Puppies go through an adolescent stage from around six to eight months where they start to push the boundaries, frustrating their owners in the process. It is no coincidence that this is the age when a lot of dogs are signed over to rescues.
Just like human teenagers, dogs can vary greatly during this stage, some may go temporarily off the rails, some may become more anxious and some may just sail through with no change.
Therefore, it is best to be prepared to deal with a few challenges knowing that it could last until the dog is around 18 months old, depending on the breed.
Adolescence is a time when a dog will often find the environment more rewarding than anything you have to offer as a result of the interesting smells, squirrels or other dogs. They may also start to seek greater independence and test out their own abilities. The most common signs that your dog is entering adolescence are:
The keys to help you and your dog cope with adolescence are patience, understanding and consistency. This is a developmental phase that your dog has to go through. They aren’t being stubborn, dominant or deliberately challenging, they are trying to deal with all the changes going on in their bodies and brains.
Here are a few tips to ease you through the adolescent stage:
Adolescence is a tumultuous time in a dog’s life, but understanding that and knowing how to handle this phase means you can come out the other side with a great adult dog.
Lynn and Bob
Lynn adopted Bob at 14 weeks. Having previously owned collies, the bull lurcher was a change for her and had a different temperament to the previous dogs she’d owned. Training started soon after Bob came home which has helped him to develop his socialisation skills and obedience. Lynn noticed a few changes in Bob’s behaviour when adolescence struck. First, he started barking if he was guarding the property and then Lynn noticed him being what she described as “cocky”. This led to behaviours like jumping up at her. At the same time, she noticed he would be nervous of the slightest thing, like a discarded crisp packet if one of his paws stepped on it. While he still struggles to focus on Lynn if he’s out in the park and sees another dog, the training does seem to be helping to boost his confidence and reinforcing his place in the world.
Bought on the internet before being signed over for adoption, Ziggy had a very tumultuous start to life before being brought into the Clacton Centre. After two unsuccessful rehomings, the nervous adolescent dog went home to the Amy family in February. Ziggy had been given some training while he was staying at the Clacton Centre and the Amys were fully briefed on his fearful behaviour. Ziggy reacts to anything while going out on a walk. Passing dogs were his nemsis followed by other people, cars and even a plastic bag floating across the road. Since his rehoming, Ziggy is walked very early in the morning to keep him calm so that he can slowly build his confidence. A sign of improvement for Michael is that Ziggy reacts when he sees the paperboy out on his bike. For the Amys, it’s all down to patience and consistent training and while they describe 18-month-old Ziggy as very much a work in progress, they are seeing some signs of his confidence growing.
Steve and Bailey
Having previously owned collies, Steve Williams and his wife had always liked the idea of having a sighthound. They rehomed lurcher Bailey as a puppy from the Cornwall centre (he’s Bob’s brother above), and he lives with their Jack Russel terrier Izzy. Although one-year-old Bailey now towers over Izzy, the older dog is very much in charge.
As is natural to his breed, Bailey enjoys the thrill of a chase and Steve says his recall has been selective at times as he moved into adolescence. Over the past few weeks, Steve has noticed Baily stopping and watching if he saw another dog. Previously he would think nothing of running over to play.