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Ask Dr. Diane: My Senior Dog Is Misbehaving!

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I have a question about my lab-golden retriever mix who is 13 years old. In the last 4 or 5 months she has become defiant to things that we have done many times before. Like when we get her in the car we have to move her around a bit to get her in a good position and buckled into her harness. This wasn’t a problem before, but now she will lay on her stomach with her head down and whichever way I try to move her a little she will push against me and make it impossible.

Another example is when we are on walks and she will stop to smell a spot. I will give her her time but after waiting a while I will call her and lightly tug on the leash, which would both usually make her come before, but she will not budge. And I feel bad using strong force against her now that she is getting older, which can sometimes make her lose her balance a little. I hope you can help me to understand why she has been behaving this way and how I can make things easier for her.

Caring for our aging animal companions can be as difficult, painful, challenging and demanding as caring for elderly human beings. For those of us who regard our pets as members of the family, it is a time of grieving and preparing for the inevitable. I would advise you to provide your dog with as much love, compassion and patience as you can. She may be disoriented, ailing in ways she cannot articulate and uncomfortable or in pain. Have her examined by your vet to determine if there are health issues of which you are not aware. There may be medical procedures or medications that can alleviate her pain and improve her quality of life.

Remember, it is not quantity, but quality of life that is important for our animal companions and us. Be patient with her. She is not misbehaving intentionally. Give her all the love and attention and understanding she deserves.

dr_diane_pomeranceDr. Pomerance is an animal behavior specialist and an expert on topics such as deciding which puppy is best for your family, how to pick out a rescue, and on healing from the loss of a pet.

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Paris Permenter
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