Few words cast as much fear into the hearts of parents (human and canine alike) as the word ‘adolescent’. Hormones are raging, previously learnt behaviours go out the window and boundaries are tested and pushed to the limits. This necessary period of development from dependence to independence can be a trying time for those in charge! In fact, a large proportion of dogs are either re-homed or euthanized due to basic behaviour problems that develop during this period.
So…how does an owner deal with the adolescent in the house?
- Management. Restrict your dog’s opportunities to make the wrong choices by using crates, leads, long lines, tethers and time outs to manage their behaviour.
- Keep Calm and Carry on. Dogs are experts at reading and reacting to the signals that we give out, so be aware that your body language, voice and touch will influence your dog’s behaviour You can use signals such as averting your eyes, yawing, moving slowly and talking quietly, if at all, to communicate to them that they should calm down.
- Back to Basics. Behaviours learnt as puppies often slide downhill during adolescence. If you find your dog is ‘forgetting’ behaviours just go back to the basics of training. Ask for simple things that you can reward such as ‘Sit’ or ‘Attention’.
- Consistency. Decide on the rules and stick to them! Adolescent dogs are all about pushing boundaries and they will do so even more if sometimes they are allowed to jump up, pull on lead or bark for attention.
- Throw out the Food Bowl. Make your youngster work for their food through training and interactive food dispensing toys. No more free meals here!
Above all, remember that this phase is a necessary and normal part of your dog’s development – it will pass. Guide them through with patience and kindness and your little terror will develop into a wonderful canine companion!