Our dogs are thankfully living longer than ever. This does mean we may see some changes in behavior and attitude. Dogs can face cognitive decline as they age, just like people. Here are a few signs you may see at home:

Behavior Changes

  • Pacing
    • Wandering around without having a goal of where they are going 
    • Frequently moving from spot to spot to lie down
  • More alone time
    • Spending more time alone, seemingly not as interested in spending time with the family
  • Reduced recall
    • Not responding to his/her name or instructions that he/she used to follow quickly and easily. Keep in mind, this could also be related to difficulty hearing commands.
    • “Forgetting” training, like having accidents in the house or no longer asking to go out


While it can be upsetting if your dog’s training seems to have gone, it is important not to punish him or her. Think of senior dogs like grandparents; they are doing their best! There are few things that you can do to help:

  • Create a comfortable yet easy-to-clean space for your dog to hang out in when you are not home. This way, if he or she does have an accident, it doesn’t ruin your furniture and can be easily cleaned. 
  • Take your dog out for more frequent but shorter walks/pee breaks.


Sleep and Night Time Behavior

One of the big areas in which pet parents may notice more changes is their dog’s bedtime routine. Senior dogs may sleep more during the day and seem to get more active at bedtime. This behavior is known as sundowning. 

Signs of Sundowning include:

  • Confusion 
  • Getting stuck in areas of the house or yard
  • Excessive licking 
  • Restlessness, pacing, circling
  • Unable to get comfortable
  • Vocalizing, barking, crying, whining 

To help keep your dog safe at night, you may want to confine your dog to a small yet comfortable area with no stairs or furniture, so he or she doesn’t get lost or hurt. When you let your dog out at night, keep a close eye on him or her to prevent wandering. Make sure your dog’s collar and/or microchip has current contact details, just in case. Keep in mind that night vision is the first to go in older pets, so your senior dog may also have some trouble seeing during that last walk, which can be very stressful for him or her. 

Caring For Your Dog with Cognitive Decline

If you are seeing any of the signs mentioned above, it is important to speak with your veterinarian to make sure you rule out other issues that could be contributing to your dog’s behavior changes. Your veterinarian can also help you with additional tips, and in some cases, medications to help so you both can remain happy and maintain that vital bond you have with your dog. 

For even more tips on prolonging your dog’s golden years, read this post.