Why Do Old Dogs Get Cranky and Bark a Lot? Treating Senior Dog Behavior Changes

As dogs age, they may become cranky and bark more frequently. Discover effective treatment strategies to alleviate crankiness and excessive barking in older dogs, promoting their overall well-being and happiness in their golden years.

Why Do Old Dogs Get Cranky and Bark a Lot? Treating Senior Dog Behavior Changes
Older Dogs Can Get Cranky

As dogs age, it is not uncommon for them to exhibit changes in behavior, including becoming cranky and barking more frequently. These changes can be attributed to various factors, including physical discomfort, cognitive decline, and sensory changes. Understanding why old dogs may become cranky and bark a lot is crucial in providing them with the appropriate care and support they need during this stage of their lives.

Physical Discomfort

One of the primary reasons why old dogs may become cranky and bark more is the presence of physical discomfort. As dogs age, they are more prone to developing conditions such as arthritis, joint stiffness, and overall body pain. These physical ailments can cause discomfort, leading to irritability and restlessness. When dogs experience pain or discomfort, they may express their distress through increased vocalization, including barking. It is essential to monitor your dog for signs of physical discomfort and seek veterinary care to manage and alleviate their pain effectively.

Treatment for Physical Discomfort

  • Recognizing signs of physical discomfort in senior dogs, such as limping, difficulty rising, or decreased activity levels.
  • Seeking veterinary care to diagnose and manage conditions like arthritis, joint stiffness, or other sources of pain.
  • Exploring treatment options, including medication, joint supplements, physical therapy, acupuncture, or alternative therapies.
  • Creating a comfortable and supportive environment through the use of orthopedic bedding, ramps or steps, and providing gentle exercise tailored to their abilities.

Cognitive Decline

Cognitive decline, similar to dementia in humans, is another factor that can contribute to crankiness and excessive barking in old dogs. Senior dogs may experience a decline in cognitive function, leading to confusion, disorientation, and changes in behavior. They may become less tolerant of changes in their environment, have difficulty adapting to new situations, and exhibit increased anxiety or agitation. These cognitive changes can manifest as excessive barking, particularly when the dog feels disoriented or uncertain. Providing a consistent and familiar routine, mental stimulation, and a calm environment can help alleviate their anxiety and reduce excessive barking.

Treatment for Cognitive Decline

  • Identifying signs of cognitive decline in senior dogs, such as confusion, disorientation, and changes in behavior.
  • Establishing a consistent routine and maintaining a familiar environment to reduce anxiety and provide mental stimulation.
  • Engaging in interactive play, puzzle toys, and obedience training to stimulate cognitive function.
  • Considering veterinary-prescribed medications or supplements that may help manage cognitive decline and improve cognitive function.

Sensory Changes

Older dogs often experience changes in their sensory perception, including hearing and vision loss. These sensory changes can contribute to increased barking as a means of compensating for their diminished senses or expressing frustration. For example, if a senior dog is unable to see or hear as well as before, they may bark more frequently to communicate their needs or alert others to their presence. It is important to be patient and understanding of their sensory limitations and make necessary adjustments to their environment to support their needs.

Treatment for Sensory Changes

  • Recognizing signs of sensory changes, including hearing and vision loss, in senior dogs.
  • Making environmental adjustments to support their diminished senses, such as using visual cues, providing tactile stimulation, or using scent-based toys.
  • Creating a safe and predictable environment to reduce anxiety and frustration caused by sensory changes.
  • Consulting with a veterinarian for guidance on managing specific sensory issues and exploring treatment options.

Anxiety and Stress

Older dogs may also develop increased anxiety and stress as they age. This can be a result of various factors, including changes in routine, separation anxiety, or cognitive decline. Dogs may express their anxiety or stress through excessive barking as a way to communicate their unease or seek attention. Identifying the underlying causes of anxiety and providing a calm and predictable environment, along with behavioral interventions or veterinary guidance, can help reduce anxiety-related barking.

Treatment for Anxiety and Stress

  • Identifying the underlying causes of anxiety and stress in older dogs, such as changes in routine or cognitive decline.
  • Implementing behavior modification techniques, such as desensitization and counterconditioning, to reduce anxiety-related barking.
  • Creating a calm and secure environment through the use of pheromone diffusers, calming supplements, or anxiety wraps.
  • Considering professional help, such as working with a veterinary behaviorist or certified dog trainer, to develop a tailored treatment plan.

Conclusion: Each Dog Is Unique

It is crucial to note that each dog is unique, and the reasons for crankiness and excessive barking can vary. Consulting with a veterinarian is always recommended to rule out any underlying medical conditions and develop a tailored plan for addressing the behavior changes. In addition to professional guidance, providing a loving and supportive environment, engaging in mental stimulation activities, ensuring physical comfort, and practicing positive reinforcement training can help manage crankiness and excessive barking in older dogs. Understanding and responding to their needs with empathy and patience is key to ensuring their overall well-being and happiness during their golden years.

For more information on caring for senior dogs, check out our four part guide to looking after your old boy or girl in the best way you can:

Part One:Senior Dog Health Issues
Part Two:Managing Cognitive Decline
Part Three:Keeping Senior Dogs Active
Part Four: Adapting Your Home