Seemingly out of nowhere your six-month-old puppy has started chewing up furniture, marking the carpet and ignoring your commands. What’s caused your sweet, well-trained puppy to begin acting out?
They’ve entered puppy adolescence.
So, what exactly is “puppy adolescence” and how do you know when your dog has hit puberty?
Puppy adolescence typically begins when your dog is about six to seven months old and can last anywhere from one to three years. At this stage of development your pet will experience significant growth spurts, which can be painful and may cause erratic behavior. More importantly, significant physical changes are taking place inside the brain, which is why your dog’s personality can vastly differ from its puppy personality.
Some dogs experience only minor changes in behavior while other changes may be severe enough to completely alter your pet’s personality. Spaying or neutering your animal can lessen the hormonal effects, however, nothing will prevent this natural phase in your pup’s development from occurring.
How do you know when your dog has reached adolescence?
- Brain Farts
Simple tasks that your pet has been trained to perform since birth suddenly seem daunting. Basic commands such as “sit” and “stay” result in only blank stares from your dog. Try again a few minutes later, however, and your pet performs these tasks easily. Remember when we said that your dog was experiencing significant changes in its brain development? Well, “brain farts” can be a common symptom of those changes.
- Increased Stubbornness
Just like human teenagers don’t want to listen to mom and dad, teenage dogs are also trying to separate themselves from their owners during the adolescent stage. They aren’t just being difficult; though, they’re learning to make decisions for themselves based on their own experiences and reasoning.
So, now that you know the signs of adolescence, how can you make this development period easier for you and your pet?
Be Persistent and Patient
If your dog simply ignores you when you give them a command, don’t take it personally. Remember that at this stage of their development, it is normal for them to test their limits and rebel against you. However, that does not mean that you should allow this kind of behavior to persist. If your dog ignores you when you give a command, take them to a less stimulating area where it is difficult to ignore you. Repeat the command and wait for them to comply. Once they do, reward them. This is not about struggling for power; it’s about positively reinforcing your dog’s good behavior.
- Set Your Dog Up for Success—Not Failure
Worried that your dog will get overexcited and ignore your commands as you enter a busy pet store, but you don’t have the patience to wait for the proper response? Well, don’t take them into the pet store. Simply put, you should not ask your dog to do anything that you do not have the time to enforce. It will be confusing for your animal and could lead to training difficulties down the road.
- Continue Training
Dog training classes help maintain a more structured routine for pets and also have the added benefit of keeping the owners more consistent in their everyday training outside of the course.
Many dogs begin to show signs of aggression toward other dogs or strangers during adolescence. Even dogs that were friendly puppies may bark at neighborhood dogs or growl at non-threatening passersby. To combat this, your dog must have positive interactions with unknown animals and people. Regular visits to the dog park, on-leash walks with a neighbor’s dog, or backyard play-dates with a known furry friend are all great ways to develop your pet’s social skills.
- Stay Active
Young dogs have a lot of energy, which is why it is important for them to receive an adequate amount of time to play fetch and run. However, long leisurely walks are just as important because they provide an opportunity to sniff and explore—two mentally stimulating activities that aid in your pet’s healthy development.
Remember, adolescence is a normal growth stage and even if your pet’s behavior changes dramatically, the worst of it should only last a few months. Keep up with your pet’s training and stay patient and you will be rewarded with a well-trained, healthy dog.