Congratulations! Congratulations! You made it through the puppy years without any major injuries and have laid the foundation for many more years of happiness together. Your pup was 6 months old, and you breathed a sigh relief when those sharp puppy daggers were gone. You shared photos of your pup’s graduation from puppy kindergarten with an impressive list of good-manners behavior including sit, down and polite greeting.
Your sweet pup suddenly became a wild and crazy stranger. She is jumping all over visitors, doesn’t wait politely for her food, chews up household items more than ever and, when you call her to return to you on your hikes she doesn’t even glance over her shoulder. What’s the matter?
One word: Adolescence. This is scientifically called “adolescent phase conflict behavior.” A 2020 study by researchers from several universities in the UK confirmed that canines are less responsive to well-known cues.
What’s driving this?
Adolescence marks a transitional period in psychological and physical development. This stage begins at the beginning of puberty, and ends when an individual is considered to be an adult. Although there aren’t any hard and fast rules for the different stages of a dog’s life (puppyhood/adolescence/adulthood), most experts in animal behavior consider dogs to be adolescents around 6 to 12 months. Adolescence can last from 18 months to two years depending on the breed and individual. (Small breeds are more likely to mature and develop faster than large-breed dogs.
Like many other animals (including humans), dogs are programmed to become more independent as they age. This is an essential part of mammalian development. Dogs cannot remain dependent on their parents for their entire lives. They are expected to grow up and leave their home. Their brains are programmed for independence.
The problem is that most dogs, and all domesticated species, never get to leave their home. We control their lives, and make them dependent on us for everything. They don’t realize that. So, until their natural urges for independence subside, and they channel their desires into behaviors that we approve of, their wishes often conflict with ours.
THINGS TO HELP DOGS THAT HAVE DISABILITY
However, not all dogs go through this stage – or at least not all dogs find it as difficult during adolescence. Researchers try to find out what factors might be causing variations in a population. Researchers in the study I mentioned earlier discovered that adolescents who had less secure attachments to their caregivers were more likely to exhibit conflict behavior.
Researchers found that caregivers are more likely to surrender their pets to shelters during this time. This could be a result of “not enough time”, which could easily translate into “I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this crazy and wild dog who used to love me so much!”
Good news! If you have done the right things early with your puppy, it’s less likely that you will be overwhelmed by their natural, normal, and normal maturing process. It won’t happen, but it’s less likely to be as severe. It shouldn’t take long to get your puppy back on track if you have been consistent in training and socializing her. Keep in mind that she’s not being “bad.” Don’t get mad at her; she’s just being a teenager, and this too shall pass, aided by your continuing attention to training, good management, and relationship-building.
Let’s now look at the reasons for her “wild-child” behavior. We will discuss how to deal with these teen-dog behavior issues while maintaining a healthy relationship between you, your dog, and yourself.
Housetraining and chewing
You’ve done a great job so far. Your dog is very careful and will not have accidents.
A well-managed dog is one that has been housetrained for at least one year. Do not push your dog beyond her limits. Take her outside more often than she needs. You can set her up for failure (have accidents in her house) as an adolescent, and she will likely be less reliable with housetraining throughout her adult life.
You might think your dog will stop chewing after her permanent teeth have been in. However, her permanent teeth will still be in her mouth for many months. She will continue to chew until at least 18 months of age. Although most dogs enjoy chewing throughout their lives, it is not something they will do as much after puberty.
Keep your dog’s environment clean and tidy until she stops chewing as much. You can then relax and stop holding your breath.
The Adolescent Fear Period is a Warning
It can be very confusing to see your confident, outgoing dog suddenly become cautious and fearful when she is exposed to people or things that were familiar to her. Be careful, she is likely entering a fear phase. This is a critical issue to be aware of.
Although fear periods are not always as predictable as we once believed, they can happen anytime in the first 18-24 months of a dog’s life. Fear periods usually begin between 8 and 11 weeks of age. Your dog is already well into adulthood. Depending on the individual growth and maturity of your dog, one or more fear periods might occur every 6-24 months.
