Adolescent dog or stroppy teenager?!
Just like people, puppies go through a tumultuous teenage stage too and this can happen at around eight months of age. It can be a challenging period for puppy owners but at least you won’t get so much in the way of shouting, “I hate you” as they slam loudly upstairs to their bedroom!
Research has found that just like humans, dogs go through a difficult teenage period where they become erratic and troublesome. Many puppy owners will understand this phase all too well when their puppies hit around six to eight months of age, (although this can be up to eighteen months in large breeds). Typically, pups of this age become distracted, willful, and appear to forget instructions that they had previously been taught and understood.
Understanding what happens during this period is the key to knowing how to deal with the behaviours you might encounter. Puppies around this age generally start to become more independent – perhaps like teenage children they begin to make decisions for themselves believing they know better!
This can frequently result in a puppy not listening to his owner so much as they begin to rely on their own innate instincts. They may begin to wander further away from their owners and not come back when they are called – even though this might not have been an issue in previous months. Many puppy owners may feel deflated throughout this stage and worry that their puppy has turned into a delinquent monster!
However, this phase will pass and it is important for puppy owners to remain consistent and patient. It may mean going back to basics with training and starting again from scratch, as if the puppy is new.
During this period puppies also have a second fear stage which experts believe comes with hormone surges – it can happen once, or several times beyond the age of six months. This may mean that the puppy appears frightened of things that previously he was not bothered by – this could be strange dogs, people, objects or places. It is important that all interactions during this stage are managed carefully, because if your dog has a bad experience this might mean it will have a long lasting effect on his future behaviour.
It is crucially important not to punish your dog, or to make him face his fears, but to manage situations so that he can explore in his own time and at his own pace – make sure all positive interactions are rewarded with tasty treats. Do not allow your dog to experience negative things as this could impact on the way he sees things in the future. Avoid situations where you think your dog might be scared – such as areas where there are lots of rambunctious off lead dogs – or heavy traffic. It is actually better to avoid these things altogether for a while, so that your dog only has positive experience of the world.
For dogs that have lacked socialization in the earlier months the adolescent stage can pose more challenges and some dogs may become overly reactive, or even aggressive to things they are fearful over. If you feel this is the case with your dog it is best to seek the advice of a good dog trainer or behaviourist.
While it is very easy to imagine that your puppy is deliberately testing your patience this is really not the case. Adolescence in puppies is a complicated developmental period and as in human teenagers, can be confusing and frustrating for a youngster. The main thing is to keep calm, persist with basic training and rewarding for positive behaviour and you will be sure to come out the other side!
Note: This article was written before COVID-19