The Adolescent Dog
Stages that occur in adolescent dogs
This is a very difficult time for your dog, however with continuous training and establishing a good foundation through true understanding, both of you will build a solid relationship.
Like human teenagers, an adolescent dog is continually changing and growing whilst in many ways their mind remains that of a puppy.
Having personally owned and worked with dogs that are on the brink of adulthood has given me a real insight into how their hormone changes can affect behaviour. You too can gain knowledge and experience through a simple process of observing what is normal and what we consider abnormal.
Behavioural problems such as inappropriate chewing, excited arousal and sexual behaviour, are perfectly normal behaviour for adolescent dogs. What we as owners find hard to understand is, to a dog this is natural behaviour however inappropriate it may seem to us.
It is all due to the changes that your dog is going through both physical and mental, so we do to a point need to cut them some slack.
There are many stages that occur in adolescent dogs as they go from puppy to adult, and all of these stages are important and age related and may not be in many cases the beginning of any unwanted behavioural problems.
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You dog will start to grow their second set of teeth at between six and eight months of age. Your dog may find this stage very painful and much like a human baby will do anything they can to ease the pain and help the teeth to break through the gums.
Make sure that you have plenty of suitable chew toys available for your dog, and do not remove access to them as this could mean they will start to chew inappropriate items.
This is a crucial time as your dog matures and their experiences of the world around them begin to form what we call social skills. It is important that you introduce your dog to a wide variety of situations. A fearful puppy or an under socialised puppy may as an adolescent turn these fears into an adult response.
Without exposure to everyday life and the outside world they may become defensive, aggressive, excitable or even shut down. This is why it so important you deal with their reactions and experiences at this stage in the correct way.
There is an ingrained social etiquette in dogs, and many older dogs often react much more indulgently to a puppy’s bad manners and overzealous play.
However, as an adolescent many adult dogs will view them as equals. They will react according to their own social etiquette skills. This can be a confusing time for an adolescent dog, which is still learning what is appropriate play and socialisation at this point.
There has been lots of research about hormone development in dogs, with a little bit of a divide as to what is the best time to castrate or neuter although it is generally accepted that breed type can vary the guideline. As a dog matures, research has shown that the body begins to produce testosterone at levels that can be several times higher than an un-neutered adult dog.
A typical adolescent dog will display behaviours like scent marking, sexual behaviour and in some cases aggression may manifest itself in your adolescent dog.
Adolescent female dogs will generally experience one season before they are 12 months, the hormonal changes that lead up to her season can be significant.
An adolescent female dog may become extremely interested in male dogs and begin to exhibit sexual behaviours they may also show signs of aggression towards other female dogs.
This is the hardest stage for any dog and owner as the change can be disturbing and intense, so as owners we need to be understanding and help make this stage as easy to cope with as possible for them.
All vets have different ideas about the subject but our dogs need hormones to develop into adults so between 12 months and 18 months should be the cut-off point. Remembering your dogs will reach full maturity around 36 months.
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The adolescent dog’s life is quite simply a time of change. The body is changing and their true personality is being established. This is a very difficult time for your dog, however through continuous training and establishing a good foundation through true understanding both you and they will build a solid relationship.
Finally and as hard as it may seem never give up and make sure you keep to your boundaries during this time. Your adolescent dog needs routine so that they feel secure in the world around them.