You WILL survive this phase with some knowledge, tricks and many withdrawals from your pool of patience!
“What happened to my good puppy?” countless dedicated owners have asked themselves once their beloved pet turns 6 months mark and enters their “teenage months”. This period where your dog begins sexual maturity involves a ton of changes to your dog’s biological, physical, and psychological makeup. As a result, their behaviour is affected.
As mentioned above, your dog’s adolescent period typically begins around six months of age, and ends when a dog reaches physical maturity around the eighteen months to two years old mark, depending on the breed. The most pronounced behavioural issues will usually be noticed between six months to one year of age.
At this point, you may wonder why you even gave your dog a name because they rarely listen when you call it. You might wonder if your dog has suffered amnesia, because you swear that gorgeous pup knew all their basic commands a mere month or two ago. While having a “teenage dog” can test your patience, the good news is it is a phase. With some tricks and tips, the both of you will survive.
Too much freedom too soon
In my opinion, many puppy owners give too much freedom, too soon. Just because your pup is mostly housebroken doesn’t mean they should have free range of your home, especially when you aren’t there. Impulses run rampant through a teenage dog and the temptation to destroy a shoe, chew an electric cord or show a throw pillow who’s the boss could easily get the best of your pup. It’s no secret to regular readers of my blogs that my favourite puppy accessory is an exercise pen (aka an “ex pen”). An ex pen provides both freedom and security without putting your valuables or your puppy at risk. The ex pen should continue to hold your dog while you’re away during the adolescent phase. All dogs are different and mature at various rates. I personally don’t begin to leave a dog unsupervised out of the ex pen until their first birthday has passed, and even then, I still limit access to the home using baby gates and closed doors.
Keep it social
Socialization must continue during the adolescent phase. Don’t assume that because your four-month-old pup was great with all other dogs that they will stay that way without any further meetings with new dogs. This goes with new people and situations as well. Practice makes perfect. Keep bringing on the new situations and your dog’s social skills will continue to grow. Same goes for new people. Get out and let your pup continue to interact with strangers.
Don’t chill on the training
As with socialization, your teenage dog will need regular refreshers on basic skills and would also love to learn new tricks and commands at this age. Remember- teenagers don’t like to work for free, so keep the praise, treats and toys on hand during these training sessions.
Impulse control needs some work at this phase. I like to make it a game. Use your rope toy to teach “give”, a treat on the ground to teach “leave it” and hide and seek to teach “wait”. All these activities work well with a teenager because they are fast, fun and offer a reward.
Keep in touch with the breeder
Sometimes when an adolescent dog is driving you nuts, you need to talk to someone who has experienced the teenage phase dozens of times. Your dog’s breeder knows your dog’s breed and family line very well and is a great person to call when you’re at your wits end. They can provide you with their own tricks and tips, as well as reassure you that it is only a phase.
Keep your head up
As someone who owns a 7 month-old Terrier, I can say to anyone going through the “teenage period” that 1. I feel you. 2. Pour me a drink. However, I am an optimist, so I will give you some good news about this phase. Providing you bought your puppy as an 8 -12 week old baby from a reputable CKC member breeder, by this point some positive things have happened.
- Toilet training is about 90% done. Apart from the occasional accident, your puppy should be able to only go to the washroom outdoors providing you stick to schedule and are aware of all signs they give you to tell you they “gotta go”.
- Teething is almost over. Rejoice! Teething generally happens before adolescent and tends to wind down around the 7 month mark. That being said, your dog still requires toys to chew on and they will need to be stronger now that they have their adult teeth.
- You can leave your puppy alone for a bit longer. While you only had a one to two hour limit while leaving your puppy in their crate or ex-pen a few months ago you can now go a couple more hours provided they’ve had exercise and gone to the bathroom.
- They can walk properly on a leash. My Dandie Dinmont Terrier is getting better and better on the leash. It’s so much easier to take your dog for a brisk walk to burn off some steam when they get into one of their energetic moods. If you use a dog walker, this is the time where you might be able to switch from solo puppy visits to pack walks, which will save you a bit of money and allow your dog to socialize daily.
- If you show your dog in conformation, you can now enter the Puppy Classes and try to earn points. You can also compete in some other CKC events like Earthdog Tests and Field Dog Junior Tests. Other events require your puppy to reach 12 or 18 months due to avoid injury.
- Your bond is stronger with your dog. If you got your puppy when they were an 8 -12 week old youngster, time has been on your side and you now have developed a good relationship with your dog.
The adolescent phase of your dog’s life can test your patience, but by this time next year it will be just a memory. With these tips and a good sense of humour, you will have a well-adjusted adult dog as your best friend for years to come.