We’ve all been through this phase of misunderstanding with our dog who was a great listener and then overnight completely forgot who we were. What happened to our little dog who used to stare at us and follow us on our walks, no matter what the distraction? Then the deafness gradually set in and the leash became tighter and tighter on walks. This is a classic stage in the life of a dog: the puppy becomes a fury that no longer listens to his master, that starts destroying the sofa and that seems to be interested in everything but us. This period is completely normal and natural and is in no way your fault. It is absolutely necessary to get this idea out of your head because we tend to feel guilty easily when we are not responsible for this phase of life in the dog. All dogs go through this phase from the age of 6 months to 18/24 months depending on the breed of your dog. However, some individuals will not give you a hard time, while others will turn into demons very quickly. So it’s totally random. Just like us, when we entered our teenage years, we didn’t listen to our parents as well and we were very interested in the rest of the world. So arm yourself with patience and let’s see how to survive this not always easy period.
SURVIVING YOUR TEENAGE DOG
EDUCATION OF THE DOG MAKES A FALL BACK
When your dog enters adolescence, you probably had the feeling that he had forgotten everything and that the learning you had worked on together seemed to have gone on vacation. Why is this? Simply because your dog will experience a hormonal increase and this event can totally disturb some dogs. This period corresponds to the biological maturity of an individual and it impacts the physical as well as the mental. Indeed, the dog will continue to grow physically and the rise in hormones can have a big impact on his behavior in general. Often, when dogs enter this phase, they tend to become physically stronger and also change their behavior around other dogs and some owners may be afraid to meet new dogs when Titou starts barking like crazy at the end of his leash. It is however very important to continue to socialize your dog so that his behavior does not worsen. Remember to keep your leash or lead loose, find out about the dog in front of you to make sure he’s sociable. And keep moving so that the meeting is not static.
SURVIVING YOUR TEENAGE DOG
SHOULD HE BE NEUTERED?
In principle, we immediately think of sterilization to solve these behavioral problems. However, this is not necessarily the best solution and may even have the opposite effect, as neutering too early can have a negative influence on your dog by making him more fearful, which can lead to reactivity, and some dogs may also lack physical development as sex hormones contribute to the development of the dog’s internal organs and skeleton. Most of the time, behavioral problems in dogs stem from the fact that their needs are not being met properly. However, we recommend that you contact a dog trainer who will be able to determine, through a complete assessment with you, whether the cause of these problems is hormonal or simply a lack of daily exercise.
ANTICIPATING YOUR DOG’S ADOLESCENCE
It’s important to work on your dog’s education beforehand so that adolescence goes more easily. When your puppy is still very small, encourage and reinforce all the good behaviors he suggests to you: he runs back to you outside, reward him with a treat or a toy he loves. He offers you a seat at the crosswalk, that’s great too. Any behavior that you enjoy and can reward should be encouraged. Be aware that the more a behavior is reinforced, the more likely it is to be repeated (in both good and bad ways).
SURVIVING YOUR ADOLESCENT DOG
Let’s take two examples: – If your dog digs in the garbage and eats delicious table scraps, even if it seems like a mistake to you, it is a behavior that the dog is likely to repeat because it has brought him pleasure. If you give your dog a treat every time he returns to the recall, this behavior will also be repeated more and more frequently.
Whether it’s with kibble or more palatable treats, REWARD your dog and don’t wait for him to do something wrong before punishing him. It is by anticipating that behavior problems will be less present. You can also be considerate during the whole puppy period so that Titou will have a good educational foundation before the fateful period. Arm yourself with a lanyard so that your dog is not tempted to go too far away by an interesting smell, don’t yell his name with an annoyed voice and make him do activities that will tire him out: chewing activity, kong-style occupation toys, looking for his food in the garden or in a digging mat, etc.
TEACH YOUR ADOLESCENT DOG TO BE CALM
The mistake not to make is to make your dog enduring by making him do 4 hours of walk a day under the pretext that he has grown up. By making your dog tough, it will be more and more difficult for him to settle down and be calm on a daily basis. Also, teach your lively young adult to be calm in the house and to enjoy those moments of relaxation. We tend to think that dogs are naturally calm and collected, but this is a mistake because they are not born with this in mind. Some individuals will indeed be calmer than others, but it is up to us to guide them so that they can settle down just about anywhere, no matter what the situation.
Choose a comfortable mat and associate it positively so that your dog associates that area with something pleasant. We also recommend that you get a mat that is easily portable and/or foldable so that you can take it anywhere (to your family or friends, etc.) and help your dog settle down with this mat as his “landmark” mat. This is a learning process that takes time, but will come in handy in the future. It is obviously logical that you will not ask your dog to be still on his mat if there is agitation next to him the first few times. Be patient and take the time your dog needs to make this a positive experience for him.
SURVIVING YOUR TEENAGE DOG
We see a lot of teenage or young adult dogs being abandoned in shelters today because their owners are often overwhelmed by their behavior and can’t find reliable solutions to improve their relationship with your dog. The most important thing is to not give up despite the difficulties and to surround yourself with a behavioral professional working through caring methods so that you can be guided through these phases that can be difficult to live with. It is also very important to realize that this is just a phase and that your dog will not stay like this indefinitely. In a few months, your little devil will be a well adjusted adult and you will be proud to have established a solid educational foundation for the best possible relationship.