You go to the shelter searching for that one puppy, the one whose eyes say that he simply needs to be loved. You want to give an abused or neglected dog a good home, and you want the sweetest dog you can find, right? Is this going to be a problem in an animal shelter?
It really doesn’t matter where you are getting your dog from. You still need to consider what temperament that dog may possess and stack it up against what your intent is. Are you looking for a lapdog or a guard dog? Maybe you aren’t looking for the sweetest dog in the pound.
Are some dogs more aggressive than others, and do dogs get more aggressive with age, or can they get calmer? Learn the answers to these and other questions.
Do dogs get more aggressive with age?
A decline in function often occurs in dogs as they get older. Their hearing and sight can suffer, and they can have difficulty with memory. They become less aware of their surroundings, and their ability to learn fades.
Because aging can affect dogs’ social interactions with their families and with other animals, it is vital that you try to grasp the changes that are taking place in your dog, so you can better know how to handle behavior problems, like aggression, that may present as your dog ages.
How do I know if my dog is starting to have cognitive issues?
If your dog has one or more of the following symptoms, it may be a sign that he has cognitive dysfunction.
…this can be one sign of cognitive dysfunction. It can essentially go two ways. Either he will become excessively needy, wanting to be by your side every minute, needing lots of attention and affection, or he will become distant and lose interest in interactions with people or other animals, even you.
If he gets confused…
…this is a classic sign of cognitive decline. You may see your dog doing things that are odd, like looking completely disoriented and dumbfounded in a place he has been to many times or going to the side of the door opposite of where it opens.
If he becomes indifferent…
…this is a sign of cognitive decline or often of depression. You may notice that he is doing eating less, grooming less, and generally doing less of everything.
If he is using the bathroom indoors or develops incontinence…
…this is not necessarily a sign of cognitive decline, but if not, it may be a medical condition. If your dog is using the bathroom in the house, like in his sleeping space or in other odd, unlikely locations, you need to figure out why immediately.
If his memory seems to be failing him…
…this is certainly a classic symptom of cognitive decline. If he cannot perform tasks that he could previously or if he cannot recognize people he knows, it is a pretty good bet that he has cognitive dysfunction.
If he becomes progressively irritable…
…this is a common sign of cognitive decline. He may appear agitated and restless and exhibit separation anxiety though he hasn’t had it previously. This irritability can turn into aggression.
How do I know he doesn’t have a medical issue?
When your dog shows one or more of these symptoms, you should first schedule a visit with his veterinarian. It will need to be determined whether there could be a medical cause for them. Some medical conditions and illnesses can cause these same symptoms, and your canine medical professional can rule them out.
He must also rule out primary behavior problems with other causes, and there are some. If these are ruled out, your dog will be diagnosed with “cognitive dysfunction syndrome,” simply meaning that the symptoms are caused by the effects aging has had on his brain.
Is aggression a specific behavior issue in aging dogs?
Alongside problems like excessive vocalization, anxiety, fear, destructive behavior, and compulsive behaviors, aggression is a common geriatric behavior issue. Just as with cognitive dysfunction syndrome, it is imperative with geriatric canine aggression that you rule out other causes and not just make a quick diagnosis.
Many medical problems or behavior issues can cause aggression, and these all need to be ruled out by a veterinarian or animal or veterinary behaviorist. Once his condition is properly diagnosed and you’re sure his issue lies in the fact that he is aging, you can begin his treatment.
Why is my dog getting more aggressive?
So, your dog is not as even keeled as he used to be. He is getting restless and uptight, even aggressive at times, and it’s getting progressively worse. You want to know why. Let’s look.
What are some common signs of aggression?
Maybe your dog isn’t aggressive yet, but he is irritable, and you’re worried that he will become aggressive. Some common signs that your dog may be starting to become aggressive are if you see him growling, showing his teeth, or snarling, which is a combination of the two.
If he snaps or bites such that it leaves a bruise or punctures or tears the skin, or if he bites more than once in rapid succession or bites while shaking his head, your dog is getting aggressive. If his stance is rigid and still or he lunges forward or charges but does not make contact, he is getting aggressive. If his bark becomes threatening and sounds guttural, he is getting aggressive.
Are there various types of aggression?
