly starts ripping apart furniture, couch pillows, getting into trash cans, and other horrible behaviors she hasn’t displayed since puppyhood, then she could just be bored.

A lack of mental stimulation can be just as bad as a lack of physical exercise. Stop and think about what has changed in her life before this behavior started. Did someone who was at home with her all of the time just start a job? Is your usually active dog recovering from an injury that forces her to dramatically reduce her activity in order to recover?

She Needs More Attention and Mental and Physical Exercise

It sounds like this dog needs more attention and more mental stimulation. If you have to go to work now check into doggie daycare facilities near you. If your dog is recovering from an injury you will need to find a facility that is equipped to take care of an injured and recovering dog and give her some attention, maybe take her on short walks and play with her.

doggie daycare - Senior Dog sitting on Grass and Howling - Misbehaving Schnauzer sitting on the couch he just destroyed - 5 sudden canine behavior changes

Also, try and fit in more time for her in your busy schedule. Try out a few puzzle toys, especially those that allow you to hide treats in them. Give her more attention where you are just paying attention to her and love her and reassure her.

If she is not forced to reduce her activity due to recovery from an injury, she will be wanting mental and physical exercise. You could try and fit in an early morning walk before going to work along with an after-dinner walk after she has eaten dinner in the evening.

Also, consider doggie day-care for a normally active dog as this will give her some great physical and mental stimulation playing with the other dogs and other activities provided at the facility of your choice. If you can at least get her to doggie daycare a couple of times per week, along with early morning and after-dinner walks this could help her to reduce boredom immensely.

Final Thoughts

You love your dog and want the best for her always. It is very important to know your dog’s habits and routines thoroughly. This will help you to be better equipped to respond to periods of sudden changes in your dog’s behavior.

To read more about fearful or anxious dogs try this article.

If you have ever experienced a time where your dog went through some sudden behavior changes or if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below!

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2 thoughts on “5 Sudden Canine Behavior Changes: What You Can Do to Help Your Dog”

  1. OMG. I love dogs. I too have a dog training website. I love the idea of 5 sudden behavior changes in canines. I’m very aware of my dogs’ behavior. I had 2 JRTs. One of my dogs has gotten older and is deaf and her appetite has changed. But my first dog, Jack, had heart congestive failure. I didn’t know the symptoms, so when his stomach got distended, I thought he was getting fat. So I took him to the vet and that’s when I found out (when it was almost too late) that he had heart disease. So I’m glad you posted behaviors to look out for.

    • Hi Shalisha,

      I really appreciate that you read my article and it was meaningful to you! Yes, it is really good to be proactive and know about what is normal for your dog so you can detect early any behaviors or conditions that are unusual.

      I also had a dog die of congestive heart failure about 25 years ago. She had been having these weird symptoms so I did take her to the vet, however, the vet misdiagnosed her condition as Cushing’s disease. If he had diagnosed her correctly she could have had a better life. However, she did live to the ripe old age of 15. I knew that she wouldn’t be here that much longer but nothing ever prepares you for the loss of a wonderful, special dog. I had her since she was 8 weeks old up until she died.

      Thanks again for your comment,



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