Why do older dogs bark more?

From barking to growling and whining, you might notice your dog starts to vocalise more as they age. Discover the common reasons behind this behaviour and how to help your golden oldie."

As they age, it’s common for dogs to sprout a few more grey hairs and embrace a slightly slower pace of life. You may also notice differences in their behaviour. From sleeping more to going off their food, these natural changes are all a normal part of ageing.

Many dogs also become more vocal as they get older. These vocalisations usually include barking, howling and whining. There can be many different reasons for their higher noise levels, including:

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Hearing loss
  • Medical issues.

If you notice your dog being noisier than normal, take them to your vet for a check-up. This should help to uncover any underlying medical issues that may be affecting your dog.

Remember that barking is one of your dog’s natural ways of communicating with you. Excessive barking can be challenging for dog owners, but paying attention to the pitch and duration of your dog’s barks can give clues as to why they might be barking. Even when they’re barking a lot, don’t shout at your dog but instead try to work out if there’s anything specific that’s triggering the barking.

If your older dog is barking a lot at night and they never did before, ask your vet to rule out anything that could be causing pain. Increased vocalisations at night can also be a sign of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), confusion or separation anxiety.

Why does my elderly dog whine more?

There are lots of possible explanations for increased

whining, but pain is one of the most common. In elderly dogs, whining could be due to joint pain or another medical issue. It can also be caused by separation anxiety, hearing loss or CDS.

Why does my elderly dog growl more?

If your dog is growling more, see if you can work out what they’re growling at. If you recently added a new puppy or kitten to your family, your older dog may be annoyed by their energy levels and simply want to be left alone.

Your older dog may also be starting to suffer from failing eyesight and hearing – a sudden surprise, for example, being bounced on by a kitten, could cause them to startle and growl or bark in response.

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS)

Also known as canine dementia, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) occurs due to changes in your dog’s brain function and memory as they age. Symptoms include confusion, anxiety and sleep alterations, which can all cause your dog to bark more often than normal.

CDS can also cause irritability and a lack of spatial awareness. Both of these can also cause some dogs to be more vocal than normal. Signs of CDS can be seen in some dogs from the age of eight, but the condition is more common in dogs aged 11 upwards.

How to help your elderly dog

Making some small changes to your elderly dog’s routine can help to alleviate excessive vocalisation and keep them as happy and comfortable as possible. The first step should always be a health check with your vet to check for any pain or other underlying health conditions.

It’s also a good idea to avoid making major changes around your home, which can increase anxiety and make it harder for your dog to find their way around the house. If you have other pets or young children, consider setting aside an area of your home where your elderly dog can take a nap in peace and quiet without getting disturbed. If they’re used to sleeping in a crate this can be a good option, but it might not be something you want to introduce if they’re not already comfortable using one.

Keep your dog’s sleeping area as quiet and calm as possible. Try to reduce any light and sounds that may be encouraging your dog to bark more than normal. If your dog does wake you up with their barking, don’t reward them with lots of attention, but equally don’t shout or punish them. Some dogs may benefit from sleeping with an item of your clothing to help soothe them when you’re not there.

If your dog has joint pain, you might also need to adapt their exercise routine to include lower-intensity exercise like shorter walks or even some swimming sessions. They might also benefit from a new bed with memory foam to cushion their joints and minimise any discomfort that may cause them to whine.

Some elderly dogs will enjoy learning new tricks, like responding to hand signals for recall. This can be especially useful as their hearing starts to fade. If your dog has dementia, you might decide it’s safer to keep them on a long lead so they feel secure knowing you’re there and you don’t need to worry about them becoming confused and wandering off.

With kindness, compassion and understanding, it’s possible to make your dog’s golden years a calm and contented period. But if your dog’s excessive vocalisations aren’t settling down, a qualified behaviourist will be able to offer tailored advice.

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