Geriatric Dog Behavior Problems

Geriatric dog behavior is often caused by health problems. As your dog ages, he will experience behavior changes that may be as simple as reduced energy, but also may seem like a resurgence of your dog's puppy days. Dealing with these changes requires patience and management.


If your once reliably potty trained dog is suddenly relieving himself in the house, it's not because he forgot his puppy training. Instead, he may have an illness such as incontinence or urinary infections. Take your dog to the veterinarian to look for a medical cause.

If your dog is suffering from a medical problem or just can't make hold it as long as he used to, potty training methods are not going to work. Instead, provide your dog with a smaller, comfortable area to spend time when you aren't home where you can put down potty pads.

This does not have to be punishment. Put his favorite bed, treats and toys in there to make sure he is comfortable. Since he wasn't as active as he was as a puppy, he will probably just sleep while you're gone.

Increased Barking and Snapping

As your dog gets older, several health problems may cause an increase in aggressive-type behaviors that you may have never seen from your friendly companion. Again, if you dog shows sudden behavior changes, consult a veterinarian to find a medical cause.

If your dog suddenly starts barking at strangers or strange noises, this could be caused by failing hearing or eyesight. As your dog's senses begin to fail him, he will be a little more nervous about strange things, which he can no longer see or hear.

Be patient with your dog and understand how difficult this transition must be for him. Don't force him to meet strangers and don't allow strange people, especially children, to run up and approach him. Allow him to approach people and instruct them not to pet him until he has finished sniffing them to process information. Caution people to pet him slowly and calmly.

Give him a quiet command. Practice it a few times during play or when he will calm down quickly and reward him for quiet behavior. If he continues to bark after you give the command, lead him to a quiet room where he can calm down.

If he has started snapping when waking up or being moved, this could be caused by fear or pain. He may have new aches that he doesn't want touched. Respect that or consult your veterinarian about pain medication.

If he is sleeping more soundly and can't hear as well, being awoken will startle him. Try to walking more loudly or talking to him gently so he will wake up on his own. Don't allow him to be woken up or petted roughly by children.

Increased Mischief

Many medical problems can also cause an increased appetite or strange cravings. If your dog has recently started chewing things or getting into the trash, this could be caused by a medical problem or a change in his dietary needs. Try switching him to a high quality senior diet or making a homemade diet that meets his needs.

As your geriatric dog gets older, he will often have behavior problems that may upset you. Try to find ways to make him comfortable while limiting his access to whatever is causing his problem behaviors.