Aggression has more than one face. It has many, in fact, and at times, you may be dealing with more than one type, which can make the resolution more complicated.
Dogs displaying defensive aggression are fearful and will go on the offense to defend themselves.
Dogs displaying territorial aggression are protecting their territory (and yours) from any intruder.
Dogs displaying possessive aggression are protecting their possessions, like their food, water, and bedding.
Protective Aggression (Maternal Aggression)
Dogs displaying protective aggression are protecting their puppies or families.
Dogs displaying fear aggression are defending themselves against a perceived threat.
Dogs displaying social aggression view themselves as taking their rightful place in the social hierarchy.
Dogs displaying pain-elicited aggression are lashing out in severe pain.
Dogs displaying frustration-elicited aggression are lashing out in sheer frustration.
Dogs displaying redirected aggression are redirecting their aggression from the person to whom it was originally meant for to the person who interfered somehow.
Dogs displaying predatory aggression, though they are domesticated, are exhibiting predatory behavior, like staring at a moving target and suddenly grabbing it with a bite to the jugular or the abdomen where the vital organs can be grabbed.
Dogs displaying sexual aggression are exhibiting behavior linked to mating and is directed toward the dog they are mating with or one they deem as competition.
Is there a cure for aggression?
While there is never a sure way to totally cure a dog’s aggression, the frequency can certainly be lessened, and in some cases, eliminated. Sometimes, though, all you can do is remove the triggers.
You want to look at the risk factors. You want to keep your family safe, but you also want to consider the public and even friends. You can lose friends to a severe dog attack, and you can even get sued. Dog owners are liable for their dogs’ actions.
It’s almost like being an addict. Even if your dog has been “cured” for years, you must be vigilant, because in times of stress, he can fall back into that old pattern easily. If you decide to stick beside an aggressive dog, stay alert – forever.
Can dogs get calmer as they age?
Dogs are just like children. Some are rambunctious and full of energy and others are more docile and laid back, but this is not the case throughout their lives. Baby puppies are just little balls of love, but for instance, boy pups, when they reach the age of around 4 months, their testosterone levels begin to increase.
These levels continue to climb, and they peak at around 10 months old. Afterward, they creep down to the level of an adult dog at around 18 months. During adolescence, from around 6 to 18 months of age, a dog’s brain is overwhelmed with hormones.
This flood of hormones makes dogs respond more often, more quickly, and more intensely to external stimuli. In female dogs from 6 to 18 months old, their progesterone and estrogen rise causing irritability and other issues with other, especially other female, dogs.
During this 12-month period (6 to 18 months old), good, calm, social, laid-back puppies can morph into aggressively reactive adolescents, displaying problems like biting and more, but this tends to taper off in most dogs after the age of 18 months when their hormone levels start leveling off at an adult range.
So, in short, the answer is, yes, if you are asking about puppies, they do calm down as they age. However, if you are asking about dogs aging, they generally don’t get calmer so much as they lose energy. In many cases, in fact, aging dogs get more irritable and aggressive instead of getting calmer.
How can I calm my dog down?
I researched “how to calm my dog down,” and this is what I found.
Remove the triggers.
Shelter him from all the things that seem to trigger his aggression attacks.
Provide physical contact.
Give lots of hugs and kisses and love.
A good brisk walk can help to work off pent-up energy.
Give him anti-anxiety medications.
Your vet may prescribe him strong anti-anxiety medications.
Calming shirts, vests, and jackets apply firm pressure to his torso. It’s like swaddling clothes.
Buy a Zencrate.
A Zencrate has vibration isolation and noise cancellation through sound insulation. It offers an area of reduced light with a motion-activated sensor and a gentle fan that blocks out noise and blows fresh air. You can preprogram the music and set or remove odor.
Buy an Adaptil diffuser or try another form of aromatherapy.
Adaptil uses pheromones like the hormones that a nursing mother gives off to calm her puppies. Pheromones also come in a lightweight collar.
Buy a ThunderCloud.
A ThunderCloud offers aromatherapy with essential oils, like lavender, and auditory therapy, like a waterfall.
Try behavior modification.
Through cognitive therapy, your dog may learn to conquer his fear and calm himself.
Be calm, sure, and supportive.
Speak in a calm but confident manner, and be supportive to help your dog through this, as it is a difficult experience for him, too.