Get in touch: jessica[at]upwarddog.co.uk | 07874 150636
Teenage dogs during adolescence can be a trying time for many dog owners: your puppy is turning into an adult, trying to find his feet, and testing boundaries.
Here are some tips from The Upward Dog on making the transition easier on him and you!
When does it begin?
The smaller the breed, the earlier they are likely to mature, and thus the sooner they will enter adolescence. For smaller breeds, this can be as early as eighteen weeks (though somewhere around the five month mark is most common), and for very large breeds it can be as late as eighteen months.
In reality, though… It depends on the individual dog!
It must end soon, right?
Once your pup hits adolescence, you may wonder how long you can put up with these new behaviours. Generally speaking, the behaviour is unlikely to be constant – you’ll notice a somewhat bumpy path of unwanted adolescent ‘symptoms’, which will have a general upward curve at the beginning, a downward one at the end.
For most dogs, adolescence lasts from a few months up to a year, but every dog is different!
How will I know?
It will become obvious to you that your dog is entering adolescence: some days are like living with a whole new dog, but it is just a stage your puppy has to go through to reach full maturity.
Some of the things you may notice are:
- Reactivity towards other dogs
As hormones start to increase, dogs may become less tolerant of others of their own sex, especially if that other dog is not neutered. It doesn’t help that, at this time, older dogs will be less tolerant of him. What was once an annoying puppy that could be shooed away with a paw flick has now turned into a 15kg nightmare that hurts other dogs, if he jumps on them.
- Reactivity towards humans
It is as though your dog has forgotten all of the socialisation you exposed him to in the early days! If it’s a sudden dislike of one type of person – men with baseball caps, for example – it’s likely that you will be able to embark on a programme of training that helps him to stop fearing those particular people. If it’s more widespread, your dog is showing teeth, or there are signs that this is getting worse, you must consult a professional, qualified behavioural practitioner for advice.
- Short attention span
With all the changes going on in your dog’s body, the world becomes an exciting place full of things to discover, and so little time to do so! He’s likely to go through a phase of finding it difficult to stay calm, or concentrate on training, for long periods of time. Just go with it. Keep training sessions short and snappy with lots of ‘successes’ for the dog (now is not the best time to teach complex, slow-to-master behaviours), and make sure you’re using mental and physical stimulation to manage his increasing energy levels.
- Forgotten his recall
He’s not forgotten how to return to you, it’s just that he is now less afraid of the world and ready to explore it, so you become less interesting. If you mastered a good (and early) recall in puppyhood, this time should be easier for you. Only call your dog when you can see he’s likely to come (e.g. wait for a break in play, if he’s with other dogs), so you don’t let him develop the idea that him not coming the first time is acceptable. Also, don’t always recall him to spoil his fun, give lots of recalls (with high value rewards) during a walk, not just one recall at the end, when it’s time for the fun to end. If he’s having real issues with this, go back to basic recall training, and take him out on a long training line, so that he can’t go anywhere.
- Etc! Etc! Etc!
So this isn’t the definitive list: anything your pup learnt easily at twelve weeks may seem forgotten by twelve months. It’s unlikely he has forgotten his training completely, but he is now being asked to ‘perform’ against a background of far more distractions, both external (through his new found adventurer’s spirit) and internal (hormonal surges). Be ready to ignore unwanted behaviours that seek attention (e.g. barking, humping), or distract from those that are harmful (e.g. chewing the television cables).
He’s just no fun to be around
It’s common for owners to feel like they’re out of their depth, and it’s no wonder that so many adolescent dogs end up in rehoming centres. It is not an easy time for any dog’s human family, but it does pass. No matter how you feel, don’t shout or scold him for his behaviour: this will likely make it worse, as he will become frightened of you and/or enjoy the attention the shouting gives him.
Teenage dogs help
If it’s all getting too much, we can help: teenage dogs are going through a phase, and with calm, positive training, they can get through the difficult stages! Click here to get in touch and see how we can help with problem behaviours.
Keep training, ignore or distract from unwanted behaviours as appropriate, and seek professional help if you need it!