Most puppy parents spend the first 6 months of their dog’s life raising the newest addition to their family to be a good canine citizen. This process usually involves socializing the puppy, housetraining the puppy, and working on basic manners training with the puppy. After about 6 months of hard work, most parents feel as though they have established a strong relationship with their new dog, with a good foundation of basic manners and house-training.
…But all of this good behavior suddenly changes when your puppy hits 6-8 months of age. The puppy that once depended on you for everything, came when called every time, and was an overall honors student, is now starting to act up at home. He thinks it is fun to run the other way when you call and sitting seems optional at best. Every item in your home seems to be a possible chew toy and every other person, child and dog seems to be a thousand times more interesting than you.
Don’t fret, your dog is not a devil puppy, he is just a Teenager! The “Teenage Years” occur when your dog’s hormones start to shift and behavioral changes manifest. Canine Adolescence can start as early as 18-20 weeks and last until your dog is about 2 years old. Although the “teenage years” can be filled with relationship building, funny memories, and joy they can also be filled with challenges, frustrations and embarrassments if you are not prepared.
Teenage dogs test boundaries, have lots of energy and sometimes appear “deaf” to previously well-trained manners cues. They can also appear overly confident or overly shy. Sound familiar? If so, it is important to remember that, just like human teenagers, your dog still needs love, guidance and support from his parents no matter how frustrating some of his behaviors may be.
Here are some common signs that your dog is losing his puppy license and entering the world of canine adolescence:
- Ignoring your manners requests on occasion
- Mounting objects/people/other dogs
- Running off when called
- Leg lifting when urinating in males
- Squaring up to other dogs
- Adult dogs seems to be “correcting” your dog for rude play gestures
- They have more energy on a daily basis and nap less
During the “Teenage Years,” your dog’s behavior and temperament will start to stabilize, as he becomes the individual he will be for the rest of his life. He is not a baby any more, and his likes and dislikes will become much more apparent. Additionally, as your dog matures through this phase, you will likely recognize areas in your dog’s training and socialization that could use improvement.
At The Peaceful Dog we suggest enrolling your dog in a “High School” Training Program. High School for dogs involves:
- Social Butterfly: Continue to socialize your dog to new people, dogs and places through their adolescence. Just because your dog isn’t a puppy anymore doesn’t mean that they are done learning the lessons of life. If you want a family dog, it is important that your dog continues to meet people of all ages, size and color. The same goes for meeting other dogs – they should be all breeds, ages and size. Taking group-training classes is a great way to keep your dog socialized and their manners up to par. Training classes expose your dog to new environments, people and other dogs in a controlled environment that is designed to promote good behavior and minimize bad behavior. There are also several everyday activities that you can include your dog in that will continue to socialize them: take your dog on at least 3-4 walks per day, on errands, on car rides, to family BBQs, or set up play dates at a friend’s house.
2. It’s not Dominance, It’s Behavior!
If your dog engages in a behavior that you don’t like – such as barking for attention, pulling on leash, not coming when called – think about how you are actually inadvertently reinforcing these behaviors for your dog. Remember that your dog will repeat any behavior that is rewarded and will reduce any behavior that is ignored. Watch for behaviors you like and reward them often! Dogs do what works for them!
3. Dog Play
If your puppy has only a few good friends he is definitely missing out on socialization. A few dog friends do not represent the entire the dog population. Your puppy should have friends of all different breeds, color, sizes and sex! If you give your puppy and teenage dog a wide variety of positive experiences with other dogs, they will most likely grow up calm and confident around other dogs. Dog play involves setting up play dates with friends’ dogs, playing off leash in a safe area of a park, hiking with other dogs and spending time relaxing in the presence of other dogs. Positive experiences should be controlled and supervised. Dog parks and large day cares should be researched well before enrolling your dog.
4. A Tired Dog is a Well-Behaved Dog
How much exercise does your adolescent dog require? The answer will vary from breed to breed. My general rule of thumb is your teenage your dog should have at least 4 walks per day and two of those walks should include 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. At The Peaceful Dog exercise means off-leash play such as taking your teen out for a run with you, hiring a dog walker or dog runner, playing in the park off leash, a game of fetch in an enclosed area, fetch and tug in the home that is exciting enough to get your dog panting! A tired dog is a well-behaved dog! You want to channel your teen’s hormones into productive doggy outlets to avoid nuisance barking, chewing, digging and leash pulling!
5. Teaching Impulse control
Impulse control is the corner stone to any teenage dog training program. By impulse control I mean training exercises that teach dogs to control their impulses rather than just reacting. Some great examples are teaching your dog to:
- · Leave It
- · Wait at doorways
- · Wait before the food bowl is put down
- · Wait before having toys thrown
- · Sit before greeting another dog
- · To relax when you relax
6. Chew Toys:
Chewing is not just for puppies. Chewing provides mental enrichment for dogs and can be a self-soothing behavior. Some great chew toys are:
- Kongs are like pacifiers for dogs! Use them to keep your teenage dog calm and engaged. A dog that is busy chewing on his own toy is not learning to beg at the dinner table, jump on guests or chew the coffee table. Kongs can be filled with a variety of delicious food such as:
- wet dog food
- sweet potato
- peanut butter
- cream cheese
- plain yogurt
- you can also try freezing a stuffed kong to create a Kongcicle for summer fun!
- Antler Horns: Durable for most size dogs.
- Nylabones: Durable for all size dogs.
It’s crucial to continue to train and socialize your adolescent dog. As annoying, frustrating and tiring as human teenagers can be, we never give up on them. We keep loving them, educating them and trying to be the best parent we can be. Our dogs deserve no different.
To find educational materials on Teenage Dogs check out Dogwise.com. To find a local certified trainer check out the Association of Pet Dog Training trainer network, www.APDT.com. If you live in New York City and need help with your rowdy teenager please contact founder and director of training Lauren Camerini at ThePeacefulDog.com.