As dogs grow older, they may grow less social and more hostile. If you’re wondering why your dog has started barking at strangers and doesn’t like leaving the house, here’s why.

Close up of an older dog's snout and nose.
Dogs generally grow less social as they age.
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Dogs Become Less Active as They Age

Does your dog seem less social these days? It may be that they simply tire out quickly as they’re getting older. Older dogs, even those who love seeing other people and dogs, will likely lose some of that friendliness as they grow older simply because they’re tired most of the time.

If you think this is the case, you might want to keep your dog’s limitations in mind when other people come over. If your dog seems like he’s had enough of other people for the moment, let them have their space.

This doesn’t mean you can’t play with them or have people over. Instead, learn the signs that your dog is getting tired. Once your dog starts showing these signs, stop playtime or have them move to a room where a guest won’t be present. This way, your dog can rest up and enjoy their time instead of being miserable!

Health Problems in Older Dogs Can Cause Aggression

As dogs grow older, they become more vulnerable to a whole host of health problems including, arthritis, joint pain, and gastrointestinal issues. As a result, an older dog may be in a lot of pain before their owner even notices that there’s anything wrong with them.

As I mentioned in my article on canine aggression, these untreated issues can cause dogs to be more aggressive. What appears to be inexplicable, baseless aggression – especially in dogs who are usually gentle and tractable – may actually be a reaction to physical stress.

If you have an older dog and they’ve become unusually aggressive for no discernible reason, you might want to take them to the vet. It’s possible that their aggression is simply a response to physical pain. The sooner you find out what’s happening to your dog’s body, the better.

Brown and white older dog looking at the camera
For dogs, old age may lead to a host of health problems.
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Older Dogs and Cognitive Deterioration

A more permanent problem for older dogs is cognitive dysfunction disorder, which is often called canine dementia. If you’ve noticed that your dog has been acting erratically lately, it’s possible that they may be in the beginning stages of canine dementia.

Dogs in the early stages of CDS may sleep at strange hours, forget their housetraining or display odd social behavior. (If you want to learn more about the disease’s symptoms, check out our article on CDS.)

The disease may also affect social behavior in older dogs. Dogs with CDS may have difficulty understanding commands and may fail to recognize people they know. They may also show increased aggression and anxiety.

If you think your dog might be in the early stages of CDS, you should seek confirmation from a veterinarian. There is no easy answer, but you should endeavor to keep your dog safe and comfortable throughout the disease. If social interactions with others are consistently negative, you might want to be careful about putting your dog in social situations.

As dogs grow older, they generally grow less social – even if they used to love being around people or other dogs. Finding out the reason their behavior is changing is the first step to deal with this problem.