Anyone who has had a dog age into their senior years knows that older dogs can develop some odd behaviors. These behavioral changes can often manifest as a fear or hesitation to go outside which can be pretty frustrating for both parties.
There are quite a few reasons why an older dog might refuse to go outside. Most reasons are pretty simple and won’t really require you to do much, but some might warrant a trip to the veterinarian. Here are some of the many reasons your senior pooch might be avoiding the outdoors.
They Don’t Have To Go Potty
Adult dogs can hold their bladder for up to twelve hours. We’re not saying that they should hold it this long, but they can. You may even find that your senior dog can go for even longer than that.
You may try to motivate them to go outside at their once-designated potty time, but one day you find that they don’t seem to have to go. A dog in their old age might just not find that it is that pressing of a need and they have no problem holding it a while longer.
They Can’t Hear You
Hearing loss is pretty common in older dogs. If you find that your canine is ignoring your command or your calls to go outside, it could be that they can’t hear you. If this is the case, you may need to figure out some new methods to get your dogs attention, like holding your hand by their nose so that they can smell you or maybe clapping your hands.
Sometimes they might not be able to hear you call their name, but they can feel the vibration of a hard clap. It could also be that they have developed “selective hearing” and are simply ignoring you because they feel like it. Like we said earlier, odd behaviors.
The Temperature Isn’t Just Right
Senior dogs can be a lot more sensitive to the elements, and that includes the temperature outside. A sunny summer afternoon might just be too hot for them, and they know that their foot pads are going to hurt when they have to walk across the cement.
Or it could be too cold, and they simply can’t be bothered to feel the discomfort. We can rectify this with a nice dog sweater to combat the cold or perhaps waiting for that summer sun to set a bit.
They’ve Developed Negative Associations
Dogs can hold onto their memories more than one may assume. Did your dog recently step on a bee when they were in the yard? Did a large, bearded man recently move in next door? Maybe they slipped on a patch of ice and broke a claw.
Whatever the reason, a traumatic experience could stick in a dog’s head and cause them to fear the outdoors. It could hurt them again after all. If this is the case it could require some coaxing and reconditioning to get them back into the groove.
It is important that you do not force them into an uncomfortable situation. Instead, focus on using counterconditioning to help them re-acclimate.
New Home, New Fears
Did you recently move? Was your senior dog rehomed, rescued, or recently adopted? Whatever the case, a change of scenery can be a bit stressful for a dog, and even more so for an elderly dog that is set in their ways.
They may be having trouble adjusting to all the new sights, sounds, and smells, and staying indoors is a way for them to cope with all these new stimuli. Thankfully, as long as the environment is inviting and rewarding, most dogs should get over this new-home anxiety fairly quickly.
Make sure to do your best to make the house feel safe and secure as they adjust to their new surroundings. Some treats and cuddles can go a long way as well.
The Ground Is Wet
This may sound silly, but for a dog, and especially an elderly one, wetness on the ground can be a real deal-breaker. This is not the case for puppies as they rarely bat an eye at something as insignificant as a puddle, as they plunge in with aplomb.
But, for a senior dog citizen, that aftermath of the rain, or even just the morning dew can make them choose to stay inside. You could try booties, but if they are already being difficult about wet ground, chances are slim they are going to do well with booties as well.
Your dog may be averse to more than just a wet sidewalk as well. Damp grass, dead grass, mud, new gravel, hot sand, bugs, could all be things that they are trying to avoid touching with their dainty paws. Sometimes a dog can just act like a diva and there isn’t much to be done about it.
A Storm Approaches
We might not know exactly how they do it, but some dogs have a mastery of weather prediction. They can sense atmospheric changes like a drop in the barometric pressure or an increase in static electricity in the air.
It has also been a widely held belief since man and dog became friends that dogs can sense impending natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. They can also hear the thunder far sooner than we can.
Older dogs seem especially attuned to these extrasensory perceptions. Just like us as we age, they might feel it in their bones and their joints as the pressures in the atmosphere surge or drop. So, if there’s a storm on the way, your dog may opt to stay on the couch instead of taking a trip outside.
Sounds Are Spooky
Fireworks, thunderclaps, a car back-firing, that dreaded man with the beard next door saying “hello,” could all have an effect on our senior dogs. It might be that they don’t understand the source of the sound.
It could be the sudden shock of the loudness that makes them fearful. Whatever the reason behind the fear, they aren’t enjoying the soundscape of the outdoors. You might need to try taking them out earlier or later, depending on the foot and car traffic in your neighborhood. The inside of the home is predictable and quiet. Why venture out into the noisy world beyond the front door when the living room is so quiet and predictable.
They Have Senior Anxiety
As a dog ages, they tend to go through a lot of physical changes, but sometimes more noticeably they change mentally. Old age can take its toll on a dog’s brain and this means that they can be more prone to developing neurosis and anxieties much easier than their younger selves.
Doggy dementia, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCD), is directly related to the aging of a dog’s brain. This can really affect their awareness, learning and memory, and cause poor responses to things and activities that they once enjoyed.
This is very common in dogs over eleven and the symptoms tend to get worse as they age. If you believe that your dog is showing it would be a good idea to make a trip to the vet. For more information on check out this article.
They’re In Pain
For any living creature, aging tends to mean that pain is inevitable. Whether it be from injury, illness, surgery, or inflammation, pain is sure to find an elderly dog. If you suspect a sudden change in their behavior is due to pain, you should keep a close eye on their behavior.
