Adolescents in dogs is ruff
Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
It’s a topic that has come up a few times in the last week between my clients and some of the lovely people who have reached out to inquire about help.
What I am finding is it’s a topic a lot of people know very little about, when does it start, what can you expect from your dog, how long does it last for etc
So I want to share with you guys some information on adolescents in dogs.
Often I have people reaching out once the dog is 2 years or older which is fine, it’s never too late to start work on your dogs problems but quite often they will say to me,
“I don’t know why this started to happen things were going alright then all of a sudden it started going down hill, or the behaviours started just popping up here and there and we don’t know why”
Once we dig into it and look at the time line we discover two things,
Things weren’t always running smoothly when the dog was younger, from either the point of acquiring the pup at 8 weeks being more shy and anxious than the other pups
OR being an absolute ninny and being way over the top excited and struggling to be able to calm down, at all in the presents of certain stimuli like other puppies or people.
Both nerves and excitement are natural for pups but we find that when the owners think about it compared to other pups their age, they didn’t quite fall into the same level of nerves and/or excitement,
Sometimes we find on top of that a traumatic incident has occurred, neighbours bullying the pup, dog playing far too rough or a fight occurring, or anything else the dog perceived as dangerous/life threatening and the owners not knowing how to move the dogs mind through that event so he remains stuck on the idea that things linking back to that threat equals danger.
Or the other thing is isolation and a lack of exposure because the pups reactions are so extreme it becomes difficult to take them out of the house and also lacking skills in building a better perspective around those triggers when it creates anxiety or excitement.
When a puppy is young, its easier to handle them pulling, handle their reactions, to pick them up ,to remove them from the situation.
Yes we train with little dogs too but it’s mostly big dogs because once they start growing and reaching the potential of their strength it becomes harder to just sweep them up into your arms and walk away from what ever it is that has become too much for your dog.
So during puppyhood owners brush off the incidents and just keep on keeping on.
Around 10 months is when dogs usually hit adolescence and it usually fits in pretty dam well with the behaviours becoming more exaggerated and harder to deal with, like a switch has been flicked.
But it doesn’t stay like that it goes up and down, as hormones fluctuate and the brain goes through different developmental stages, learning and understanding, so will the dogs reactions and behaviours.
This is why adolescences seem so random, it ends around 18 months bigger breeds tend to mature a little slower.
And it’s why a lot of people swear by the fact that once the dog reaches the age of 2, things settle.
And it’s why people ring me around then because they go holy shit, this aint settling.
It’s not the golden rule for every dog.
The dogs we work with aren’t like every other dog, be it genetics, the breed type, intelligence level, life experiences, either way their responses aren’t typical and their responses tend to isolate them and their owners from living a regular life because of the way the dog behaves.
If your dog is showing signs of reactivity on leash, in the car, where ever, you can bet that isn’t going to go away on it’s own without the correct work.
If your dog is patrolling the yard, pacing, barking, doesn’t seem to really settle or have an off switch is fidgety and always seems to be looking for something to do, you can bet that isn’t going to go away.
If they are anxious, easily startled, struggle with new people, struggles to be left on there own, that’s not going to away on it’s own just because the dog has become an adult.
Our clients whose dogs are currently moving through adolescents are having moments of struggle for sure, it’s a part of the teens years, pushing boundaries, testing limits, it isn’t an easy time to navigate without added problems on top of it, adolescents is the time where dogs are building the foundation for how they will react to particular things in their environment.
In saying that they are kicking ass and achieving things with their dogs that took myself years to work out what actually works and doesn’t from my own trial and error, they seen the value of hiring someone to fast track that progress so they didn’t wander around lost for years wondering if the work they were doing was actually working or not.
And god dam that can be one of the most frustrating aspects of trying to fix behavioural issues on your own.
And whilst changing things within adulthood isn’t impossible, the longer it’s left the more work we need to get in their and do, habits, reactions, aren’t easy to change, they can be changed but the longer the are around for the longer it takes to remould things.
Lets assume your dog lives for 15 years, your dog is x years old, ask yourself this do you want to keep doing what you are doing, living the way you are living right now with your dog, for the next how ever many years that works out to be?
Truth is, its easier to do the work pre adolescents, but it’s not impossible to do it during or after, we can help at any point in a dogs life, so when is the right time to get help with the issues you are having with your dog? Right now.