If your once sweet and fun loving puppy has recently morphed into a demon, it’s very likely you are now living with a canine adolescent! Teenage dog behaviour is no joke. So here’s my take on what your dog is going through, and some strategies for getting through it!
You have a teenager!
Given the wide range of breeds and sizes, the exact ages can vary, but typically your dog will hit adolescence at around 6-8 months of age. Up until then, his only job has been to discover himself and the world around him. He’s been curious and playful, and he’s been a lot of fun to be around!
Then one day he turns into a teenager. For some it can feel like a switch has been flicked, but most will feel a more gradual change. Either way, his hormones are in charge now! He’s no longer curious about the world, now he wants to find his place in it. He is bold and confident, and he’s preparing to fend for himself. Your teenager is becoming an adult and his needs have changed, dramatically.
What to expect…
His job now is to discover his role in the world. Is he pack leader material, or more of a nanny dog? Is he watch dog or guard dog? As he starts to figure out who he is, he’ll start testing the boundaries.
Previously, he might have sat calmly at the curb, waiting patiently to cross – not any more! He might once have waited for you to place the food on the floor before diving in, maybe he walked gently on his lead, or came back without fail.
Whatever rules you had in place will likely be tested by him at some point during the early stages of adolescence.
He might even start to impose his own rules. It wouldn’t be uncommon for a teenage dog to suddenly start making demands about the route you take on the walk, for example! Does he now weave from side to side as you walk. Does he drag you over to every interesting sniff and refuse to leave until he has inhaled every last drop of it? He might start barking for treat, or to get food from your plate. Or he might refuse to eat, forcing you to leave his food down for later. This is a great way to change your routine so he can eat on demand, and very often get better food. If you’ve ever added cheese or gravy to your dogs food to get him to eat it, you might have been victim to your teenagers whiley ways!
Did you know… 47% of dogs handed into rescue, are there due to behavioural problems!
He’ll refer back to all the experiences he had as a puppy, and he’ll know how to get things he wants. He knows if he pretends to need a pee you’ll let him out into the garden. He’ll know how to get attention from you, and how to get you to play with him. Ever wondered why he hides under the table suddenly when you get his lead out, despite him loving his walks? He’ll know how to steer the game his way too, do you have to chase him to get the ball back, or does he bite and grab at your arms to get you to wrestle? He might start to resist things he was previously ok with too, such as being groomed or letting new people into the house.
As he grows in confidence you might see him become more and more frustrated when he can’t get what he wants. He might start jumping up at you and tearing at the lead or clothes. And, he might start being more protective of you and the house.
How to handle teenage dog behaviour!
It’s no surprise that more dogs are handed into rescue centres during this life stage than any other. This behaviour can be hard to deal with. This is the age that your once gentle pup is preparing to either start his own pack and provide for himself, or be a productive member of your pack. This is serious stuff.
Stay Calm! The most important thing for you to do is to remain calm, a great pack leader is always calm and in control – no matter what. If you are not good at keeping yourself calm, then you might have to fake it for a bit.
Be consistent with your rules, and if you feel the rules have slipped a bit, re-energise them! Your dog will start by testing just one or two of your rules. If he is unsuccessful at this early stage, it’s quite likely he’ll quit there and then, and you’ll live happily ever after together. However, if he does get his own way, he’ll push his luck more, and more, and more.
Stay Calm and Be Consistent!
Stop his behaviour from working! Take a moment to notice what he is trying to achieve with his behaviour and make sure he is unsuccessful. If he wants attention then leave the room. If he wants to run away then don’t let him off lead. If he’s demanding your food, don’t give it to him. And if he wants to guard the house, don’t let him have access to his guarding spot/s. He’ll only continue with behaviour that works for him!
Reward appropriately! Once you know what he want’s, you can often use it as a reward for appropriate behaviour later. For example, if he is attention seeking, then use your attention to encourage calm behaviour. If he wants to get to the park quickly, simply moving forward will be a great reward for loose lead walking!
Remember, your teenage dog does not have grand ideas of world domination. But, he will start to think you want him to take charge if you let him get away with too much or make his own rules.
Need some help handling your grumpy teenager?
Private Dog Behaviour Consultations are currently available in the Dundee area, and as far as Broughty Ferry, Monifieth, Newport and Longforgan.. If you are looking for help with your dog then get in touch and we’ll have a chat about the best way I can help you!