Surviving Canine Adolescence
You are over the puppy honeymoon. What used to be a little ball of furry joy is now an awkward toothy monster, ready to chew and destroy all in it’s path. The age at which your dog may go through this stage is unique to each individual but can range from 6 months to 2 years. Yes we know, that is a long time to be living with a land shark, I mean dog! The mischievous behavior, the tendency to explore things that are not given to them, and ignore your every word, are all normal for dogs to do! It does not mean you have a dominance problem or even that your training is not working. What it does mean is that your dog is growing up and still needs your continued support and understanding.
To understand your dog and what they are going through, you need to take the time to learn more about them. Dogs are dogs. As such they do and need things that are specific to their species. Just because I am perfectly content to lounge around my apartment does not mean a teenage dog is. Adolescent dogs need exercise. How much they need is determined by them. Take the time to ask your dog what they need through trial and error. What works, and what doesn’t? What kind of exercise do they like? What can you offer on a regular basis?
To understand a dog you need to know how they communicate with us. Trust me, they are saying things to you all the time. We often miss those little whispers of canine communication though. Dogs do occasionally speak with their voices but they say a lot more with their bodies. Body language is the way of the dog and we’ve found some terrific free resources on this very subject. Watch them. Then watch them again. Have your family do the same and remember that if your dog is saying something to you, they have a reason. It is your job to figure out what that reason is.
If your dog surfs the counters or gets into the trash, it's because at one time in their life they learned that that behavior was valuable to do. At some point that behavior was reinforced and they know if they keep trying, it could pay off again. It also means that at one point, someone failed to supervise the dog and as a result, they learned a bad habit. It’s okay! Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes.
Active supervision is a main key to success for adolescent dogs. Active meaning your only task is to watch the dog. Not the toddler and the dog, not the football game and the dog. Just the dog. This means their every attempt to become mischievous is met with redirection and they are set up to make good choices from the get go. Supervision is the key to success!
Have a Plan
Your dog is a handful, but you do not have to go it alone. Make a plan to ask for help when you need it. Dog daycare, dog walkers, friendly neighbors, and other members of the family can all help occupy, exercise, and take care of your dog. Sometimes it takes a village! Even if that means you are staying home and your dog is going on an adventure with someone else. We all need a break sometime!
Plan ahead for down time with occupier toys. A frozen stuffed Kong toy can be just the thing your dog needs when they are a little cranky, frustrated, or bored. Having to make one last minute will not help the situation! Plan ahead and keep a few things ready to go so you have them the moment you need them.
We always think bringing home a puppy will be the hardest part. It can be easy to forget that an adolescent dog needs way more of your time and energy. Follow these tips to help your dog to be successful and to maintain some peace within your home. If you’d like more help and guidance we invite you to join our webinar, Surviving Canine Adolescence. Here you’ll learn what to teach, how to interrupt, and more. You’ll even get worksheets to keep both yourself and your dog on track! Learn more on our classes page by clicking here.