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Adolescence in Dogs - AKA What Happened To My Sweet Puppy?

Running away! Pulling on lead! Acting like you don't exist! Forgetting their name! Pretending they have never been trained at all! Jumping up! Stealing food!

The list goes on and on when it comes to common complaints about 'teenage' dogs. The adolescent phase of their life can be a tricky one. Most dog owners have just started to breathe a sigh of relief after all the challenges of puppyhood, like biting, chewing, housetraining, seem to be coming to an end and they are starting to reap the rewards of starting training early.

Then it happens! One day your dog doesn't listen to you as quickly as usual, or snatches something from your hands. Maybe they stop listening to a recall cue that has worked so well in the past. You are not alone. All dogs display some changes at this critical period of their life, but for some it is much worse than others. So what can you do about it?

First things first..... DON'T PANIC! You haven't broken your dog. They don't have ADHD or some other condition. They are just a normal teenaged dog struggling with life and decisions and hormones and temptation. You can help them. Here are some tips:

  1. Go 'Back To Basics'

  2. Plan ahead

  3. Be patient

  4. Be compassionate

  5. Join a training class

There will be times when this feels more difficult, but it can help to know that it is not just you struggling - a majority of dog owners have the same challenges. But it is easy to feel that you are alone in your struggles because, like you, other struggling owners are keeping their walks to quiet times, or walking less and leaving their dog at home more - which means you see fewer of these dogs out and about. Only seeing well-behaved dogs out in the world can definitely make you feel like you are the only one without a well-behaved dog.

If your dog has attended a training class as a puppy, this can be a great time to revisit their skills by taking a follow-on or progression class to brush up on training skills at both ends of the lead.

Did You Know?!

Most of the dogs that get handed into rescues are in their adolescent phase as it is the time most dog owners find the most difficult to handle. Remember - your dog is not trying to give you a hard time... they are having a hard time.

Common signs that your dog is overwhelmed, overstimulated or just struggling in life can be:

  • Jumping up at you

  • Destructive behaviours

  • Suddenly toileting indoors

  • Barking

  • Grabbing and tugging at lead

  • Refusal to do simple behaviours they know

  • Loss of appetite

  • refusing treats when training

This Too Shall Pass

Adolescence is temporary! So let that be of some comfort to you. However, it is important to understand that without the right training and compassion, bad habits started in adolescence can stick with your dog for life. So if you feel overwhelmed, try a training class catered specifically to this age phase, or get some one-to-one help so that you and your dog can feel like you have a handle on life again.

Here's an interesting fact for you...

Puppies and teenaged dogs are often renowned for stealing things belonging to their owner with a little more intensity than before. Socks, shoes, keys, clothing, things that are handled often such as tv remotes.

So here's the interesting part. All of these things carry your scent and are a source of comfort for a stressed out, hormonal adolescent. Kinda cute when you put it like that. Try swapping stolen objects for a long lasting chew, or for items they are allowed to have. You can even try adding your scent to something of theirs.

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