As people have found themselves spending more time at home than ever before, it comes as no surprise that 2020 has seen an increase in puppy ownership.
These cute little bundles grow up very quickly, which means many of these new puppies will soon be entering adolescence.
Adolescence in dogs is seen as the transition period from puppy to adult. It usually starts at around 5 to 6 months of age – though this can vary widely depending on your pup’s breed – and finishes once they reach physical maturity.
During this time, you may notice lots of changes in your puppy’s behaviour – changes that might test your patience as their adolescent puppy hormones begin to run ahead of their brains!
Dr. Katrina’s tips on managing adolescent behavioural changes
Behavioural changes you might see in your puppy as they reach adolescence can vary. Most noticeably, your once ‘perfect’ puppy may suddenly appear to have forgotten all of their training.
They may not listen when you call, start pulling on the lead, get overexcited or even have toileting accidents. While this is all normal, the adolescent phase is sadly the most common time that dogs get surrendered to shelters due to unexpected and unwanted behaviour.
Just like human teenagers, adolescent dogs often have a great sense of adventure – one that has a tendency to get them into trouble. Here are a few things to consider to help you and your puppy get through their adolescent phase.
As their hormones kick in, intact male dogs begin producing high levels of testosterone. This causes them to exhibit male-oriented behaviours such as urine-marking, roaming, and sometimes aggression toward other male dogs.
On the other hand, intact female dogs prepare for and experience their first heat cycle. During her heat, your female puppy may become very playful toward male dogs, escape from her home and roam, urinate frequently, and show aggression toward other dogs.
If you are thinking about having your puppy desexed, we recommend talking to your vet about the best age to do so.
Although the worst will probably be over by the time your puppy reaches adolescence, their chewing habit may continue as their permanent teeth come in.
Some dogs will continue to be big chewers throughout their life, which is why it’s important to set up good chew habits early on.
Be consistent with your chew-related training and keep redirecting your puppy to chew toys that they’re allowed to chew on. Make sure you adjust their chew toys to the age, size and type of chewer your puppy is.
Adolescent dogs have endless energy they need to burn. Playing games like fetch and taking them for several walks a day will help, but focused training sessions are still extremely important.
Your restless puppy needs to learn self-control, and teaching them how to calm down when they are wound up requires consistent training.
While it’s very much okay to let your pup run around and be playful for a time, you need to teach them to come to you when called, and to lie down quietly at your request. At this age, it’s best to keep them on the lead unless you are in a confined space.
Correct management of your adolescent puppy is extremely important. Leaving your young dog unattended in the backyard for hours may give them the opportunity to practice naughty behaviour like excessive barking, digging and chewing.
Make sure your dog is well exercised and always provide an assortment of interactive toys for them to play with. If you can, keep your puppy confined when unsupervised so they can’t do any damage to themselves or your property.
Jumping up is probably the most complained about behaviour in adolescent dogs. Without knowing it, this behaviour is often reinforced by people who find your adorable puppy irresistible and shower them with attention when they jump up.
Unfortunately, this harmless practice becomes far less fun when your adolescent puppy grows into an adult dog who still jumps up on you.
The best way to teach your dog not to jump is to completely ignore their behaviour. When your puppy jumps, turn away from them, keep your hands by your side and don’t give them any attention until their four feet are firmly planted back on the ground.
When this happens, be sure to give them a tasty treat they will love. Our 100% Australian clean dog treats are premium quality chicken, kangaroo and salmon, and can be easily broken down into smaller pieces to make the perfect reward for training.
Rewarding your puppy
When it comes to training your adolescent puppy, timing is everything. Make sure they only get their yummy reward once they are sitting nicely.
While training your pup not to jump, work on their sit/stay routine at the same time, using lots of clean dog treats as rewards. Your puppy can’t jump up while they’re sitting – so teach your dog that when they are sitting, their good behaviour will be rewarded.
Practice training your puppy with external distractions – such as the doorbell ringing – and always be ready with treats to ask for and reward their calm behaviour in these moments.
Keep a treat jar near the door and ask any visitors to ignore your puppy’s jumping until they have sat calmly, at which point you or your visitor can give them a treat for good manners. In time, your dog will learn that the doorbell means a treat in return for sitting calmly.
Be patient with your pup and give them lots of love
Training an adolescent puppy takes time and dedication, but watching them learn good behaviour as they grow will be a reward in itself.
Always remember that your puppy’s adolescent phase will pass, and teaching them the right way to do things is up to you. If you’re struggling with their behaviour, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of your friends, family, local vet or a reputable dog training professional.