Adolescent Dog Behaviour Problems
Adolescent Dog Behaviour Problems

How do you deal with Adolescent Dogs?


Do puppies go through a rebellious stage?

During the teenage phase a pup’s brain undergoes significant changes. These changes have implications for puppy training and owners should alter their expectations to reflect what can be a chaotic and vulnerable time in their dog’s life.

Dog Adolescence Age

From 6 – 12 months of age puppies go through a teenage phase that can last till the dog turns 18 – 24 months old.

Adolescent dog training
Adolescent dog training should take into consideration the brain changes that occur during this time.

What is an adolescent dog called?

Some of the terms used to describe the teenage phase of a dog’s life include –

  • Juvenile dog
  • Adolescent puppy
  • Teenager
  • Adolescent dog

What happens when dogs go through adolescence?

The dog teenage years are a hypersensitive period when the body is flooded with hormones and brains are rewired.

Changes that are occurring in the teenage dog brain –

  1. Inhibitory neurones that limit emotional responses are not fully functional until the end of adolescence. Meaning our pups can have limited impulse control during this time.
  2. Communication between the thinking part of the brain (cortex) and the emotional part (amygdala) is less effective during adolescence.
  3. Fearful experiences that occur during adolescence are more likely to be stored in the dog’s memory for a long time.

These brain changes have implications for what we should focus on training with our teenage pups. Because adolescent brains struggle with inhibition, we shouldn’t expect these dogs to be whizzes at impulse control exercises. Their brains are simply not yet wired to be able to excel in impulse control.

What is Impulse Control in dogs and why is it important?

Adolescent puppies can experience an increase in attention seeking behaviour. One of the side effects of adolescence is to become more interested in external things in the environment such as other dogs, people, moving objects, noises etc. During this hyper-sensitive period, their world suddenly gets bigger and they want to explore it.

Impulse control or self-control is a skill that we can develop through games based training with our dogs. Mastering impulse control enables our pups to remain calm and composed in the face of something that they’re curious about. A dog that lacks impulse control will be impatient and demanding.

The Kikopup dog training tutorial below shows a simple exercise on how to train impulse control.

Research has shown that adolescent dogs become less responsive to commands that they previously responded to and were more likely to respond to strangers when given commands than their caregivers. Much like human teenagers, dogs also go through a rebellious phase. Thankfully this disobedience is temporary in nature and resolves post-puberty.

Adolescent Dog Behaviour Problems

Adolescence can be a challenging time with owners reporting an increase in barking, nipping, whining, aggression, increased energy, peeing in the house, jumping up, separation anxiety etc all of which can also stem from an overflowing stress bucket.

Male Dog Adolescence

Male dog adolescence can present a unique set of behaviour challenges; unless neutered at or prior to 6 months of age, male dog puberty behaviour, can manifest as marking of territory and humping human legs and other dogs. Female dogs can also display these behaviours however owners report it less commonly.

How long does it take for a female dog to be in heat?

Female dogs will generally commence their first heat cycle from 6-12 months of age. The symptoms of a female dog period include swelling of the vulva and bleeding. A dogs first heat isn’t always shorter but all dogs are different with some owners reporting that their girl ‘isn’t bleeding’ and others ‘not swelling’, which can make it difficult to know what some female dogs do during heat.

How often do female dogs go into heat?

Girl dogs will generally cycle every 6 months, so twice a year. However this can vary, with some female dogs only having a period once a year.

Common behaviors of a female dog in heat

  • Licking vulva
  • More frequent peeing
  • Humping bedding and toys (sometimes a sign that she has ovulated)
  • Personality changes – an increase in barking, anxiety, clinginess and whining (due to raised progesterone levels)

What to do when your dog is in heat

If you want to keep your house clean while your dog is in heat; a couple of female dog nappies, and some disposable human sanitary liners that you can put inside to absorb the blood will do the trick.

A dog in heat will bleed for 7-14 days, some girls will bleed for longer, others less and a rare few, not at all.

Adolescent problem behaviors and high energy
Adolescent problem behaviors and high energy

How long does adolescence last in small dogs?

Small dogs tend to mature more quickly than larger dogs, reaching their full grown size by 10-12 months of age. During adolescence larger dogs have more of a physical adjustment to make. From 6 months of age, small dogs won’t grow as much as a larger dog; getting used to moving about in a larger body takes time. Big dog breeds can still be growing from 18-24 months of age. Therefore the physical burden on larger dogs during adolescence is more significant.

How do you get through the dog teenage phase?

How to deal with adolescent dogs - training and management in adolescence
How to deal with an adolescent dog – training and management in adolescence

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