Recent events have led me to do this short blog post regarding pain in dogs in relation to behaviour. All too often dogs (and other animals, especially horses) are labelled “naughty” or “dominant” or “stubborn” for displaying certain behaviours, or not wanting to do something. Imagine if you have a headache, for example…how does that make you feel? You certainly wont be feeling your best and that will affect your behaviour. I myself have issues with my knees, and at the moment I am in a fair amount of pain with them. This pain absolutely has an effect on my mood and behaviour. I can feel low, sometimes I am a bit abrupt or snappy even, I dont want to go for long walks, I may not want to go out and socialise with people unless I know them very well….but for other people looking in, I look fine. I, of course, can then vocalise my pain and tell people why I am feeling like that.

Dogs, however, do not have that luxury. The only way we know they are in pain most of the time is by noticing a change in their normal behaviour. Your dog may sleep more than normal, may not want to go out for walks as much, may try to avoid sitting, may become a bit snappy or growl in situations he doesnt normally do so, his breathing rate may change, hair swirls on his coat may change, he may appear more aloof, he may not want to jump into the car anymore. Pay attention to your dog’s behaviour on walks too. Is he not wanting to be as close to you? Is he eating more grass than normal (assuming he is not a serial grass eater!)? Is his recall suddenly not very good whereas usually its excellent? I guarantee you that a dog is not sitting there plotting ways of annoying you….if you notice changes in your dog’s behaviour, assume your dog is in pain or not feeling himself and get him checked by a vet. I appreciate that is not as easy to do if you have a dog who cannot be handled or examined by the vet, but you can then have an in depth chat with your vet and work out a plan.

It upsets me a lot to see people telling their dog off for behaving in a certain way, dragging them along on the lead when they clearly dont want to walk, yelling at them for not wanting to get into the car, not looking at the reasons behind WHY a dog has snapped or bitten when it is out of character for that dog. So please, put yourself in your dog’s shoes….you know you dog well enough to know what is unusual and out of character for them…..and if they seem out of sorts, then your first port of call should be your vets to make sure there isnt something medical that is causing them to behave in that way. Dogs can deal with a lot of pain before they become lame or noticeably show that pain, so we owe it to them to try and read the signals and deal with that pain before it gets to that stage.

Angela Doyle
Polite Paws Dog Training 2017