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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

How do I get my well-behaved dog back?

I have a 14-year-old Yorkshire Terrier whom I have had since she was six weeks old.
We went to obedience training for two years and she passed all her tests first time. For the whole of her life she has been very obedient and well-behaved and a joy to have.
For some reason she has now become very disobedient and just ignores me when I ask her to do things. She is a bit deaf so I always give her clear instructions and also hand signals. I have started practising some of the basic obedience training and she is quite happy to do that.
Any good behaviour is rewarded and this is really easy as she is very much food orientated. I have been giving her higher value treats at present.
She has a mild heart problem but this predates the change in behaviour by many years. She is seen regularly by a vet who is happy with her health, so I do not think that there is a medical reason for this change in behaviour.
Could you suggest a cause for this behaviour change and suggest what I can do to get back my lovely well-behaved little dog?

Jean Vale, by post


  1. It may be just old age, and the deafness. She's slowing down. I wouldn't worry about it too much, just be glad you still have her and that she is reasonably healthy, which I assume she is.
    It doesn't sound as though she is really causing a problem other than not responding immediately to your commands.
    I wish my spaniel had lasted as long as 14.
    Julia Lewis

  2. Christine Bailey25 March 2011 at 06:33

    Have to say I pretty much agree with the above comment. It could be, too, that she is getting a little senile and simply doesn't remember! I'd ask your vet whether he thinks this could be the case; he might be able to prescribe something - Vivitonin has a good reputation and certainly helped my old girl.
    Other than that, I'd give her lots of cuddles and be very pleased you still have her company to enjoy.

  3. Sometimes, what can appear to be stubbornness or disobedience can be a signal of an underlying health problem. It is good that your are taking your dog for regular vet checks. Animals can be very good at hiding pain but it does tend to manifest itself in other ways and can affect their behaviour.

    Has the dog had any unpleasant experiences lately that may cause it to be a little fearful? This can sometimes lead to reluctance.

    Look for stress signals such as licking lips or yawning, or increased panting in your dog. You do not mention any other signs which might be indicators of cognitive dysfunction (which can gradually occur as part of the ageing process). Signs of this can include confusion and have a very gradual onset. Your Vet or a behaviourist can advise you on this.

    You are doing the right thing by increasing the value of the rewards for now, to boost your dog's motivation. Losing hearing (and maybe other senses) could potentially be quite a disorientating experience.