Adolescent dog or stroppy teenager?!
Just like people, puppies go through a tumultuous teenage stage too. With dogs this can happen at around eight months of age. It can be a challenging period for puppy owners. However, at least with a dog, there won’t be any, “I hate you”, as the bedroom door is loudly slammed! If you need some advice with an adolescent dog – read on.
Research has found that, just like humans, dogs go through a difficult teenage period. This often involves erratic and troublesome behaviour. Many puppy owners will understand this phase all too well. It usually occurs around six to eight months of age; (although can be up to eighteen months in large breeds). Typically, pups of this age become distracted and wilful. Frustratingly, they can also 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. Do remember too, that as much as your patience may be tested, it is a natural process of maturing into an adult. It will pass.
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 as they begin to rely on their innate canine instincts. They may begin to wander further away from their owners. They may 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 worrying 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. Sometimes, it might mean going back to basics with training and starting again, as if the puppy is new.
The fear period.
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 the puppy appears frightened of things that previously he was not bothered by. For example this might be strange dogs, people, objects, or places. Try to manage all the dog’s interactions carefully during adolescence. If your dog has a bad experience at this stage, it could 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. Let him manage situations so he can explore in his own time and at his own pace. Make sure all positive interactions are rewarded with tasty treats.
Avoid situations where you think your dog might be scared. For example, 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. 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, don’t worry! This is really not the case. Adolescence in puppies is a complicated developmental period and. As in human teenagers, it can be confusing and frustrating for the youngster themselves.
With the four-legged teen, the main thing is to keep calm. Persist with basic training, always reward for positive behaviour and you will be sure to come out the other side!