Adolescence – what happened to my well mannered puppy?
Just as humans experience “terrible twos”, a similar transition occurs with puppies (just a little sooner!). You may have noticed that your previously well-mannered puppy is testing boundaries and has become, well, stubborn. Occurring generally between the ages of 4-7 mths, you may notice your puppy displaying behaviours it hasn’t done since you first brought them home; toileting accidents, barking, chewing, attempting to dominate other pets and other unruly behaviours may begin to surface. This phase corresponds with hormone surges that can increase excitability, intensity and cause over-reactions to well…. Just about everything! It is during this stage that many dog owners ‘give up’ and either re-home or surrender their dog to an animal rescue. With some knowledge, preparation and a wee-bit of patience, you (and pup) will be able to survive this phase and come out the other side with your relationship and sanity still intact.
So how do we get through this phase?
As stressful as it can all be, it is important to stay calm and go back to basics with training. If you were too caught up with all those kisses and cuddles (and really, who could blame you!) and didn’t implement a solid training regime, it's not too late to do so. Early intervention and consistency is key.
Is it praise? Is it food? Is it toys? Majority of pups are driven by food however, some respond better to praise or physical contact with their owner. You need to find what your dog values most- and use that to help guide their behaviour.
‘Keep it simple stupid’ couldn’t be more appropriate in this case. Use short, sharp phrases to help illicit particular commands; ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘come’, ‘no’ and so on. When your dog complies with any of these commands, reward your dog with either praise, toy/play or a treat.
These commands should also be used to teach your puppy self control. What do we mean by self control? Teaching them commands such as “leave it” or “drop it” which can be transferable into other areas of your dog’s life and thus help stop undesirable behaviours in their tracks.
If you haven’t already introduced a crate to your puppy, now is the time. Crates provide a ‘safe sanctuary’ for your puppy- somewhere they can retreat to when overwhelmed and also somewhere they can sleep. Your puppy likely won’t like the idea initially, however perseverance is key.
All too often obedience training is implemented when a puppy is first taken home, however neglected in the later months. Obedience skills should be regularly refreshed (weekly), otherwise you may find your puppy becomes lazy when asked to do/not to do a particular command. Just as obedience training should be regularly refreshed, rewards should also be maintained for reinforcement.
Puppy Chewing and Teething
Teething can last for up to 10mths of a dogs life, so ensure chew toys are always kept at hand. Also ensure all materials that could be hazardous to your pup are kept secure and out of your pup’s reach. Rewards should be used to encourage use of chew toys and discourage chewing of other objects.
Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Bored dogs are generally more likely to become destructive and develop other related behavioural issues. Physical and mental stimulation helps prevent these behaviours and is particularly important for energetic adolescent dogs. Activities such as walks, runs, fetch, playing with toys, obedience training, purposed puzzles and food-dispensing toys are all ways to keep mentally engage your dog.
Cover photo courtesy of Danika B Photography.