Surviving adolescence: How to deal with an adolescent dog

Don't give up. This is just a phase.
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Adolescent Dog Tips

Typically at 6 months your puppy will start to enter their adolescence phase, or in other words they will become a teenager. Having an adolescent dog can be a difficult time. Just like with humans, adolescence is a natural phase with accompanying behaviour alterations that phase out after reaching maturity. But if you’re well prepared and patient, this tricky phase will soon become a distant memory and you can emerge with the adult dog you’ve always dreamed of.

Owners usually complain that their adolescent dog becomes disobedient and ignores the commands they used to respond to every time. So it’s usually at this point that owners give up on their dogs and sadly put them into rescue. Adolescence is just a phase and with the right approach and mentality they will soon return to being the loving and responsive pet you once knew.

When does a puppy become an adolescent dog?

Adolescence can begin at different times for different breeds, and the length of this phase can vary. Small dogs tend to enter adolescence earlier than larger breeds who develop much slower. Smaller dog’s will enter their adolescent phase at around 6 months and mature at about a year old. Whereas larger breeds might not start their teenage phase until 9-12 months of age, and may not mature until 2+ years.

Dealing with puppy adolescence 

When puppies reach adolescence their focus shifts due to a surge of new hormones associated with approaching sexual maturity. Before now your puppy would have been focused solely on you, wanting nothing more than to stay close and please you. But with the flick of a switch, your now adolescent dogs priority becomes discovering everything about their environment and absolutely everything in it. Stronger, more independent and confident they will likely begin to ignore you in favour of exploration and fun. 

An Adolescent dog playing with a stick

How to deal with an adolescent dog?

Stay positive and persevere, this is just a phase that every dog goes through. One of the most important things to remember when going through this is to keep a cool head and restrain from punishing your dog. This will only make things worse.

Recall during puppy adolescence

One of the most common problems for dog owners is their adolescent dog not responding to recall commands. Even if your dog had perfect recall before, it doesn’t mean that it will continue during adolescence. Adolescent dogs have way too much exploring to do and want to test boundaries, meet new people, small new smells and interact with others dogs. With recall, it’s important to not let your dog get into the habit of not coming back. So you should be mindful and return back to the basics and use lots of positive reinforcement. 

It’s advisable to use a long line for a couple of weeks, or for as long as you think is necessary. Your dog will still be able to roam free and explore, but a long line will prevent them from totally ignoring your commands, running off or getting into trouble. 

Socialising an adolescent dog 

Good socialisation is required throughout this phase as some dogs may start to react differently to things they were previously ok with. Go back to the basics and ensure as many positive encounters as possible. Don’t force your dog to face new fears, this may only make things worse. Instead, keep your dog at a comfortable distance and let them approach and interact at their own pace, using tonnes of positive reinforcement.

Adolescent dogs can get into trouble with others as they get to know each other and attempt to establish a ranking. If your dog starts to have aggressive encounters, keep them away from unknown dogs and only allow interaction with known dogs to ensure a positive experience.

Surviving puppy adolescence – Don’t give up

Your dog isn’t intentionally trying to test your patience, and they aren’t just being difficult. Don’t ask too much of your dog and don’t make too many requests that you think might be ignored. However, continue to gently insist that your dog does as you ask and you’ll emerge from this phase intact.

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