Sensitive Older Dogs: Preventing Pain Or Fear Induced Aggression

Fear induced dog aggression or pain induced dog aggression is a condition that every older dog is prone to attract. This is simply because many dog owners do not realize that the aging dog is very sensitive to the feelings of pain, surprises, and aggressiveness — even from innocent play.

Pay attention to changes in your pet’s demeanor or personality as things become difficult for him. If you do, you won’t be surprised by a full-blown fear of, for example, jumping up into the car to go for a ride. If your dog can’t see where he’s jumping, or if it hurts him to jump, it can lead to fear-induced aggression. He may strike out against you, seemingly for holding the car door open.

Aging dogs get into biting for similar reasons if they’re experiencing discomfort. Pain-induced biting can be a result of forcing them to do things that they’re no longer able to do. And this in turn can lead to fear-induced biting if, in their eyes, you’re about to force them to do the painful activity. If it’s jumping into the car, they become afraid of your reaching for the car door handle and nip the hand you’re using to hold them because of the coming pain. Creaky old hips aren’t meant to propel a slightly overweight frame onto the seat of an SUV, even with the help of a push from the rear.

Sometimes children or grandchildren forget that the dog is not as young as she used to be. The smaller the children, the more reminding they will need – for their own safety as well as for the comfort of the dog. Many dogs are likely to become aggressive if they are hurt while being picked up the wrong way by an unsuspecting child. Sometimes it’s necessary to set new rules in the household for the kids who come over to visit: “Sparky is not feeling well today. Please let him be by himself in the corner,” or “Sparky is old, and he’s feeling a little grumpy today. Maybe tomorrow he’ll feel a little bit better, but let’s leave him by himself today.”

Similarly, if one of your younger puppies or dogs starts to get into too intense play for your older dog, redirect his activity and play toward you or toward self-play. It’s up to you to intervene on behalf of your geriatric pet. If it doesn’t look like she can take it any longer, she’ll thank you for sure, and your relationship will grow because of it.