Any parent of teenagers will tell you that raising kids during their adolescent phase is a trying task, what with the know-it-all attitude, the uncanny ability to ignore anything that resembles a request, and the sudden urge to be anywhere but with family. But even if you’ve never raised a human, you may have encountered these traits—in the canine members of your household.If your dog is suddenly ignoring the “sit” or “come” commands they mastered in puppyhood, you’re not alone. Just like humans, dogs go through a rebellious adolescent phase too, and they can be just as obstinate as human teens as they push for a bit of independence and navigate through their fluctuating doggy hormones.
A Dogs’ Awkward Adolescence
Dogs during this teenage phase have been observed to give trainers and owners a better understanding of dog behavior. One study observed the behavior of 70 dogs being trained as guide animals at five months old and then again at eight months old. The dogs included German shepherds, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and mixes of these breeds. The older dogs were found to be twice as likely to ignore sit commands when given by their caregivers, which led researchers to conclude that it wasn’t that the dogs didn’t know how to sit—it was just that they were stubbornly choosing not to. The kicker though was that these same dogs still obeyed a complete stranger giving the same command.Sound familiar? What this particular study was able to show was that dogs display increased conflict behavior, characterized by a reduction in obedience, during puberty. Most importantly, this reduced that the disobedience shown by the dog was behavior shown only towards their caregiver.Other studies have also come to this same conclusion, which found that both younger and older dogs seem to be more trainable than dogs in their teenage years.So why does this happen when a dog has already been trained?
Well, one reason is because of hormonal fluctuations and the remodeling of the brain as it becomes an adult brain. Sadly, the resulting behavior can have repercussions for the dog, whose owner may not realize that their pets may just be going through a difficult teenage phase—it’s this age group that is the most likely to end up in shelters in the U.S.The fact that dogs absolutely do go through an adolescent phase can really help owners better understand their dog’s behavior as they transform from a puppy into an adult. We were all teenagers once—it’s a time when you want to explore your boundaries, become more independent, and blow off your parents. And there are definitely some similar behaviors that can come out in our dogs.
Dog puberty starts earlier than many dog owners realize—it can begin as early as five months of age, and their adolescent behaviors could drag on until they’re at least a-year-and-a-half (or longer). Some indicators that your dog may be entering his or her adolescence phase are:
Increased energy levels
Heightened interest and curiosity about their surroundings
Destructive behaviors like chewing or barking to get what they want.
Not listening to you is probably the biggest clue that your dog is in his or her awkward teenage phase. It’s not that your dog has forgotten their commands…it’s just that they now have competing interests.
Living with a teen dog
The trainers at Come.Sit.Stay Dog Training in Jacksonville, Fl., note that your dog’s breed will also play a role in just how long your dog’s teenage years may last. Some dogs could seem a bit “moody” up until they’re three years old. Where other breeds may have a very short rebellious phase- like the boxer.So what should pet owners do about all of this?
An important step is for owners to simply be aware that this is a normal phase and not a life-long regression, or a sign of a “bad dog.” The other big factor is, of course, start training early, and keep it consistent. Training is the most important thing you can do for your dog—and it needs to happen in early puppyhood, ideally around eight weeks. It’s during that stage that your dog is in their most impressionable phase of life.The good news is that if pet owners are consistent and diligent about training and properly socialize their dog, it won’t be as difficult to get them back on track when they’re going through their teenage years. When things do start to go south, that’s when pet owners can go back into their toolbox and work on basic training and reinforce good behavior.Owners should also look for ways to minimize their dog’s desire to engage in destructive behaviors whenever possible. That means increasing the amount of physical and mental stimulation your dog receives. You can do this by getting your dog plenty of exercise, preferably earlier in the day. Another way to keep your dog stimulated (and out of trouble) is through puzzle toys, which can be stuffed with treats, or even put in their regular food.Above all, just keep in mind that your dog hasn’t forgotten everything they’ve learned; they just may not be as focused on it right now. Think of it like trying to teach something to a second or third grader. Just remember to keep up with consistent training sessions with varying levels of distraction—and give your dog some time and patience.At Come.Sit.Stay Dog Training, we do in-home consultations and training to make sure your dog is comfortable no matter their age. We also offer a lifetime guarantee- which means that you pay one fee, and you get a trainer for life! So down the road when your dog goes through their rebellious teenage phase we’re there to help you through every rebellious action your pup takes.If you have any questions please contact us at (904) 233-0608 or fill out our online form by clicking here.We look forward to the opportunity of meeting you and your four-legged family. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for CSS updates and to learn more great dog training tips and tricks.