Behavior Changes in the Older Dog
So Fluffy or King is getting up in years now and you're wondering what to do to make him more comfortable around the house and how to avoid or lessen different problems that come with an aging pet. Your aging pet is like an aging human being in that he or she has the right to set some of her own limits. In other words, your aging pet has been active and independent for years; though he needs extra care don't make an invalid out of him. Follow this rule as long as you can.
Fluffy or King has been a house dog for years or has sleep in at night. Now you're worried about incontinence. Still, it's best not to coax him to go outside and better to keep an eye on your pet to see when he's ready to go. That way King can avoid accidents and feel better about being in the house without being forced outside when he doesn't have to go and maybe his stiff bones make him want to wait a bit. He'll go to the door when he's ready. Understand that this means he's not senile enough yet to just do his business anywhere or hasn't lost bladder control yet.
You may have a situation where Fluffy nips at a toddler, say your grandchild that wakes her up suddenly. This is something that older dogs can't help and shouldn't be punished for it. The better solution is to keep toddlers and children away from older dogs. Give Fluffy a place to sleep that is secluded from the children. Keep in mind that Fluffy didn't behave like that when she was younger. Now her lungs aren't as efficient and her brain isn't receiving as much oxygen. This adversely affects memory and learning.
Her brain is undergoing changes just like human beings undergo brain changes as they age. Her brain is going through what in humans is called senile dementia. This is something that happens to dogs that are verging on sixteen years of age according to Professor Ben Hart of the University of California. He studied the aging process and concluded that in dogs it's very much like human aging. The reasons Fluffy may get angry when disturbed are that the messages aren't running along her nervous system to her brain as fast as they formerly did, and the blood vessels in her brain have lost elasticity.
King at sixteen years will become more disoriented, and bark for no reason. He may get stuck in corners, head for the wrong side of the door when wanting to go outside or just stare into space sometimes. These are problems that over seventy percent of dogs at that age have to cope with and having patience with his waning ability to handle himself in the house or outside in very important. When he first begins to age more he will probably follow you around more and be underfoot. Watch out for this so he doesn't trip you and he doesn't get hurt either. But with more age he will follow you less often and generally be less interactive.
You and your aging dog can still live together in the house and get along well. It's a matter of your ability to understand the changes he's going through and to adjust to them because he can't change what's happening to him.