The LAYERED CRAP CAKE Developmental Stage

From the day of birth, for all mammals, there is change, growth, and development in all aspects, emotionally, socially, physically, mentally, and sexually. And then of course with age there is decline, aging, and eventually death. It is the full circle, cradle to grave.


Canines rip through developmental stages so fast, they basically hit the ground running and just when you think you know that cute little puppy, they go and change on you.

Mama Beetz and Massimo are entering a tricky stage in development. It is the time when they are leaving puppy hood and are on the cusp of adolescents, they are coming into the early stages of sexual maturity, their muscle mass and bone growth gives them way more power, they have lost / and gained their deciduous teeth and are just getting ready to lose / and prepare for their canines and molars, they are starting to pull distance and test distance, and oh joy what fun they are jumping head first into their second sub-fear period.

Let me break down the layers of this Crap Cake for better understanding. There is never just one thing driving a behavior, good, bad, or indifferent, during this stage.


Adolescents is one of the flakiest and most difficult developmental stages for dogs, all mammals, thugs, pirates, thieves, whatever you choose to call it, it is very real. Don’t let an innocent sweet face fool you, there are for sure thug thoughts happening pretty much all of the time. There is regression in the relationship, training, understanding, and social skills, and for sure there is a lot of pushing. This of course is a little or a lot, and normal. ARTICLE 

Sexual Maturity and hormones lends to bigger behavior, blustery behavior, sexual access of other dogs, and needs. They are sexual animals like all mammals, and with sexual maturity comes the desire to find a mate when the time is right, and conversely keep those away that threaten breeding rights, other same sex dogs. ARTICLE

Gangly to Gorgeous is the name of the game with young budding adolescents, goofy and awkward and then one day, a site to behold. Strong young dogs are a blast to work with, ask any dog sport competitor. It is kind of like putting the pedal to the metal and letting it fly. But add immaturity and flaky adolescents, irritated mouth, moments of fear and bad choices, and well, you better know how to steer and manage the talent.

Teething can cause irritation, pain, throbbing, the need to sink teeth into anything that is available or even things that are unavailable. A lot of young dogs that are into the thick of teething are so distracted by the experience that the last thing they want to do is work with you, they would rather gnaw on a bone in the shade. ARTICLE

The Flight Phase is basically from 4-8 months of age, and this is when a young dog will try to pull as much distance from you as possible, and test boundaries. Unless you have a managed space and use a leash when out and about, there is real risk to letting a young dog run free during this phase. ARTICLE

The Second Sub-Fear Period is fairly tricky. It is like a hole into their personality where they are seeing the world fresh through adolescent eyes, not puppy eyes, and a lot of what was okay before is for sure not okay now, or at least the time being. Blowing plastic bags, leaves crunching in the dark, an unknown person or even a known person, it can be anything really. Reactivity, flight, freezing, refusals, rapid barking with uncertainty, it is all part of this stage. The wild thing is, one day one man can be scary and a virtual serial killer to your dog, and then next day they are fine. This is how it plays out most of the time. ARTICLE


As we enter the Thug Life, as we know it in our home, I know with Mama Beetz and Massimo there will be good days, great days, and suck days. I know my choices count for socialization, but sometimes I am going to miss. Nothing is forever this to shall pass, the best mantra ever for dog owners, but seriously, choices and management do count, you can’t get all weird and leave it up to the universe to ‘sort it out’ for you, it doesn’t work well that way.


My job is to be present, attentive, understand distance and space, not shelter my young dogs from the world, but to try and make good choices. Again some days will be better than others, and some days, well take a mulligan if you can.

I do believe this layered stage is why so many dogs end up in rescue, shelters, or are so vastly misunderstood, if there was no real relationship or work being done during the puppy stage, this developmental stage would rock your world and not in a good way.

So here is to whatever today brings, we will work through it, and start all over tomorrow. Nancy

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Katherine Howe says:

    So, are you doing any activity tomorrow? If so when and where. Skye’s second name now isRocket….as in Skye Rocket! She has definitely entered early adolescence but not in any real problematic way. She’s had lots of hiking and socializing and is sleeping like a big girl in the bedroom with Layla and me. Let me know what’s shaking.

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      No group anything starts until the 13th, just private training right now – I am so happy to hear how things are coming along, that makes me so happy – especially that you have a ‘pocket size Rocket!’ – I am going over registrations today – Nancy

  2. Casper O' Hane says:

    All the things I wish I knew from the beginning with my Bree. Fortunately we weren’t that far along when I discovered all your puppy articles.

  3. MaryDell joyner says:

    Loved reading this. Altho my Dixie is 7, it brought to mind where I could’ve been a better mom in some stages. Altho she has turned into an awesome middle aged lady. Thank you Nancy !

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