Have you or someone you know ever been cranky and irritable when in pain? I am sure the answer is yes. Our dogs can get the same way when they are in pain or are feeling discomfort. It is for that reason, we always want to first rule out any medical condition that can affect behavior. But it is not just pain we need to rule out. Other things can affect canine behavior. For example, if a dog has a urinary tract infection, behavior modification targeting house training is not likely to be successful. We have to first treat the cause of the problem, in this example an infection, and then work on behavior modification, if it is even necessary. Another example is if a dog is suddenly barking and lunging at people or dogs with no overt cause, it could be that the dog is in pain or not feeling well.
In a recent study, conducted at several veterinary locations around the world, researchers found that the co-occurrence of pain and behavioral problems ranges from 28% to 82% of all cases, with hip and spine pain being the most prevalent, (Mills, et. al., 2020).
Often, if there is a sudden onset of a behavior change with no clear explanation, or a persistent behavior that seems resistant to training, then we always first recommend that your dog gets a thorough check up from your veterinarian. Treating the medical issue can, in some cases, eliminate the need for any behavioral intervention and can ensure you pup is feeling happy and healthy.
Mills, D.S.; Demontigny-Bédard, I.; Gruen, M.; Klinck, M.P.; McPeake, K.J.; Barcelos, A.M.; Hewison, L.; Van Haevermaet, H.; Denenberg, S.; Hauser, H.; Koch, C.; Ballantyne, K.; Wilson, C.; Mathkari, C.V.; Pounder, J.; Garcia, E.; Darder, P.; Fatjó, J.; Levine, E. Pain and Problem Behavior in Cats and Dogs. Animals 2020, 10, 318. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/10/2/318