senile barking

Reasons and Solutions for Barking Behavior in Elderly Dogs : Senile Barking

Senile barking is not uncommon. In fact, twice a day, almost like clockwork, my elderly canine pal Ginko barks – a lot. Sometimes I think he knows he is barking. Other times he seems completely unaware that he is firing off one shrill bark at a time, every 60 to 90 seconds, for hours on end. He barks in the morning when he first wakes up, and he barks in the late afternoon. It wears on me but I know there is a good chance he cannot help it.

I often refer to this behavior as “senile barking” but there are several reasons why older dogs bark, as well as several ways to encourage elderly dogs to bark less.

Why Older Dogs Might Bark More

There are a variety of reasons why we see behavior changes in elderly dogs, including:

How to Help Older Dogs Bark Less

Because elderly dogs often experience additional medical concerns, it can be difficult to pinpoint how medical and behavioral issues interact and overlap. It’s best to start with a thorough medical exam from your veterinarian to address any medical needs that may be contributing to the barking behaviors such as pain, anxiety, and lost vision or hearing.

It may take some trial and error to figure out the possible causes and solutions to barking. Dr. Ruch-Gallie often begins with simple over-the-counter interventions such as:

The End is Near?

Using my own example, I asked Ruch-Gallie about whether or not this kind of consistent barking indicates some level of “suffering” (for lack of a better word). She explains that these kinds of behavior changes in elderly pets can sometimes lead to damage to the human-animal bond. However, it’s tough for veterinarians to bring up quality-of-life discussions when an aging dog is medically strong but perhaps not enjoying life anymore.

“If you [the patient] bring it up,” she says, “it makes it so much easier to say, ‘Let’s talk about the quality of life.’ We can try some things, but what is the breaking point?” Unlike choosing euthanasia in a canine cancer patient, having the same end-of-life discussion is tougher and more nebulous in an elderly (and possible senile) canine patient.