HomeHealthy LifeDo dogs’ personalities change with age? Yes! And big life events too
Do dogs’ personalities change with age? Yes! And big life events too
August 5, 2022
For some people, a dog is just another animal. But for many people, dogs are part of the family; They are the unofficial “other” siblings, the four-legged playmates, the emotional support mom calls for as reinforcement when she needs help cheering up a child. Just as you would notice if one of your children starts behaving differently, you will notice when your dog seems to have a change in behavior. And while it’s easy to overreact with concern when someone in your household (including your fur baby) seems to be acting out of character, your dog’s sudden moodiness may very well be just a part of life. According to a Michigan State University study, like children, dogs will experience “profound personality changes” as they grow.
You probably saw this firsthand when you brought home a second puppy. Or maybe you’ve watched your only dog grow from a happy, sprightly puppy to a slower, grumpier older dog. Even cats that are known for being aloof will exhibit an altered personality every time you bring home a new feline ingredient. But it’s not just normal life events or the gradual passage of time that can transform a pet’s personality. Just as traumatic events can profoundly affect a human, dogs respond to trauma in similar ways.
However, what is different are the things that dogs find traumatic. The new baby is a blessing for you. For Fido, it means less attention. When you moved to a new city with your family, you were excited for the adventure. However, your dog was greeted with smaller spaces, more concrete, and tons of unfamiliar smells. Knowing when your puppy might be released, how to prepare him, and how to respond to changes in your pet is paramount to a healthy pet-human relationship. Luckily, there are plenty of experts to guide you through the process.
When can a dog’s personality change?
“Your dog’s personality can change based on a variety of factors, life experiences, and maybe even for no other reason than the passage of time,” says Michelle Henry, CEO and Founder of Outdoor Dog Fun. “As a result of these changes, they may become more compassionate, fearful, or even grumpy. Your dog has feelings too. Remember that for certain reasons – whether they are directly related to you or not – your dog may be feeling lonely, sad, anxious, worried or tired. And the mental imbalance suffered creates discomfort, which leads to a change in behavior. Any unstable and intense energy that we hold can be transferred and cause negative arousal in the dog.”
According to Henry, these are the most common reasons for a dog’s personality change:
Castration: It is very common for a personality change to occur after your pet is spayed. We may find ourselves with a relaxed and submissive dog, or rather the opposite.
High age: As our dog ages, it undergoes physical and mental changes, such as the loss of some skills. Because of this, we can see a shift in becoming more antisocial or passive.
sexual maturity: During this growth phase, the dog explores changes in its body. We must continue to support socialization with other pets, people and environments at this stage. It must learn how to behave in this new phase of life.
New pet: When we add a new dog or cat to the family, our beloved dog may show jealous behavior or dominance towards the newcomer. While this is normal behavior, it must be respectful of the new family member. We’re going to set boundaries for the dog, although he has to believe he’s superior (hierarchically speaking) to the new pet.
Other things pet owners have noticed that cause stress and personality changes in dogs: relocations, new babies, and a change of ownership (even if just one member of a couple is gone).
How can you prepare your dog for big changes?
Make changes slowly.
Moving to a new home? Take them to visit during inspections. Or take them for a walk around the new neighborhood before moving day.
Bringing home a baby? Get them used to the new routine in good time. Slowly change his walking schedule to how you think it will be with the new baby. Set out any extra furniture and toys ahead of time and let them get used to the smell. Teach them how to behave around the new furniture. Consider practicing gentleness while holding a baby doll. Most importantly, before bringing your baby home, bring home a blanket that smells like baby.
Talk to them about it.
Sound a little crazy? Maybe. But come on, you’re already talking to your dog about everything else. Even if you think they don’t quite understand what you’re saying, being around them, talking to them, and letting them absorb your feelings about the change will help them see this as something you’re doing together.
Make an effort to pay attention
In your old routine at your old job, your old home, or your old puppy/babyless life, your dog was used to being the de facto outlet for all the cuddles and attention. It can therefore be easy not to realize that you may not be paying as much attention to your dog as you did before the changes. Make sure you set aside some time or a reminder to give your OG best pal some attention and go a long way in helping your furry friend adjust.
What can you do to help your family adjust to these personality changes?
“If there are sudden changes in your dog’s personality or behavior, it’s important to take him to a veterinarian first to make sure there isn’t a medical reason for the change,” says Janet Cutler, Ph.D., Certified Dog Behaviorist at Senior Tail Waggers. When your dog is in pain, it can change their behavior as well. So ultimately, it’s important to make sure they’re healthy before immediately assuming it’s something else.
“Once medical reasons have been ruled out, it can be helpful to consult a dog trainer or behaviorist to see if there are any changes you can make to help your dog,” says Cutler. “Many behavior problems and changes can be greatly helped by behavior modification, training and management around the home. Management around your home can also help with behaviors that no longer fit your family. This could include keeping your dog out of certain situations, or implementing other safety measures.”