• May 29th, 2022
    Written by: Kimberly

    When your happy and well-behaved dog suddenly starts acting aggressively, defiantly, or displaying bad behaviors that you had already addressed in training, it can be alarming and confusing. The shift in behavior can seem unexplained, but as you start trying to train your dog to fix the problem, it often has no effect.

    When a sudden behavior change happens, you may want to look for a health cause instead. Often, pain can cause a dog to become defensive to keep people from touching her and potentially causing more pain. Your dog may also be acting out to get your attention and let you know there is a problem.

    Signs that an Illness is Causing Behavioral Issues

    A dog that is sick or in pain will be confused as to why she is feeling that way, which can lead to dogs acting out or being aggressive. When in pain, a dog knows that snapping or growling when someone comes near is often an effective way to keep a person from touching her.

    Dogs do not have a straightforward way to communicate with their owners that something is wrong, but they often know that misbehavior will get attention. For this reason, some signs that might first look like a behavioral problem that needs the help of a trainer may instead need a vet. Some of the ways you can distinguish between the two include:

    • Shift from Usual Behavior - As a dog owner, you know your dog best. If you are training a puppy who has a few days of less than perfect behavior, that is likely not cause for concern. But if your adult dog is acting in a way you have not seen in years, if ever, that could indicate a health problem.
    • Sudden Aggression - Aggression is always a cause for concern in dogs, but if your dog is now acting aggressive towards family members and has not been before, a vet visit is a good first step. 
    • Lethargy - A dog that is acting lazy and seems to ignore you could be sick and trying not to move or too tired to move and keep up.
    • Multiple Days of Strange Behavior - Even with adult dogs, there can be an occasional day where behavior just seems “off.” When this goes on for multiple days, whether it seems like a training problem or you notice another type of strange behavior, you should consider going to the vet.

    Whenever your dog starts behaving unexpectedly, make an appointment with your vet to rule out any health conditions before you move forward to correcting a training issue. Keeping up with your annual vet visits will also help identify health issues early on before they can become extreme enough to impact your dog’s behavior.