Are you the owner of a teenage dog?
By Sarah Groves - your puppy trainer covering Neath, Port Talbot and Swansea
Just when you think the awkward puppy stage is over - you think YESSS! I've finally got a dog!
Adolescence in dogs normally starts at around 5 - 7 months old, and can continue up until 18 - 24 months, depending on the individual.
During this time, there is a lot of hormonal changes and 'rewiring' of the brain.
In social species, the adolescent period tests the family bonds, pushing boundaries and serves the purpose of allowing the animal to explore further beyond the family unit to find a mate.
The adolescent period can hit you like a ton of bricks because it comes with a lot of behaviour changes.
Infact, this is a time where dogs often get rehomed because owners have no idea why all of a sudden their well behaved puppy has changed so dramatically.
Behaviour changes include:
- Lack of focus
- Behaviours previously known (such as sit, lie down) appears to be gone
- Recall has gone out of the window - your dog will run across the park to greet another person or dog while totally ignoring you
- Walking on the lead becomes hard to manage as your dog is pulling to say hi to everyone in the street
- Some dogs become fearful of things in the environment that they would have previously taken no notice of
- Over stimulated and appearing 'hyperactive'
- Increased frustration
- Barking at people or dogs when on the lead
- Not listening
And the list can go on!
What you can do to help
Be patient, and acknowledge that this isn't going to be a forever thing!
However, this isn't to say you should sit back and do nothing, because even though there will be an end, we want to make sure that your dog isn't rehearsing unwanted behaviours over and over again - because practice makes perfect and we don't want your dog learning to ignore you at the sight of other exciting things in the environment.
Go back to basics
Take a step back with training and start again, teaching your dog all of the behaviours you like seeing. Make training sessions as easy as possible for your dog to succeed.
Once you build focus, recall and walking on the lead becomes a lot easier to manage.
Building calm is one of the top behaviours I teach during one to one training sessions. Once you have a dog who is calm(er), you are more likely to get a dog who is able to think, listen and be in a better frame of mind to learn more effectively.
Have fun and take the pressure off yourself!
Don't worry about going out and aiming to take your dog on an hour walk - instead drive your dog to a quiet field and have fun with training, teaching tricks, focus games and continue to rehearse the behaviours you like seeing.
By doing this you will take the pressure off yourself, build the bond between you and your dog and give your dog the mental stimulation they need.
Find a reward based trainer near you to help!
If you're the owner of an adolescent dog and live within the Neath, Port Talbot and Swansea area, and feel like you need a helping hand with training, please don't hesitate to get in touch!