The Challenges of Canine Adolescence

Liz Palika
Canine AdolescenceLiz's puppy, Bones

My puppy, Bones, is now nine months old and I’m seeing some changes in his behavior. He’s bolder than he has been in the past and is more curious about the world around him. He’s not listening to me as well as he did and sometimes even tries to ignore me. He’s also pushing my two older dogs more - trying to steal their toys and playing harder.

If I didn’t know better, I might be a little concerned about his behavior. Thankfully, I know exactly what’s going on and, in fact, have been waiting for these changes.

Adolescence is Annoying

In humans, adolescence is the time when teenagers are in transition from children to adults. Research has shown that the brains of human adolescents change during this time and their thought processes don’t always make much sense. Human teenagers are emotional, moody, and are prone to challenging authority.

Canine adolescents are similar. Although your puppy won’t scream, “I hate you!” as a human teenager might (and often does), your puppy may ignore you or defy you. It’s not unusual for adolescents to ‘forget’ that they aren’t supposed to be up on the sofa or that they aren’t supposed to jump on people. Teenagers – human and canine both - challenge authority.

If your puppy spends time with adult dogs, as my puppy does, you may find that the adult dogs are not quite as patient with him as they used to be. Bashir, my oldest dog, is kind and gentle with puppies but when they turn into teenagers his attitude towards them changes. He expects them to start behaving as polite adult dogs. He will not tolerate rude behavior and when Bones runs into him during play, tries to mount him, or is otherwise rude, Bashir bares teeth, growls, and stands very tall. Bones understands this communication and stops the rude behaviors – at least for the moment.

Patience and Consistency

Don’t take the challenges of adolescence personally. Your puppy is not acting out to hurt or anger you; this is a natural part of puppyhood and growing up.

During this stage of puppyhood, practice patience. When your puppy is pushing your buttons, chewing up your shoes, and dashing out the front door every time it opens, take a deep breath before reacting. Screaming and yelling aren’t going to help anything and could threaten the relationship you have with your puppy.

Practice your puppy’s training skills often. The basic obedience skills – sit, down, stay, watch me, come, and leave it – should become a part of your lives. Keep the training fun but also require your puppy to cooperate. These exercises are not optional.

Be consistent with your household rules. If your puppy is not allowed on the furniture, don’t allow him up now. If he is to wait for permission before coming in the house, make sure he waits now too, even though he may try dashing in. Be consistent with all of the rules that are important to you.

This Won’t Last Forever

Adolescence tends to begin any time between seven and ten months of age with nine months being typical. The worst of this stage is generally between nine and twelve months. After that the challenging behavior tends to slowly disappear as the puppy grows up.

Small breed dogs grow up more quickly and usually by eighteen months of age, they are fairly well mentally mature. The larger the breed, the slower they mature. I expect most of Bones’ challenges will happen between now and twelve months of age.

Meanwhile, he and I will continue his training while Bashir and I practice patience.

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