It is important to know if your dog is going through a fear phase. This will typically last between two and three weeks. A fear period can be characterized by a single painful or intimidating experience that can have a lasting impact on how your dog reacts to the stimulus. This phenomenon is known as “single event learning” and it means that a single negative fear-causing experience can cause a permanent, intense emotional response to a trigger.
Studies show that dogs are more likely to recover from a bad experience than dogs who have been through it. It is a good idea to contact a professional who is not a force-free member of the veterinary profession.
What about your previously well-trained, star-of-her-puppy-class who now seems to have forgotten everything you taught her? She hasn’t forgotten, she just has put things on hold to attend to her biological priority of finding her place among the world. She isn’t stubborn or trying to be spiteful; she’s just doing what she has to.
How can you handle it? You can keep training while you implement management safeguards. But, remember to make training fun!
Sometimes, we can get too serious in training. It can become a battle of wills to get the cued behavior we want. Teenagers want to have fun, not respond to our cues. Use lots of happy praises after each mark and treat to get what you both want. Play! Play!
These are some tips to help you get through the common training tasks that occur during your adolescent years.
Recall: If your dog suddenly forgets how to come when you call, get her back on the long line. You will keep your dog safe and stop her running away when you call. Make your “come when asked” practice more enjoyable by using “runaway recalls.” Place her near you and say her name. Then, when she looks at your face, shout “Come!” and she will run fast to chase you. To add excitement and fun, you can squeak a toy and toss it at her while she follows you. You can reinforce her love for chicken by using high-value treats.
Review. Review the basic behavior patterns that your dog is accustomed to: sit, stand, wait, touch, greeting, and touching. You need to practice in a controlled environment. If you do not have a control room, distractions can occur and you may lose focus. You and your dog are more likely to succeed if you work in a controlled environment. Your dog will also be more able to apply that success to real life. Keep it fun!
You can get your dog to play “Chase me!” games. This will make it easier for him to be with you. Play. Play. Do things that encourage exploration. You can play hide and seek with your dog, and she will use her nose to find it. Ask your dog to name her favorite toy and hide it. Ask your dog to find the treats hidden around your yard or house. Your lawn can be used as a snuffle mat. Discover the fun of teaching your dog object, color, and shape discrimination.Exercise. Regular exercise can help reduce your dog’s hyperactivity and adolescent behavior. You can avoid ever-escalating arousal by providing structured exercise. It is easy to do – ask your veterinarian to tell you how much exercise is appropriate for your dog’s age. This is important because you don’t want your young joints to be damaged. Swimming is a great low-impact activity for children.
Play sessions with compatible playmates can be a great exercise option for your dog and help to develop social skills.
Mental exercise is also important! These cognition games, which were mentioned previously, are both tiring and fun.
Empowerment. Empowerment is a key piece of the adolescent puzzle. When your dog is at this stage in her development, and she has begun to take control of her world, the more autonomy you can give it, the better she will feel emotionally and behaviorally. Imagine how your life would look if it were just as controlled as our dogs. Consider how you can give her more options. What toy would she prefer to play with? Which sweet treat would she prefer to eat? Which route would she prefer to take on your hike Is it better to be in the house or out in the backyard?
Combining empowerment with the suggestions above for management and training will ensure that you and your dog companion make it through puberty with flying colors. Your relationship will be not only intact, but even stronger. You don’t have any time to lose, so get going!
More Information on Past WDJ Articles
September 2014, “Games to Build a Reliable Recall Habit for Your Dog” Recall practice can be fun and effective.
“Best Food-Dispensing Toys,” Apr 2019, and “Five Tips For Food-Stuffed Dog Toys,” September 2021. How to harness your dog’s natural instinct to forage for food to enrich his life, keep him safe, and fill his alone-time.
September 2019, “Understanding Your Dog’s Nose,” It’s a fun and effective way for your dog to be more responsive to you and his behavior.
October 2017, “Are Canines Cognitive?” Dogs are more intelligent and capable of reasoning than we often give them credit for. You can teach your dog how to think. Teach your dog to discriminate color, shape, object and shape.
November 2016, “Training a dog to make choices,” You can make a huge difference in your relationship by allowing your dog to make small, conscious decisions in his daily life.
Fear with Your Adolescent Dog Whole