Over time you become very closely and deeply bonded with your pet, getting to know them extremely well even as they get to know you extremely well. This means that you will come to recognize your dog’s normal behavior, and will be more alert to changes in their behavior. These changes can occur as a result of their growth into adulthood, their introduction to a new pet in the family and even a traumatic event they have experienced. In many of these cases, you can help your dog through these experiences on your own. But there can also be medical issues that affect dog behaviors, in which case it may be necessary to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. How then to tell the difference?
Pet Behavior Problems
If you have become accustomed to your dog’s normal behavior you will definitely notice when they stray from this behavior. Certainly, you’re bound to notice if your normally friendly dog suddenly starts tucking his tail between his legs or baring his teeth at strangers, and while this may cause you to worry and start scrambling for pet behavior solutions, there are a few things you should consider.
Growing from Puppy to Adult
It is not unusual for a dog’s behavior to change as they grow from a puppy to adult. If a puppy has been very well socialized and introduced to a variety of different environments and situations, his behavior should not change suddenly and dramatically, and certainly not for the worse. However, if your puppy was not socialized between four and fourteen weeks of age, they may show fear toward new people and other dogs. This fear may even be expressed through fearful aggression and is best resolved through gentle and regular socialization. Some breeds of dogs that are known to be more alert, like German Shepherds, may become more aloof as they move into adulthood, and this is not cause for alarm.
Meeting a New Pet in the Household
When you bring a new pet into the household, your dog may lash out at them in a way you’ve never seen them do before–even when interacting with other pets in other locations. You may think that they are “getting back” at you for bringing another pet into the household, but in reality, they are simply trying to express what they know–that their space is being invaded by an intruder. By introducing two animals slowly, starting with just encountering each other’s smell, and supervising them when they are together until you are absolutely certain they will be fine, you can help to resolve this behavior change.
Having a Traumatic Experience
It’s true that sudden loud noises, like thunderstorms and fireworks, can make dogs fearful and run for shelter, but this alone should not result in a dramatic and long-term behavioral change. However, a dog that has been harmed by another individual or animal may suffer a more noticeable and long-lasting behavioral change as a result of this experience. Your dog may be able to recover from more minor incidents after a few weeks, but he can also benefit from some help. Use positive reinforcement and basic obedience training to help boost his confidence. You may also choose to enlist some professional help.
Experiencing Medical Problems
A medical problem can make any dog seem like a completely different animal, whether it is an energetic dog that suddenly becomes incredibly lazy or a friendly dog that suddenly becomes withdrawn and fearful. In some cases, the problem may be minor and may resolve on its own after a short time, but there are also times when you should immediately contact your vet. A good rule of thumb is to watch their overall behavior. If they are generally acting normally but just seem a little less energetic than usual, your vet may advise you to watch them closely for the next week to see if they improve on their own. However, if they are not eating, seem to have difficulty getting up and moving or have suddenly become aggressive, they need to be taken to the vet immediately.
For more information about behavioral changes in dogs and what could be causing it, contact AMC today.