As a trainer I find that many students become very frustrated with their puppies during their adolescents. Students are confused as to why their puppy, who was eager to please and looked to them for direction a week ago have now turned into this ball of energy who appears to have forgotten what they have learned. I’ve even seen this in the star obedience students! This confusion by pet owners is very common and the best answer I can give dog owners at this time is it’s their dogs age. Do you remember your adolescent years? I sure do, my body was going through so many changes and many times I didn’t want to be seen with my parents let alone listen to them!
As in humans, your dog has critical stages of development, which are:
|Neonatal Period||Birth – 14 days||Most critical time for sensory development|
|Transition Period||10 – 20 days||Continued sensory development. Start to display social signals|
|Socialization Period to other dogs||3 – 12 weeks||Critical time for socialization with other dogs.|
|Socialization Period to other species||7 – 12 weeks||Critical period for socialization with other species.|
|Juvenile Period||10 weeks – 6 months||Puppies begin to learn consequences of their behavior.|
|Adolescence||6 months – 18 + months||Increased hormonal changes and testing boundaries|
|Social Maturity||Between 18 months – 2 years||Depending on the breed your dog will become physically mature. Small breeds mature much earlier than large breeds.|
A dogs adolescence is between the age of 6 – 18 months. During this stage of development your puppy will have increased hormonal changes. You may notice your male dog lifting his leg or your female dog my have her first estrus cycle. You may also notice that your dog is ganglier looking, their paws and ears do not fit the rest of their body. During this stage you also might notice increased energy and testing their boundaries within their ‘pack’, at home.
Here are some tips for surviving your dogs adolescence.
Exercise is always important for your dog, but even more so during this time. It’s a time for them to explore new surroundings and situations as well as burn off some energy. Exercise consists of both physical and mental stimulation. Make time to take your dog for a walk, run, play date, or a beach cruise. While playing fetch with your dog in the house or letting them play in the big backyard by themselves may be good fun, it’s not enough during this time in your dog’s life. If you don’t have time, try taking your dog to a well-established doggie daycare a few times a week. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog.
Crate training is one of the best things that you can train your dog as it gives them a safe place to be, their bedroom so-to-speak. Dogs are den animals they prefer small spaces. Properly crate training your dog can help eliminate problem behaviors. Your puppy needs to earn their right for freedom within your house. As a puppy they investigate things with their mouths thus you may find they put cords, rugs, books, need I continue, in their mouth. Your puppy is teething, they need to chew, thus you may find they find the sofa leg, dining room table, or wall to help relieve their desire to chew. All of these undesired behaviors, and more, can be eliminated by crate training.
If you haven’t begun your training program with your puppy by this age START NOW! The sooner you begin training your dog the better. Teaching your dog simple behaviors such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘stay’, and ‘come’ will help give your dog direction. If you do not train your dog they will not look to you for direction and do what is in their best interest. If you have trained your dog on the above behaviors but they seem to have forgotten what they have learned BE CONSISTANT AND FOLLOW THROUGH! If you are tired and just give up your dog will ‘take you to the cleaners’, you will have to retrain them at a later time. Be patient, understand that your dog is ‘testing their boundaries’ with you, and that this is very common!
Always incorporate play into your training sessions and keep your sessions short and positive. My favorite peace of advice to dog owners is ‘nothing in life is for free’ your dog must ‘sit’ or ‘down’ before they receive anything. A ‘sitting’ dog is not a jumping dog, is not a bolting out the door dog, it is a dog that is looking to you for the next bit of direction.
Spay or Neuter
At this developmental stage your dog will go through increased hormonal changes, which can affect their behavior. Spaying or neutering your pet can help decrease the ‘surge’ of hormonal changes as well as help decrease our pet overpopulation. Please keep in mind spaying and neutering alone will not be your cure all solution, it’s important to implement the above tips in conjunction.
Most importantly, understand and expect your puppy to go through this crazy stage of development, and it’s guaranteed that they will outgrow their adolescence! Have a good sense of humor and know that you will have stories to tell in the future.