We are wrapping up our Your New Puppy series by giving some consideration to your dog’s ‘teenage’ years… and beyond. After all, adopting a puppy means having and caring for a dog for around ten years or more! So, here are some key points to keep in mind as you prepare to navigate these next life stages:
- Dogs hit adolescence around six months old; and just like humans, this can be an awkward time in their growth and development. They’re approaching their adult size, their coats are changing, and while they have their adult teeth, they still need to chew on hard toys.
- As pups transition through life stages, be sure to view each dog as an individual, regardless of breed, gender, or size. He or she might be ‘puppyish’ for less or more time, not only because of their internal clock but because of behaviors that have been reinforced (or not reinforced).
- Adolescent dogs typically have a lot of energy! When it comes to energy outlets and enrichment, work with the dog’s breed tendencies and preferences. (Yes – just like humans, they have their preferences too!)
- Play, interactive food toys, sports and activities, and training can help manage behaviors, build confidence, and harness their energy in productive ways. Plus, it’s just lots of fun to provide and enjoy enrichment activities with your canine bestie!
- ‘Teenage’ dogs are usually eager and happy to learn. Take advantage of it by providing for them in a way that is enjoyable yet productive. Participating in humane, force-free dog training classes and private training will help guardians set their dogs up for success as beloved family pets for the dog’s entire lifetime. (More on evolving training needs below.)
- Impulse Control and the teenage dog: When your dog acts like a rambunctious teenager, trust that this adolescent phase is (somewhat) temporary. And how about the human end of the leash? Can you find patience and acceptance? Can you possibly even enjoy some of these quirky moments of “puppyhood” while they last?
As for behavioral changes, adolescence is usually the phase where dogs begin to explore on their own and break away from their humans a little, developing some independence. Keep in mind that developmental stages of dogs are gradual, they don’t come on abruptly. The pup who has always been right by your side, being compliant whenever you asked her to do something might begin to have selective hearing. This apparent regression is common with dogs of this age. Continue to use positive reinforcement to work with them, guiding them along the way.
Before we move on, let’s take a minute to look at a frequently misunderstood canine behavior that might crop up around this time. Let’s set the record straight- dogs’ humping legs and cushions, or other inanimate objects, is not necessarily sexually related. It is often them trying to get us to play with them. Humping is one of the ways dogs get other dogs to play, so they’re just directing it towards us.
Additionally, adolescence is also a time when it’s common for some pups to be fearful of new things, people, places, and/or situations, which may cause them to feel more anxious. That means guardians will want to remember to approach this phase too with gentle care, patience, and force-free training methods that help build trust and confidence.
When possible, it’s better to be proactive and teach the manners you want now, as opposed to trying to undo bad habits or bad experiences later on. Happily, though, you CAN teach a dog of any age new tricks (or refine existing ones). And, the training approach should be the same, regardless of age — humane, force-free, and fun!
Importantly though, training doesn’t just consist of a 6-week basic class (or two) and then calling it quits, thinking your dog is at PhD level excellence. I would recommend continuing their training, beyond the basics, as it helps to enrich their lives. The more skills a dog has, the more opportunities he or she has to go more places and do more things!
Us animals, no matter the species, continue learning throughout our lives. As a matter of fact, as we mature, we often become better learners because we’ve had time to practice. This goes for dogs too, so hang in there.
Consult Your Veterinarian
As your puppy transitions through various life stages, when it comes to matters of changing nutritional needs, timing of spay/neuter, or concerns related to hormonal, physiological or biological development, please consult your veterinarian.
Having a well-mannered dog is a lifetime endeavor. Dogs go through many milestones throughout their entire lives. It’s not just puppy and then adulthood. Pet parents can be mindful of these transitions and realize that training and management are lifelong endeavors as well.
Just as in life, when it comes to being a dog guardian, there will be ups and downs, bad days, good days … and better days. Be creative and compassionate about setting your adolescent dog up for success and setting yourself up for the least amount of frustration possible. Here, managing expectations about life with a furry friend, might be the most important management strategy of all!
From pre-planning for your new puppy to the challenging and rewarding ‘teen’ years, we hope this series of blog posts dedicated to you and Your New Puppy has been informative and encouraging. Thank you for staying inquisitive and coming along with us on this journey through puppyhood.
Please contact us if you have questions about selecting, raising, or forming a loving, trusting relationship with a new puppy or adult dog.
In Case You Missed It:
Here are links to all the Your New Puppy posts in this series:
Your New Puppy – A resource for pet parents and puppy parents-to-be.
Your ‘Before Puppy Arrives’ To-Do List – How to prepare your home and family for a new furry bundle of joy (and teeth).
The First Night at Home – Practical tips for laying the groundwork for a strong and trusting canine-human bond.
Training the Basics – A pawsitive approach for positive results™.
Potty Training Your Puppy – A step-by-step summary.
The Joy of Loose Leash Walking – Acclimating puppy to his leash and harness; what to do if your puppy is biting or chewing the leash. What ifyour inquisitive puppy is pulling on walks? What if your puppy is refusing to walk on leash? You got this!
How Do Puppies Learn? Spoiler Alert: Rewards-based training is a fun way to strengthen your bond through collaborative understanding. Read this post to delve into positive conditioned responses and the science of consequences.
Beyond Training the Basics (Part One) – Socialization and puppy biting/nipping.
Beyond Training the Basics (Part Two) – Home alone training and teaching emergency behaviors.
My husky is almost 3 years old and these tips would have been so useful to know as she was growing up. Inevitably she still sometimes has accidents in the house whether because she is not feeling well or I didn’t give her the opportunity in time.