Pet insurance policies are underwritten by Markel American Insurance Company.
Follow Us
Grumpy old dog laying on floor

Early graying in dogs suggests behavioral issues

Q: My 5-year-old black cocker spaniel, Kernoodle, already has a gray face. I adopted him from the shelter, so I don’t know whether his parents or siblings also grayed early. What causes premature graying in dogs?

A: One of my dogs, a 7-year-old black standard poodle adopted at age 3, grayed early, too. According to a recent study, his personality traits match those associated with early graying. 

Researchers found that anxiety, fear and impulsive behavior are linked to premature muzzle graying in dogs. They studied 400 dogs, ages 1 to 4, rating each dog’s muzzle as free of gray hair, partially gray or fully gray. They also surveyed family members about their dogs’ behavior traits.

The researchers found that dogs who grayed early were more likely to exhibit anxiety (e.g., whining or causing damage when left alone, or excessive hair loss when in a new place or at the veterinarian’s office) or impulsivity (e.g., jumping on people, persistent barking, or difficulty getting calm and focused). These behavior traits, along with fear of loud noises, unfamiliar animals and unfamiliar people, were significantly more evident in the youngsters with gray muzzles. 

These findings suggest that dogs that have gray muzzles by the time they are four years old likely have anxiety, fear or impulsive behavior.

Researchers also found that the dog’s size, age, gender, spay/neuter status and medical problems do not contribute to graying. The presence of other dogs or cats in the household also does not affect graying.

If you feel Kernoodle has anxiety, excessive fear or trouble with impulsive behavior, talk with his veterinarian or consult a board-certified veterinary behaviorist to help him feel more comfortable.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com

Insect-borne Pet Disease On The Rise In 2018

Q: I recently adopted a...

Hot Car Pet Safety Tips & What You Need To Know

You and your furry friend have been...

Prognosis Of Cats With Feline Leukemia Virus | Figo Pet Insurance

Q: A stray cat, whom we...

Q: For the past two...

More From Figo Blog
Five California Sites To Visit With Your Dog | Figo Pet Insurance

From being the first state to...

10 pet safe cleaners

We all know that keeping a clean house isn’t...

June Is Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month | Figo Pet Insurance

Q: I’m ready to get a cat....

Dog Breed Profile: Getting To Know The Beagle | Figo Pet Insurance

Playful. Energetic. Family friendly. Ears as...

Tips for training your German Shepherd

Are there specific positive reinforcement...

Puppy Training: 5 Basic Commands To Teach Your Dog

Responsible pet parents understand living with...

Black and white cat laying on bed peeking out from under white sheets

Cats are known for their personal hygiene and...

Large dog thethered to pole in street

To keep you informed on pet-related laws being...

HELP