While it may seem like that fluffy little puppy is a lot of work, you will look back on the first four months as the easy times, the calm before the storm of adolescents.
It isn’t uncommon for my puppy clients to love puppy classes and training, and then get super mad or frustrated with me when their dog is in adolescents – NOTHING IS WORKING. No matter how many times I say it is time to grow along with your dog, to have better understanding and meticulous management, it is hard for people to get their brain out of puppy mode and put it into rock n’ roll mode.
I have found that there isn’t a more maddening or frustrating stage for dog owners than adolescents.
It is truly like living with a pirate – not the romantic version, but rather the dodgy type.
Adolescence starts to come on right about 5-7 months. This largely depends on the genetic line of your dog, and the size of breed you have. In general, the smaller the dog, the earlier the adolescents, the larger the dog, slightly later. And this stage lasts for roughly a year or a bit longer.
Adolescence is a normal part of development for all animals, but that doesn’t mean it is straight forward, on either end of the leash.
For example, George Adamson worked with lions is entire adult life, he lived with and amoungst them on a preserve, to rehabilitate, and help them reacclimate to the wilds of Africa. The only time he did not trust a lion is when they were in their adolescent development. He considered them dangerous and erratic in behavior.
Adolescence is leaving puppyhood behind and maturing – socially, sexually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. It is seeing the world through new eyes, every single day.
GROWING – There are bigger muscles and longer bones to explore environments, from trails to counter tops.
SEXUAL MATURITY – There are hormones that signal instinct changes and needs that were not there before. The Four Stages of female reproduction cycle and all of the physical and behavior changes that come with that, or the ramping up of the Male Dog, that will carry 5-7 times more testosterone in adolescents than the adult dog.
FLIGHT – There is a need to run further away and maybe or maybe not come back, the flight stage is real and comes on at the onset of adolescents.
FEAR – There is fear, a little or a lot. The second sub fear stage coincides with adolescents almost perfectly, and ebbs and flows until roughly 14-18 months of age. Some days life is good and even, other days plastic bags are gang threats and the sky is for sure falling. From calm to blustery, and sometimes even dangerous or erratic.
SETTING OF TEETH – There is the need to chew on super hard things, this is when you will loose the expensive stuff. All of the big guns, those adult teeth are now in, and they need to be set, this lasts until 15 months of age or thereabouts.
FRONTAL LOBES – There are parts of the brain that develop at different rates, temporary, that happens in adolescents, reasoning is not a strong suit, consequences do not apply to them, and they suck at reading facial expressions. They are known to piss off adult dogs as well as humans, as they do not have the ability to digest social interactions correctly.
NO NEED FOR SAFETY – There is a total lack of self preservation skills during this stage, temporary but very real. Sticking a two-story landing, jumping out of the back of a truck, latching on to the delivery guy, all super socially and physically expensive behaviors, but hey, adolescents?!
HOW TO LIVE WITH AN ADOLESCENT DOG
Well this stage is not for the faint of heart, so buckle up.
Understanding and reading about this stage is helpful.
Managing your environment is a must.
Structuring each day while meeting the needs of your young dog is imperative – socially, emotionally, physically, nutritionally.
Sleep, as always, is a super power. Good restorative sleep after the adolescents dogs needs have been met is super important. Do not try to keep a young dog on all day long in hopes of tiring them out, that is a misconception.
Love your dog.
Groom your dog.
Play with your dog.
Have outings, hikes, walks on the daily.
Be the person they can trust.
Be the gate keeper.
Understand that on the bad days, giving your dog something valuable to chew on while you have a relaxing up of tea might be the best option. Don’t keep pushing what is not working.
Life might seem jumbly during this year long development phase, it might shake you a bit, knock you off your center, BUT hang in there, and stand up each morning. You are growing your gangster into a great adult dog, and your dog deserves your efforts, I promise you this.