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Older Doberman Pinscher Suddenly Out Of Character Snapping At People

Understanding Sudden Behavioral Changes in Older Dogs

Explore expert advice on understanding sudden behavioral changes in older dogs, including medical checks and training tips to address aggression. Learn about the potential causes, like undiagnosed diseases and dementia, and how to respond effectively.

older doberman suddenly snapping at family and friends out of characterDear John,

I have a 10-year-old Doberman, and I’ve had him since he was eight weeks old. He was raised with kids and other dogs. I could take him off-leash to different bars, and he would wander around getting pets, but he would immediately run back if I called. Now that he’s older, we stay home. He has snapped at all four kids. 13,16,24 and 30. He has also snapped at a few other people who have come over. He let them pet him and suddenly snapped for no reason. He has never snapped at me till tonight. I was going to bed, and I patted his head and said goodnight, and he grazed my hand. Then he started growling, so I made him get off the couch, and he was loving once again. What is going on? All incidents have happened in the last six months or so.


Introduction to Sudden Aggression in Senior Dogs

Hi Samantha,

It’s highly unusual for a dog to have a sudden severe shift in behavior after age three that isn’t due to something medical or a significant (from the dog’s perspective) change in routine.

Recognizing the Signs of Medical Issues in Aging Dogs

The first step is to have the dog thoroughly checked out for a physical problem(s) by an experienced veterinarian. By thorough, I mean full blood panel and x-rays (teeth, too). An undiagnosed disease, deteriorating joints could contribute to increased irritability. Hearing and vision should be considered as well, and if either or both of these are diminished, the incidents may be due to a startle reflex. Especially if, immediately after the snapping, he reverts to normal.

Cognitive Changes and Dementia in Senior Dogs

At his age, another possibility is dementia. However, there would likely be additional signs. Irritability is one of those signs. The other signs may exist, but with the snapping on your mind, you may not have noticed. From a training perspective, does he sometimes forget things he once knew how to do well? Does he ever appear lost or confused in familiar surroundings? There are other signs as well. Here’s a PDF link listing some of the other symptoms. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome Evaluation Tool.

The Importance of Routine and Training in Managing Behavior

If all that clears, I’d be looking at the significant (from the dog’s perspective) change in routine and whether you’re asking enough of him throughout the day to help him remember you’re not a roommate but a loving authority figure. Essentially, go back to the basics you began when you got him.

Conclusion: Addressing Behavioral Changes with Care and Understanding

Understanding and addressing the underlying causes of sudden aggression in older dogs requires patience, thorough medical examination, and possibly a return to fundamental training principles. By taking these steps, you can help ensure the well-being and happiness of your aging pet.

– John “Ask The Dog Guy” Wade 

 🐾 “Dog Training That Embraces Science and Common Sense” 🐾 

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