Senior Shih Tzu: How Do Dogs' Behaviors Change as They Get Older?


Aging is a natural part of a dog's life. 

If you have been a lifetime dog owner, then you've likely already experienced life with a senior pup.

Although it might seem like overnight, the once rambunctious Shih Tzu puppy that was always up for a play session or a long walk is now content to spend the day snoozing on a favorite pillow.

More often, there's a gradual shift in behavior from an active pup to a less active, older dog. 

Senior Shih Tzu behavior changes

Some common behavior changes you will see as your Shih Tzu dog gets older include:

  • sleeping more
  • eating less
  • moving a bit slower
  • possible incontinence
  • perhaps some irritability, and
  • decreased energy

You'll also likely notice things like bumps on your dog's skin, a gray-tinged coat, and diminished hearing and eyesight as your pup's senses won't be as sharp as they used to be.

While these are some expected signs of aging and many behavior changes are perfectly normal, there are a few things that would warrant special attention.

It's worth familiarizing yourself with some of the things you can expect as your dog enters his golden years, so you know when you need to take action.

Behavior Changes Shih Tzu dogs Go through When They Become Seniors

Not surprisingly, just like humans change as they age, so do dogs. Your canine companion won't stay an energetic pup forever. However, you can likely always count on his unconditional love and affection.

As you start to notice your furry friend walking a bit slower, leaving a few bits of food behind in his dish, and perhaps having a few potty accidents in the house, it can be a little alarming. Your first instinct might be to assume something must be wrong.

However, don't panic.

When dog's age, their behavior and activity level change, and many of these changes are a normal and expected part of being a senior dog. 

Here are a five common changes you'll likely notice in your pup's behavior when he gets older:

1. Spends More Time Sleeping

Your dog wants to spend most of the day sleeping.

Your pup won't have as much energy as he used to, and when he does get a little active (say a brief walk), it can tucker him out for a good part of the day.

Provide your pup with a comfy and secure place to rest, and just monitor his behavior when he is up and about.

If he still gets up and walks around, eats and drinks normally, and shows interest in things, then he's likely just enjoying the much-needed rest of an older dog.

2. Eats Less

Perhaps your pup used to scarf down all of the food in his bowl in record time, but now he leaves a few pieces behind.

Older dogs tend not to have as high a metabolism as they once did, plus they aren't as active, meaning they don't need as many calories.

Talk with your vet about perhaps adjusting the amount of food your dog needs to eat daily.

3. Decreased Mobility

Old age brings sore joints, potential issues like arthritis, and a decrease in agility and flexibility.

All of this adds up to make your pup less mobile than when they were younger. You may notice your dog takes a little longer to stand up after laying down for a long time, or they now avoid jumping onto the furniture.

You can have your vet check everything out to make sure it's nothing more serious. Still, certain supplements like Omega 3-s can help support healthy joints.

You can also provide your pup with a doggy ramp to help him over hard to maneuver porch stoops and other similar problem areas.

4. More Frequent Potty Accidents

You might notice some potty accidents more often. Your dog hasn't forgotten his house-training; he more than likely just can't hold it as well as he used to.

Sometimes, he might not be able to make it outside in time.

Still, you may want to check with your vet to ensure there are no underlying issues at play.

To help keep clean-up easy and your pup comfortable, you may want to consider getting your pooch some doggy diapers.

5. Gets a Little Grumpy

If you notice your older dog getting a bit grumpier, it's likely connected to how he's coping with his old age.

For example, my pup has mild arthritis in his hips. Sometimes, if you move him a certain way, he reacts with a grumpy growl because something hurts. Basically, he's saying "ouch" and "leave me alone for a minute."

I even asked my vet if this was a sign that my sweet pup was suddenly turning aggressive, and she assured me that this was not the case.

It was more like the equivalent of how you would feel if someone tried to shake your hand after you sprained your wrist.

Senior Dogs Experience Physical Changes

In addition to these changes in behavior, senior dogs also experience a few physical changes that can influence their behavior.

For example, how my dog's sore hip makes him grumpy at times.

Other examples are pups that start to lose their eyesight and their hearing as they age. This can make it difficult for your dog to move around, do the things he used to do, and can also make him feel nervous.

These diminished senses can cause your pup to move around less, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, it could cause another sense to become more highly developed.

Your dog will simply adjust to these changes.

My dog hardly hears anything at all anymore and is essentially blind, yet his sense of smell has increased exponentially. He can find the tiniest speck of food hiding in the entire expanse of grass in the backyard. It's pretty incredible.

Some other physical changes you may notice are tinges of gray in your dog's coat and small lumps that start to pop up all over your dog's body.

While anytime you discover a bump or lump, it can be unsettling, it isn't always indicative of a major health issue.

Sometimes, they are simply "old-age bumps."

Still, you should have any new bumps or lumps investigated by your vet.

As dog's age, things can change rapidly, and their bodies aren't as able and willing to fight off things like infections and other issues. For this reason, it's wise to increase your regular well visits to the vet to twice a year.

Overall, your dog will experience numerous changes as he ages, and many of them are pretty typical.

However, you know your pup better than anyone, so always pay attention to your dog's overall behavior and mood.

If you notice the above changes, yet your pup still shows interest in life, eats, and enjoys the occasional roll around in the grass, it's probably just old age doing its thing. 

But, if your dog's appetite decreases or disappears, he doesn't show any interest in the things he used to enjoy, or it just seems like it's not fun to be a dog anymore, then it's time to check in with your vet.

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Posted 4/14/2021