Are they favoring one paw as they walk? Are they laying differently in their bed? Are they moving sluggishly and without motivation? Give them a once over and check for the common culprits first. Broken nail, thorn in the paw, bee sting.
If you can’t see the problem immediately, it may be something that needs medicine. Arthritis and hip dysplasia are common in older dogs but they can be treated. You know your dog the best and if you suspect that they are in any sort of pain that you can’t immediately treat, make a call to your veterinarian.
They Are Guilty Of Shenanigans
Even an elderly dog can get into some mischief. Dogs suffering from dementia can also be prone to reverting to puppy-like behaviors. It might be that your dog has gotten into some digging and ruined the new begonias.
Maybe they chewed a hole in a garbage bag that you thought they would leave alone and spread garbage across the yard. It could be something as innocent as a potty accident. You may need to check around the house or out in the yard if you suspect your elderly dog has gotten into some naughty behavior.
Dog’s display their guilt in submissive behaviors like grinning and showing their teeth, or passive posturing. Remember that you shouldn’t punish your dog for what they’ve done if they’ve gotten into shenanigans, after all, they might be a bit confused about why they did it in the first place.
They Are Feeling Sick
They might not be in direct pain, but they might be feeling not-so-good. Loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea can all be signs that your dog is feeling under the weather. Seasonal allergies can also affect dogs, especially older ones, so that could be an issue as well.
Make sure to monitor your dog closely if you feel that they’ve developed any symptoms that seem to be lasting or worsening and call the vet if they don’t show any improvement within a few days.
But, if you think the symptoms might be present because of something toxic they ate or their abdomen enlarges suddenly due to bloating, you should get them to the doctor immediately. If you suspect illness but you’re not entirely sure, check out this article for a rundown of 5 common signs that your dog is sick.
Vision Isn’t What It Used To Be
Just like with their hearing, elderly dogs can lose some or all of their once great eyesight. Once your dog starts to experience vision problems they can become fearful of the changing and unclear world around them.
Cataracts and glaucoma are common in elderly dogs just as they are in humans and these conditions can severely limit their vision. There isn’t always a medical solution for a dog that is suffering from waning vision, but you can help to make their lives easier.
Night lights can help them to get around in the dark. Once a dog has stumbled and bumped into a wall headfirst it could make them hesitant to try to do other things. Make sure that their regular pathways are clear of obstructions and that there aren’t any screen doors blocking the way that can trip them up.
They might also need your help. If your dog used to go outside alone without a problem, their poor vision might make them nervous to go it alone. You may need to help them by leading the way when it comes time to go outside.
Fear Of The Unknown
Nearly every one of the reasons we’ve discussed so far can lead a dog to fear the unknown. CCD, poor vision, anxiety, a new home, they can all cause a senior dog to doubt themselves and be wary of the world around them.
They might not be afraid of the outdoors at all. They are simply afraid because they have lost their ability to comprehend their surroundings like they once did. It could be any manner of negative stimuli that has caused your dog to be fearful and unfortunately, they will never be able to explain it to you.
You could try a different exit out of the house, or maybe the front yard instead of the back. You will most likely need to go through trial and error to figure out what works for your pooch.
They’re Just Going At Their Own Pace
A common symptom of aging in dogs: Stubbornness. Chances are good that you’ve already figured this one out if you have a close bond with your dog. Older dogs know what they like, what they don’t like and their minds won’t be changed.
You might discover that their favorite enticing treat no longer works to get them to bend to your will. Their favorite toy goes unchewed. They can’t be bothered to get off the couch for walkies. It might very well be that your dog doesn’t want to go outside simply because they don’t want to. It is not in their plans for the time being.
You must remember that dogs age a lot faster than us humans and you might have to slow down your pace to match your dogs as they age. A dog that once was gleeful to go on two walks a day might be fine with half of a walk once a day in their senior years. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary and if your old pup is otherwise healthy, it might just be their new norm.
Dogs Can Get Depressed Too
Does your dog just look…sad? Are they sluggish and withdrawn? It could very well be that your dog is depressed. Certain things affect elderly dogs more so than they would a younger pup, and this goes for depression as well.
An elderly dog that has suffered loss, or illness or a sudden bout of fear, could be more likely to experience depression. They might eat more or less than usual, whine and cry or may even pace. Dogs mourn just like we do, so if there has been a death in the family, animal or human, they may feel the hurt just as bad as the rest of the family. Grief can certainly cause depression in a dog and depression can certainly keep a dog unmotivated and in the house.
If you notice that they are showing other symptoms, or symptoms for longer than a few days, it would be wise to once again call that veterinarian. They may prescribe doggy antidepressants, but the depression could also be tied to an underlying illness or injury that has gone unnoticed. To learn some more about depression in dogs, check out this article.
As you can see there are many reasons why your old dog doesn’t want to venture outside. It is important to show patience with our pups as they age as it can be very hard on them physically, emotionally, and mentally. It all happens so fast for them and when they are in their golden years, they are dependent on you to help them live their best life.
So, if you suspect any sort of pain or illness or mental instability, it is up to you to make sure they get to the veterinarian and get any available treatment. There is a lot that can be done for our senior dogs in their twilight that can make them more comfortable, even if that means just getting them outside a bit more.