All Things Dog

Sudden Changes in Behavior

Has your dog suddenly gone from darling to snarling? If you've noticed a sudden change in your dog's behavior, you need to pay attention because he's definitely trying to tell you something.

Have there been any significant changes in your life recently? Dogs can be quite sensitive to changes in their environment, whether it's a move to a new home or the arrival of a new baby, spouse, or pet. There are a number of ways that your dog will "act out" if he's stressed. In fact, under some circumstances, it's possible that even a normally mild-mannered dog may become irritable and start growling—or even bite.

For some dogs, "accidents" (as in house soiling) and other destructive behaviors may also be a sign of stress. Other "stress symptoms" include vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite.

If you dog starts behaving out of character even though there haven't been any new/sudden stress triggers, you should take him to the vet immediately. He could be in physical pain or have a medical condition that needs attention.

Helping your dog cope

As soon as you know that a big change in your household is imminent, you should start preparing your dog for the events to come. The most important thing is to keep your routine as normal as possible. If you take walks at a certain time each day or have set meal times, try to stick to that schedule as closely as you can.

To introduce your dog to a new baby: Have your dog smell the baby’s clothes or blanket for several days before the introduction. Accompany these “smelling sessions” with doggie treats. This helps your dog associate the smell of the baby with a very positive experience. It is also a good idea to put your dog on a leash when making the first introduction because you'll never know how either will react. If your dog behaves in a favorable way, praise him for being a good dog. Love and attention will go a long way in preventing jealousy. It should be noted, however, that a dog should never be left alone with a baby or small child at any time.

If you're moving to a new home, try to surround your dog with familiar objects. Use his crate as a safe place to hide so he won't be overwhelmed with all the commotion. Give him a favorite blanket or toy that has a familiar scent. Do whatever you can to shield your dog from the chaos of the move. Once the move is complete, try to get right back to the routine you and your dog enjoyed at your former home. For more information, see our article Help Your Dog Adjust to Moving Day.

Sticking to your regular routines and letting your dog know that he's still an important part of your life—those simple acts will help buffer any stressful situations your dog may come across. And, as with any situation that may threaten the health and well-being of your dog, always consult with your veterinarian.

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