Friday, March 7, 2014

Why Has My Dog Changed???

Well I’ll start off this blog entry by apologizing for the very long delay in entries. 2013 went out like a lion with a number of personal emergencies. Luckily life has settled down a bit and I have time to write more dog training entries!

Today I want to discuss why a dog’s behavior would change. I often see dogs around age 2 to 4. The owners will describe a change in the dog’s behavior towards other dogs and/or people. They are often confused about what happened and will attempt to pinpoint the change to one circumstance.

So what’s really going on? How can a seemingly friendly dog suddenly not like other dogs? Or a well-mannered happy go lucky pooch just start to blow off anyone he/she doesn’t know already? What has happened?

Well simply put sometimes once a dog completes adolescence they are less playful and happy go lucky just like humans. Sometimes they’ve spent the first few years of life being bullied or mishandled and they’ve had enough. More often than not there is no single occurrence that has led to this change.

This change can be a shock to the owners of any dog. And sometimes there’s not much you can do about it. Let’s talk about it from the dog’s point of view. As a puppy Ms. Golden Retrieve was very friendly. She adored playing with all types of other dogs. She went to the dog park every day and sometimes to doggy daycare too. She would play and play and play. Sometimes she played so much she would get sore. Now she’s 3 years old and her hips hurt sometimes, she still goes to dog daycare and has adolescent dogs bouncing off her and biting her ears. She wants a break. Last night at the dog park a young, large male jumped on her and hurt her hips which made her cry out. So the next time she sees a young dog bee lining her way she shows her teeth. What she’s trying to say “hey there youngster, give me some space”.

This dog is not aggressive. She’s getting slightly older, she’s less playful and she has an undiagnosed medical issue. Her behavior has changed. So what should her family do?

- Get a vet examine and if possible visit an Osteopath or Physio as well. This will rule out lameness issues. Anytime your dog’s behavior changes drastically you need to rule out medical causes. Dogs can’t tell you that they are sore and will often hide it.

- Respect that your dog might not want young dogs bouncing off of her anymore. Find play solutions with appropriate friends for your dog’s play style. If necessary STOP going to the dog park and daycare. Instead take her for leisurely hikes where she can sniff and run around without fear of being knocked over.

- Take your dog to environment where dog interaction is more controlled. A Rally Obedience class where all the dogs are in control and having fun bonding with their owners is a great option. 

That’s just one example of what I see on a daily basis working with clients. All of our dogs are different and as they mature they will change. They are not puppies forever (for better and worse). And please remember behavior changes should not be ignored as they can be a symptom of anxiety or illness.