Has you dog become easily distracted, hyper energetic, naughty, selectively deaf or even downright moody? If the answer is yes! - then you might well have a teenage puppy on your hands!
As the flood of hormones hits your pups brain their behaviour can become more challenging - and its as if you sweet adorable puppy has been replaced by their naughty twin!
The change in hormones will have an affect physicaly, mentally, and behaviourally and are part of your puppy’s journey to becoming a fully grown and socially mature adult dog. This change can start at around six months and dependent on the individual may continue until the dog is two to three years old! Much like humans, very puppy is unique and adolescence will affect each one differently - for some it may be mild, and for others its like someone has flipped a switch!
The most common visual signs are the behavioural changes. The ’selective hearing’ issue is a major one - (and so like human teenagers!) All the things you taught your young pup seem to have been forgotten, and they start to push boundaries becoming more impulsive and independent. You may now find that they ignore you and have a will of their own!. All the previous training getting your pup to focus on you seems forgotten, and now they are distracted by everything! Counter surfing for opportunistic snacking or secretive dustbin raiding, chewing cushions, or the tv remote, ripped up books, mauled shoes or socks, all destroyed when you are not looking…......does this sound familiar?
Hormonal changes may cause your dog to scent mark, hump cushions, other dogs or even friends. This can be seen most commonly in male dogs but it can also be seen in both genders.. Female dogs will generaly have their first season between 6-18 months - and of course be of more interest to male dogs too.
The other common issue during adolescence is an increase in reactivity. Your previously friendly bouncy pup may now start to bark or lunge at other dogs, and even humans and display increased interest in initiating skirmishes.
Don't despair! …. its all perfectly normal - if a little overwhelming and frustrating!
And we have some tips to help!
Your pup is genuinely not trying to make your life difficult - but the wave of chemicals hitting there brains makes it tricker for them to control impuse and remember previous training! What they need is your love and support and above all consistent guidance.
Continued Positive reinforcement training is key - the basics may have been taught and mastered at early classes but now is the time to continue with those basic cues. Try to maintain short fun sessions to engage your pups changing brain and reinforce the early work you put in. If distractions prove too much try going back a step or two - find somewhere quieter - inside maybe keep distances smaller or duration of the behaviour shorter.
Upping the reward value can also be another helpful ploy. Once a learnt behaviour seems to be solid we often stop rewarding or just offers kibble as the payout. Now with external distractions becoming increasing interesting whilst there internal environment is changing and developing - we need to compete to ensure their attention on us is even more valuable. Each dog has different preferences but explore what alternatives are on the market or try making some of your own doggy treats there are a multitude of recipes on the internet - and could be a fun joint activity if you have children at home. (pilchards biscuits are our favorite!) Other options could be, cheese -hot dogs -air dried meat treats - freeze dried liver - dehydrated fish skins -we have found the smellier the treat - the better! All of these can be cut into small pieces for rewarding.
Increasing exercise can help manage some of their increased energy. Puppies need a lot of sleep but the teenage dog may have more energy than before - and need to expend that before being able to settle and relax. Whilst some of this can be diverted though training and enrichment - you dog may now need longer walks to run off some of that energy. On lead walks don’t really fulfil your dogs needs mentaly or physically. Off lead walking gives them the best experience but we realise that its not always easy. Secure faced paddocks have been on the increase - like 'Teds place' where we arer based - and afford you dog complete security to run and romp and sniff without encountering potential trouble! If off lead really isn’t feasible then a long line or long lead can be an alternative.
Structure and management can help.Similar to human teens, adolescent dogs can benefit from some structure in their lives. Left to their own devices, your dog may make some poor choices that cause you frustration.
Preventing unwanted behaviours is sometime best tackled by manangent - preventing access to parts of the house with child gates for instance - a strong lidded dust bin -putting shoes away in a cupboard - it will all need disciple and perhaps an new routine for a while. Sometimes teenage dogs are tired, and simply need some guidance to get the rest they need and make good choices. Having a quiet safe room or crate where you pup can go and settle is important.
It can be frustrating and at times you may feel at your wits end, but remember adolescence doesn’t last for ever…. and take each small win as reassurance that you are getting there!
You are not alone.......
So many loving dog owners like you have been here too - and
Settle and Stay are here to help if you need some guidance …just call us!