Pain & Behaviour

It is very unlikely that pain can be present and for no behavioural changes to occur. The very nature of what pain is means it will have some effect on your dog's behaviour or character. With this in mind, it is essential to know that some dogs cope with pain better than others and not all dogs will display the same behavioural responses to pain. For example, some dogs may become withdrawn and depressed, whereas others may become aggressive and defensive or possibly territorial. 

​​Pain can be easily missed in dogs and for many owners, it is a shock that their dog could be in pain because there are many misconceptions about pain:

  • They would yelp/whimper if they are in pain

  • They wouldn't play if they are in pain

  • They have a higher pain threshold than humans

  • They aren't in pain, they are just ageing and slowing down


These misconceptions are actually signs of acute pain, which is sudden, intense and short lived. When it comes to chronic pain, the pain is subtle, dull, persistent and long lasting. Unfortunately, this makes it hard to identify in dogs as they just get on with life, which is in part due to them not having other options and due to their natural instinct to hide pain/weakness as a means of protecting themselves from danger. 

Acute vs Chronic Pain_edited.jpg

Not 'Just a Naughty Dog'

Society has led us to believe that when behavioural issues arise it is because of poor training or because the dog is disobedient or even 'being dominant'. However, this is not always the case and many of these dogs may be taken to various dog trainers who will attempt to train them to be a 'good dog'. Thankfully most dog trainers use positive reinforcement, but sometimes harsh training methods are used by some for the more 'unruly' dogs, which can make the problem worse. When a dog cannot be 'fixed' through training they may be subject to a variety of labels, without pain ever being acknowledged:

  • Naughty Dog - could general naughtiness & disobedience be a way of coping with or distracting themselves from pain?

  • Untrainable - could it be due to pain's ability to prevent them from learning?

  • Vicious Dog - could the pain be too much for them to cope with & they are warning others to stay away/not touch them?

  • Moody Bitch - could the grumbles & withdrawn behaviour be irritability due to persistent pain?

  • Miserable Old Man - could that lack of interest in playing & increased sleeping be the result of pain?

Could It Be Underlying Pain?

If your dog is displaying certain behavioural issues it could be due to underlying pain, in particular chronic pain. This is generally more so the case for dogs that have recently developed an undesirable behaviour, but could also be the case for dogs who have always displayed a behaviour. The presence of physical and/or postural indicators of pain or the development of symptoms of musculoskeletal conditions can help determine if pain is a contributing factor to any behavioural issues.

Follow-Up Training

In some cases where chronic pain has led to behavioural issues, some behaviour and training work may be required after the Myotherapy treatments. Myotherapy is not a cure all, which is especially true when it comes to behaviour due to the complex nature of behaviour formation. This means that treating an underlying physical condition may only slightly reduce problematic behaviour and in rare cases, it may not have an effect on the behaviour. This is more common when behaviours have been displayed for a long time or have been (unknowingly) regularly reinforced as the behaviour becomes a habit or becomes positively rewarding.