Living with the Teenage Dog
By: Shawna Gallagher, ABCDT ~
Did you bring home a cute little puppy or were you brave enough to adopt a younger dog during the teenage phase? You remember that adorable little fluff ball that followed you wherever you went, aced puppy class, housetrained in one weekend and listened intently to every word. If you're wondering what happened to your sweet little puppy, congratulations you now have a teenager! Not to fear your sweet little puppy that you fell in love with is still there, you just need to find him again!
Adolescent period starts around 4 - 6 months for small dogs and 9 - 12 for larger breeds, lasting until 18 - 24 months. What is going on during this phase? Basically it is hormones. Your cute little puppy is just growing up and becoming sexually mature. The teen phase is different for every dog some dogs you will notice behavior changes more than others.
What should you expect during this phase of development?
As your puppy matures their senses become more developed. All of a sudden trees have tops, birds fly, and squirrels run along the fence just to name a few. They also find themselves wanting to explore their world, which can be challenging for us because all of a sudden we are no longer the center of their world.
Physically Stronger and Bigger!
This is especially true for the larger breeds, all of a sudden they are bigger and much stronger. They may not fully realize it but we sure do. Especially as a cute little puppy we had to bend down to pet when they jumped up for attention. But now when they jump they are able to knock us off our feet or accidently scratch or bump us with their teeth. This Hurts!
They are also noticing more of the world around them so they will try to get a longer sniff or follow a new exciting scent into the bushes. This leads to more pulling on the leash. Larger dogs can even discover the wonderful free buffet that is the kitchen counter/ Loafs of bread, freshly cooked hamburgers, or even unopened bag of chips can become the perfect crime opportunity for teenage dog.
Don't even think that you will be able to drain your dog's energy just by going on a couple of walks. In fact when Triton was at this stage I could have walked him all day long and he would still be rearing to go and getting into everything. The best thing you can do for their endless energy is keep them occupied with all sorts of things to do. Go on walks, interactive feeding games, training, a variety of toys, and free play with other dogs.
Adolescents is when your puppy is becoming sexually mature and an unaltered dog typically has only one thing on their mind and that is reproducing! They tend to feel the need to roam and mark their territory, even if that territory is your couch or other piece of furniture. You will also notice an increase in the need for humping, now keep in mind some dogs that have been fixed will still maintain the need to hump but it is not as strong as it would be if they were altered.
Other things to keep in Mind
Your dog may experience some fear and shyness even with things that they were okay with before. They can seem like they forgot all of the training you with them as a puppy. The main reason for this is that their world just got a lot bigger and there are a lot more distractions than before. Some of the large and giant breeds will seem gangly and very awkward. If you did not train your puppy or you were like me and adopted a dog that was just entering the adolescent phase this will haunt you now. Your dog will have no impulse control or basic manners.
Other Common Problems
Destructive chewing typically starts around the 4 month mark, will get a little better and can reappear around 7 months. The best thing to do for this is properly exercise your dog, provide appropriate chew toys like frozen Kongs, elk antlers, bully sticks and nylabones. If you are unable to supervise your dog providing some form of confinement like a crate or a bedroom is best. Prevention is the key!
Stealing items and running off can be another problem behavior. Keep in mind that chasing after your dog yelling is rewarding your dog. Instead you will want to encourage your dog to come to you, make sure you reward this behavior. Teaching your dog a trade game and the drop it cue will go a long way with correcting this behavior.
The best thing you can do is have a sense of humor, provide your dog with proper energy outlet and reward your dog for good behavior.