Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Canine Adolescence

Just like humans, dogs go through an awkward and troublesome adolescence that can be challenging for some dog owners. Depending on the dog, this stage can take place anywhere between 6-18 months. It is usually a gradual change that can last up to multiple years. It may hit some dogs mildly, others may be nearly impossible to manage. This is the time that most dogs are rendered to shelters. 

Physically your dog will be nearly full grown, clumsy, have his adult teeth in and be a chewing machine.This is also the most energetic time of your dogs life. It takes a near marathon to tire out my two year old lab, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. This is also the time that most dogs will be turning from a happy-go-lucky puppy into a full grown dog trying to find his place in the pack. It is exceptionally important to keep your place as 'boss' and stay patient and consistent, adolescent dogs can be forgetful and test you.

Spaying and neutering your dog at a young age will lessen the effects of your dog maturing. Unfixed dogs will change in many behavioral aspects once they reach sexual maturity, this can cause further complications with training. Assuming your dog is fixed, it will take a bit more firmness and a few more corrections to let your maturing dog know who is in charge.

There is another side to 'dog adolescence' that says this: there is no proven phase of adolescence that dogs go through, instead your dog is acting the same as it did as a puppy, it is just bigger. In other words, when your puppy jumped up on you, you thought this cute and harmless behavior, but now that your dog is full grown and jumping on you, it's not so cute anymore. I feel this is a more accurate description of this time in a dogs life than adolescence is. So, train your puppy early on and your dog will grow up to be a well behaved dog.

From the experience of raising a number of dogs, adolescent dogs do tend to push your boundaries and test you as their 'pack leader'. Don't give up on your dog, because with the right training, or even a little bit of training, your dog can come out of this a well mannered companion who's whole life will be devoted to you.