Adolescence is HARD!! As our puppies mature and start to look more like adults, we expect adult behaviour from them. But anyone who has been a teenager, or who has lived with one, knows that its a difficult time, you’re still developing physically and psychologically and these expectations can be unrealistic for humans and dogs.
Trainers and owners focus on those crucial weeks and months of puppyhood, instilling basic training, good manners and establishing a lifelong relationship with our pups. Less research has been done in adolescent dogs, but we know that dogs are most likely to be relinquished at this stage, often due to behavioural problems.
It’s often the time when owners report to us that their dog has started barking, attention seeking, running off and not listening to cues, over-reacting to other dogs and people and generally being very frustrating and annoying to live with!
These problems do need addressing – we can’t just assume they will ‘grow out of it’. This is the time when they need calm and patient guidance more than ever. Crucially, they are not trying to be dominant. They are just being teenagers!
So how can we help them? (and ourselves)
- Expectation Management: Help your dog by managing their expectations – be clear about what they can and can’t do. Don’t sometimes let them jump on you and sometimes tell them off – unless you have a very clear and consistent cue for when they are and aren’t allowed to do it.
- Walk on By: Teach them to be calm and happy NOT interacting with people and other dogs. Do this using rewards that are as or more valuable than saying hello, to reduce frustration.
- Together Time: Continue to build your relationship through shared activities. Training doesn’t have to be dull, repetitive or frustrating. Have fun with your dog.
- Safe spot: Give your dog a safe haven in the home, a secure base where they can be undisturbed. This is particularly crucial if you have a busy household, children or other pets, or through any household routine disruptions. Make sure some of the safe haven (bed, blanket, crate or other valued items) are portable for taking your dog visiting or on holiday.
- Respect what your dog is saying: Learn to read dog and recognise when your dog wants to avoid something or move away. Help them out.