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The Adolescent Dog - Let’s not go nuts!!

So you made it through puppyhood in one piece, just, and our cute little Landshark seems to be easing off of the biting a bit, you have been working on their training and you are starting to see small glimmers of hope, you can see things are possibly moving in the right direction and everything seems to be on the up.

Our puppy is now looking more like an adult dog, and we are on the path where we can almost see that finish line.

Then hold on, what’s going on now, our dog who we believe is becoming an almost fully cooked adult starts to “act up”.

We see pulling on the lead, we see recall becoming non-existent or certainly less responsive, we seem to mean nothing to them anymore, selective deafness when out on walks starts to appear and we are left with a dog who is often described as strong, naughty, disobedient and pushes their luck constantly, arggghhhhhhh!!


Changes that are often seen during this phase of doggy development are

· Recall going down the pan and the desire to run and meet others is increased dramatically

· Sniffing becomes more intense as smells now have different meanings, it’s almost like relearning to communicate all over again. Please note intense sniffing can also be a dog feeling uncomfortable in the world and trying to disengage known as a displacement behaviour.

· Scent Marking may be seen

· Feeling nervous or unsure about things they were previously fine with

· Jumping Up

· Humping Behaviour, not always sexually motivated

· General unruliness

· Other dogs may be more inclined to tell them off

Sadly, this is the period of a dog’s life where they are most likely to be rehomed or find themselves given up to a rescue (5 months – 3 years) they have the highest relinquish rate and sadly the highest euthanasia rate.

Whilst many people, and even some dog professionals still think of the new puppy stage as the most critical, new data has shown that the dog's brain opens up again to a period of intense learning in adolescents and personally, I am going to go out on a limb and say whilst all 3 critical periods( prenatal, puppy and adolescents) are just that, critical, actually the adolescent stage is the most vital.

We need to change how we think about our dogs during this stage, they are not naughty, they are not bad, and yes they may be disobedient, but it's very often not down to choice, try to think of their brains fizzing like a shaken-up bottle of prosecco with hormones.

Just because you can’t see what going on, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Now, most people at this stage head straight to the vets, because if we remove body parts that we think are responsible for this behaviour we will stop it right?


I don’t want to get into neutering too much in this blog, that’s a whole different blog but, when dogs were neutered at just 6 days old (yes horrific) the brain still went through adolescents, so it usually doesn’t solve or stop most issues that people think it will, and actually, there were more negatives seen than positives.

Dogs are unable to finish maturing without those hormones both physically and mentally and once you have removed them, there is no going back so I urge you, speak to your vet and speak to a reputable behaviourist before making that decision, get all the facts and information so you can make an informed decision.

It's really easy for people to get frustrated during this stage of their dog's development and I get it, all that time, effort, and even money seems to have been fruitless.

I have seen dogs be taken to, or sent away to a more ‘tougher, firmer’ trainer because clearly, the kind compassionate way didn’t really work did it?

Yes, it did work, as long as the effort was put in on the humans part and you had a reputable canine professional helping you, it worked, it's just your dog is maturing, and that’s not your dog's fault it's growing into an adult, I mean is that expected right?

It is crucial you understand that your dog is now in an intense learning period where you are not the focus.

That’s not a slur on you, that’s nature doing its thing, so being tougher and firmer, is that likely to show your dog you are someone who is unpredictable to be around, and learning is not fun.

Sending them away at this age must be so worrying, you may get a quieter dog back but its possible you will get a broken dog back, trust me, I work with many of these sent away dogs in a behavioural capacity later down the line when their insecurities start to come out in other ways.

So, I really want people to stop and think, dementia or menopause in humans is something that you can’t physically see but can change how the body works and can change behaviours, this stage of our dog’s life is similar.

What you do now and even what you don’t do, really will shape the future of your dog.

So, what can we do?

  • Use long lines so they can’t run off but still have choices and freedom to explore and be dogs.

  • Maybe consider a GPS tracker so you can track your dog

  • Enrichment activities that encourage confidence, adaption and focus on species-appropriate behaviour.

  • Avoid things like ball chasing and constant high energy activities as growth plates are still closing and they can feel off balance and there can be a risk of injury.

  • REWARD THEM, try to show them they when they get things right, not always correct them for getting it wrong.

  • Go back to the basics of Training if needed, it's not going backwards, you’re investing in your dog’s future, and it could be your last opportunity to do so.

  • Remember that our dog is experiencing a wealth of hormones, and these are having an effect on their behaviour – they’re not disobeying us and being naughty, they can’t help it!

  • Help them socialise and habituate to the world again if needed.

  • Work with a reputable and ethical Trainer or Behaviourist

I know it’s hard, I know it can be frustrating, but please don’t rush out to neuter your dog, or send them away or be tougher, there are no quick fixes for this.

Your dog is once again learning about you, the world and everything in it. THIS is critical to get right, you signed up for this when you decided to welcome a dog into your home.

Just as you were understanding of the many things they did when they were small, our dogs need that same compassion and understanding back when they are in adolescents!

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