Behavior Changes in Senior Dogs (cont.)

Excessive Vocalization

Your senior dog's vocalizing can become a problem if he does it too often or at inappropriate times, like when you're sleeping. Anxious vocalizing is usually a plaintive howl or excessive whining. If your dog does it only when you're gone, it could indicate separation anxiety. If he does it when you're home, then you'll need the help of a behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist to determine what's causing your dog to vocalize so much.

Loss of hearing, cognitive dysfunction, central nervous system disorders and medical conditions can all contribute to your dog's excessive vocalization. He might whine or howl if he feels the urge to eliminate more, if he's overeating and wants you to give him more food, or if he's in pain. If your dog has become more fearful and anxious, he might begin vocalizing at things that scare or stress him, like noises or visitors. Showing your own frustration or punishing your dog for vocalizing can also increase his anxiety and aggravate the problem.

Once any underlying medical problem and cognitive dysfunction are treated, behavioral treatment involves identifying and modifying any of your own responses that might be reinforcing or aggravating your dog's behavior. For some dogs, training them to be quiet on cue and rewarding quiet behavior is effective. For other dogs, nonshock bark-control collars, such as the citronella collar, may be needed. Drug therapy may also help if your dog's vocalizations are motivated by anxiety. Please see our article, Howling, for more information on the various causes and treatments for excessive vocalizing.