Adolescent Dog Training
When we bring a new puppy home, we teach the basics such as toilet training, bite inhibition and general good manners around the house and people. We hopefully make sure to socialise him/her and do our best to ensure they receive the best possible start in life. What we often underestimate however is just how short puppyhood actually is and how challenging the adolescence period can be.
An adolescent dog however can be rambunctious, full of energy and downright stroppy at times, something any parent of teenagers will recognise. All the hard work you’ve put into teaching them basic good manners just seems to go out the window. The pup may have stopped chewing on our hands and peeing in the house but is now jumping on our visitors, marking every blade of grass and lamppost it encounters, barking and lunging at other dogs or pushing the boundaries in other ways. Just like people though, all dogs go through this period of development and there is no way to skip over it. Being prepared to deal with the changes in our dog’s behaviour makes it easier to live through it without getting frustrated and giving up on the dog altogether.
By the time our little male puppy for instance reaches the age of 18 weeks, his testosterone levels will start to rise. This male hormone will keep on climbing until it peaks at around 10 months of age before very slowly going down to adult levels around 18 months of age. This age period can vary from breed to breed and among individuals, but the important factor to keep in mind is this: adolescence in dogs generally occurs between 5-18 months and during that period, their brain is flooded with more hormones than ever. High levels of testosterone lead to greater reactivity with faster, longer and more intense responses to external stimuli.
In females, rising levels of oestrogen and progesterone during the same period may increase irritability and problems with other dogs as well as resource guarding issues. A typical behaviour problem that occurs around that time is when the younger female in a multiple dog household, starts going after the older female, even though they had been getting along just fine during the previous months.
What to do
These adolescent months sadly coincide with an increased rate of relinquishment. It is a sad fact that the majority of dogs are surrendered to rescue between the ages of 5 months and 3 years of age (47.7%) and at least one behaviour problem is reported as the reason for the surrender in 40% of the cases. The most common behaviour issues ranged from biting, aggression towards people or animals to disobedience and destructiveness. These numbers suggest that there is a need for more information and support to dog owners who don’t expect the behavioural changes or don’t know how to manage their dog’s reactions during that period of development.
As for dog training classes, well these aren’t for every dog especially if that dog has already developed ‘other dog issues’ or is extremely nervous. All that will happen is your dog will get stressed, you’ll get stressed, your dog will be sent to the back of the class or banned and you’ll end up feeling like it’s too late and therefore be less inclined to correct any issue’s.
Because we only specialise in one to one dog training, we can tailor your dog’s training specifically to address any developing behavioural issues and in an environment where these problems usually occur such as the home or your usual dog walking area. Much better than standing around in a draughty old hall in the middle of nowhere.