Canine Adolescence

The media is often flooded full of puppy advice and puppy classes, but when it comes to adolescent dogs, owners can feel alone. People will often research how to care for  and train their new puppy, but many are overwhelmed by behaviours that emerge once the puppy stage is over.

It's common knowledge that puppies can be hard work, usually entailing many sleepless nights! This is often something we expect and embrace as we know this stage wont last forever. Usually, you and your puppy will master the key training such as toilet training, sleeping through the night, recall and lead work, and you will finally think you have cracked it, but then your cute little puppy suddenly hits adolescence. Your little baby is now a teenager, and with that comes its own challenges. Like us humans, our dogs are individuals and can respond differently to this stage of their lives; some chaotic, some more anxious and some will remain robust throughout.

Working in animal rescue we often take in animals that have been surrendered at this period of the dog’s life. Many surveys have concluded that during adolescence dogs are at the highest risk of being surrendered to a rescue centre.

So, what advice and support can we give you? Firstly, you are not alone! Many owners will have similar issues and may struggle at this stage as much as you. Although this blog will not be able to provide individual behaviour support it should provide some things to consider at this stage of a dog’s life. If you are really struggling, please seek help from a certified, accredited professional.

  1. The behaviours that are showing are often very normal. Finding appropriate outlets for their normal behaviours is key.
  2. Your dog is potentially going through huge hormonal changes (much like a child becoming a teenager). It won’t last forever and more than anything, your young dog will need your patience and support during this potentially tricky developmental phase.
  3. Teething may have come to an end, but not your dogs desire to chew. Chewing is a natural behaviour and outlets should be provided for them to enjoy.

  1. Adolescence can occur at different stages for many different breeds, some going into their twos.
  2. Sleeping patterns change. You may start to see that your dog’s sleeping routine starts to change, adolescents will often sleep less than a puppy. This may mean they struggle to settle at night, in this case calming but stimulating activities can provide a suitable outlet. This could be providing enrichment such as kongs, licki-matts and snuffle matts. Also, taking your time to enrich slow walks, allowing them to sniff and encourage foraging.

Our minds often turn to getting their energy out, so they become tired, maybe by exciting them into play or running around in a burst of energy. However, this will often leave you with a frustrated, physically exhausted dog which often leads to your dog expressing hyperactive and frustrated behaviours and not sleeping!

  1. It is common for adolescent dogs to have spurts of energy around late afternoon or evening which can present itself in a hyperactive, attention seeking behaviours. Pinpointing your dog’s spurts of energy will help in managing, if you know your dog usually becomes hyperactive at 4pm, get out the door at 3:45 for a slow enriching sniffy walk or provide them with an alternative calming activity. It is important for your dog to have appropriate outlets for their energy and frustration, suited to the individual.
  2. Fearful behaviour. It is common for adolescent dogs to occasionally feel overwhelmed by things which they may have been confident during puppyhood. It is important to support them, be patient and allow them to explore at their own pace.
  3. Reward every behaviour you like and want to see again! Also known as 'Positive Reinforcement' training. It is easy to ignore your perfectly walking dog by your side or those little glances back at you while walking. Don’t just notice the bad but actively reward the things they are doing right. This will make these behaviours more likely to occur again.

  1. At this stage of their life, they are finding out who they are, what works for them and what does not. They need consistency, patience, support, and outlets for their normal behaviours. Try to ride the rollercoaster with them rather than fighting against it. It will be worth all the hard work!