Continuing from yesterday’s post about the various Life Stages of a Dog. Hope this makes it easier for anyone to better understand their beloved dogs and what they’re going through!
The Adolescent or Puberty stage in a dog is just like a human teenager’s years. This is the period from 6 months to around 18 months, when the puppy grows into an adult-sized dog, but its mind is still mischievously puppy-like. The dog will try to push the boundaries of your household, seeking more independence. It will test your patience, becoming seemingly more stubborn, with selective hearing and disobedience to your commands. In the wild, this is the time an adolescent dog would be preparing to leave his home. This doesn’t happen in a human home, however, but the behaviour is ingrained in the dog’s DNA and he will test your patience to the core during this period. In bigger breeds, the molars will just be coming out, so there may well be a second phase of chewing going on, where the dog may chew anything and everything he can get his teeth round.
At this stage, when dogs get returned or surrendered to the Refuge, I’ve noticed that their behaviour often goes completely downhill, and much training is then required to bring it back in line. For example, they may start barking at everything that moves, in a bid to gain attention. They may become obsessed with fetching balls, or resource-guard their toys or bed, or become reactive towards people, children or other dogs. Some will pace up and down mercilessly, or fence-chase other dogs, or even chew the wires of their kennel fence. In some breeds bitches may come into their first heat, which makes any male dogs kept with them, or in the vicinity, stir crazy.
These dogs are not necessarily ill, they may just be bored out of their heads due to lack of mental enrichment or physical activity. There are enrichment toys available on the market to keep these dogs happily occupied mentally, and for the more active dogs, agility yards with weaving poles, ramps, hurdles, etc can help burn off that adolescent energy. Again, as with human teenagers, all one can do is “ride it out” and reinforce positive behaviours with plenty of treats and praise. Luckily, in dogs, the adolescent or puberty period lasts only a short while, compared to many years in humans!