Dr Katrina Warren shares her tips for managing an adolescent dog
The transition from puppy to juvenile is known as adolescence. The adolescent dog, like the adolescent (teenage) human, has a body that’s nearly the size of an adult but with an immature brain. During this time, you may notice many changes in your puppy’s behaviour that appear to be out of character and often a little challenging. Your puppy will lose his puppy teeth and may chew a lot more as the permanent teeth come in.
Intact adolescent male dogs produce high levels of testosterone causing male-oriented behaviours such as urine-marking, roaming, and sometimes aggression toward other male dogs.
The intact female dog’s body prepares for and experiences the first heat cycle. She may become very playful toward male dogs, escape from her home and roam, urinate frequently and show aggression toward other female dogs. If she comes into heat she may fall pregnant if allowed to interact with male dogs.
I recommend desexing and neutering all dogs around 6 months of age.
Your dog needs careful guidance during this stage – good management and training are very important. Sadly many people choose to give up their dog during this phase, instead of training and managing appropriately.
Adolescent dogs also have endless energy they need to burn. Playing games like fetch & taking them for long walks and runs twice a day, will help satisfy them by burning energy.
Like teenage humans, adolescent dogs have a great sense of adventure but this can also get them into trouble. They need to learn some self control and teaching them how to settle is very important. This means, teaching them how to calm down when they are wound up.
To teach this, simply work on teaching your dog to lie down in one place, Reward him when he does, if he is calm. To start expect just 5-10 seconds in the down position but over time increase the duration. You can introduce a command like ‘settle’ or ‘calm’.
Once they grasps the concept of ‘settle’ then play some wild chase & fetch games for a few minutes. Then, stop and ask them to settle for a few minutes and then release and start the wild game again. Work on this often and you will teach your dog fantastic self control. A KONG Safestick, a Squeezz toy or a Tugger Knot are great fetch toys for this activity.
Good management is essential during this time. Leaving your young dog unattended in the back yard for hours may give him way too many opportunities to practice things like barking, digging & chewing. Make sure your dog is well exercised and always provide an assortment of interactive and chew toys such as the Classic KONG stuffed with food and frozen over night. Puzzle toys are a great way to keep your dog occupied and mental activity will help tire your dog.