Behaviour changes in dogs: what are the possible causes?

Why has my dog’s behaviour changed? Many factors such as strong attachment, fear, neutering, and separation anxiety amongst others can, either suddenly or more gradually, cause a change in your dog’s behaviour.

Reasons behind changes in a dog’s behaviour

Since dogs are living beings with feelings, their behaviour can change depending on their life experiences.  Just like us, dogs need a stable environment and good health to remain mentally well-balanced. In order to achieve this, a pet owner first must make sure that all primary needs (hunger, thirst, rest, exercise and play) are met.

Causes of behaviour changes in dogs

The most common causes of behaviour changes in dogs are:

  • Old age: Just as humans, physical and mental changes that come with old age can have an effect on behaviour.
  • Loneliness: When lacking socialisation or contact with other dogs or people, dogs can feel lonely, which can lead to anxiety and isolation.
  • Lack of exercise: Dogs that are alone too often and don’t have enough exercise and stimulation can exhibit changes in behaviour and may even become aggressive towards other animals or even towards their owner.
  • Presence of other animals: When introducing a new animal into the family, whether it is a dog or another type of pet, dogs can suddenly feel excluded and can become possessive.
  • Losing a loved one: Faithful and loving, dogs feel the loss of a loved one and can experience a mourning period. You can help by encouraging them a little, going out, playing, etc.
  • Illness: Changes in your dog’s behaviour may be their way of signalling to you that they are feeling unwell or in pain.
  • Fear or phobia: Many situations in daily life can scare dogs and have them develop a new behaviour towards the thing that creates fear, especially if the contact with the feared situation/object is repeated. Possible situations to consider: car rides, cats, water, loud noises, etc.
  • Communication between dog and owner: A dog’s character may change as a way of trying to communicate that they are uncomfortable in a certain environment.
  • Sexual maturity: Hormones and the desire to reproduce can affect behaviour in many ways.

What to do?

If it is difficult to determine if the behaviour change is a normal response or if it is linked to an external cause and you would like to learn how to help your dog, it is always a good idea to consult your veterinarian. A professional that knows your dog and to whom you can explain the situation will be best able to help you find solutions to help your dog through any situations that can affect his mental well-being.

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