Just like in humans, dogs go through a period of adolescence. It occurs at the time of puberty for your pet. For small dogs, this starts at about five or six months. For larger dogs, this period begins a little later.
The behaviour of the adolescent dog
Adolescence, that period so dreaded by every parent on this planet! And unfortunately for you, dear masters, dogs are not spared, sorry. To tell you that patience and consistency will be your watchwords throughout the life of your dog (from 2 months until the end of his life) may seem too simple, and yet. It is only that, especially during the period of adolescence.
Nevertheless, I understand the discouragement of some people completely when, at the age of 6/8 months, their beloved puppy, which was perfect, becomes a real ordeal daily. I understand, and I was the first one; I was “jaded” more than once.
You find yourself after several months of great collaboration and absolute happiness with your puppy having to deal with behavioural problems that you had not seen coming and that you had not even imagined until then: excessive barking, running away, destruction, refusal of obedience, a dog that tests constantly, that pulls on the leash, that does not come back when called, and so on.
How does this phenomenon occur?
Just like for humans, there comes an age when hormones play tricks on us and not the least; it is called the period of adolescence! In dogs, this usually happens around 6/8 months, and it can last until the dog is two years old for some breeds (especially the large breeds). It is estimated that the smaller the breed, the earlier the seizure starts and ends, and the larger the breed, the later the seizure starts and ends. Moreover, in females, it often coincides with the arrival of the first heat.
Hormones cause physiological and psychological changes in our canine friends, leading to new fears or an increase in confidence. Therefore, the period of adolescence can be a time of crisis. It is a real upheaval for some, and they simply cannot manage it and therefore develop behaviours that can be embarrassing from our human point of view.
It is up to us, as masters, to accept this as we would with a 15-year-old child and to adapt our way of educating and communicating to find a balance in the relationship.
How to react to your dog’s adolescence?
Tip #1: Don’t give up! Be more stubborn than your dog and always remain in charge of everything: space (with his basket), contact (no response to his requests for attention), food (no begging, no self-service), etc. As for play sessions or training sessions, always decide on the beginning and end of each one and always end on something positive and successful.
Tip #2: Don’t get upset when your dog doesn’t obey. Simply ask yourself why your dog is not listening to you and readjust the technique you are using, the environment you are offering him or your attitude. Indeed, as your dog approaches adolescence, it’s as if he’s thinking, “What if I don’t listen? “So you need to rethink your attitude (possibly be firmer), change your technique (by finding a more appropriate motivator), or offer your dog sessions in a more neutral, less stimulating place, etc.
Tip #3: Pretend you are starting from scratch and reteach your dog the basics as if it were the first time by going over the basics with him in stages: sit, down, stay, recall, etc. Don’t let go of anything, and yes, I repeat it, but it is very important! Tell yourself that it is a complicated period, which will pass, but can leave traces if it is not well managed! So it’s up to you to make sure that your dog goes from being a puppy to an adult dog in the most coherent and benevolent way possible. Above all, don’t make the mistake of waiting and telling yourself that things will change with time: no! They won’t change if your dog reinforces and validates himself in certain bad behaviours (chewing on hands during games, jumping on guests and all family members, barking excessively, growling at the bowl, etc.). You need to take each problem one at a time and make it go away! Don’t see your dog’s non-obedience as an inevitability because he is in his teenage years! Take action!
Tip #4: adapt the expenses you propose to your dog. From the age of 6 months, your dog will need more physical, olfactory and mental expenditure than before. Don’t forget that a dog needs at least 30 minutes of good exercise per day, in various places, in freedom or semi-freedom (10m rope) with quality mental and olfactory stimulation sessions: tracking games, learning tricks, etc. Moreover, at this age, you can start all the sports activities that dog clubs (associations or professionals) generally propose, so do not hesitate.
Tip #5: continue the socialization by always privileging positive meetings (opposite sex, neutral ground, total freedom, etc.). If your dog no longer sees his fellow dogs, he may lose his canine codes and thus become de-socialized. For males, discuss with your veterinarian the possibility of castration if you see that your dog tends to “pick fights” systematically and without apparent reason with his male friends.
Tip #6: Keep control of your dog, maintain your status as a guide, companion and referent! It is precisely during this period that your dog will need you the most, even if you feel that he is moving away from you more and more. Indeed, your dog is gaining confidence, but often, dogs of this age are simply not equipped to manage/control everything! It’s up to you to show your dog that you are there to ensure his safety, balance and well-being!