Dogs and the “Teen” years – Lisa Caper

Did you know that dogs have an adolescent period? It starts at about six to eight months of age and lasts until about twenty-four months for females and thirty-six months for makes. This is the time that dogs often end up being surrendered to shelters due to behavioral issues. During this period of canine development, that “perfectly behaved”  puppy can regress back to poor behaviors and start to show independence in a way that is not appreciated- aggression towards other dogs or people, tearing up the house, possessiveness over food or toys, etc.

Many people mistakenly believe that their dog will outgrow bad behavior without intervention. If these behaviors are not addressed, the dog will continue to practice these behaviors and they will continue to get worse. Owners will often get frustrated or may not know how to fix these behaviors – and some of them can be scary- and so in desperation, the beloved family pet is surrendered to a shelter or a new home. Or, the dog owner will learn to live with these behaviors by adjusting their lives around them – not going for walks, living with a destroyed house, keeping the dog away from guests, etc.

The best intervention is prevention – laying a solid training foundation and having a strong relationship with your dog from a young age (you can start training as early as eight weeks). If you have gotten your dog during their adolescent period, you can start laying the foundation the day the dog comes into your home with fair and consistent training by all who are interacting with the dog. This will build a solid relationship, which will make all training much easier to accomplish.

The next step is being prepared for the behavioral changes that may occur when your pup reaches adolescence and, if unwanted behaviors begin, make sure to give your dog the guidance and training he or she needs to get through this period successfully. Be prepared to continue training – it’s a life long process that will allow you and your dog to be happy together.

Once the foundation has been established, even if a behavioral issue does arise, you and your dog will have the tools to get through them with ease.

And don’t worry, just like their human counterparts, your dog will get through their adolescence.