So you want your teenager to take out the garbage on pick up day? How did you teach that? I started by teaching mine to put their waste in the kitchen garbage, taught them what to recycle, and what to compost, inside first. They followed when I took the bin out, then they helped, and then they did it themselves. We played games around this, we set precedence, they learned to be responsible for doing and thinking for themselves. It took time, patience, and consistency.
And yes, there were times in their puberty that they forgot absolutely every life skill they had ever learned. But, because we had a foundation, we had something to revert back to in order to regain the skills.
I don’t always compare human growth to canine growth but in the case of teenagers, oh yeah. I think this stage traverses both, actually I know it does.
They are both living in an almost adult body, with almost adult physical abilities. Their hormones and mental development are in overdrive. They are exuberant, cocky, confused, can sleep for ages, and can be awake for ages. Their brains aren’t developed enough to compute action/consequence and so decisions are made on impulse, exploration of the environment via senses is the motivation behind all.
Your teenage dog will generally emerge somewhere between 6 and 12 months and will be with you for at least a month or more, not the possible 9 years as in humans. Unfortunately, this is also the time when humans “give up” on what was their cute little pup. Even the best trained pup will become a teenager, the foundation you have set, or not, will dictate how the dog and you will get through it. If you started and stuck with training from the beginning they have a better chance of getting through this stage much quicker and with less severity. And yes, you can get through it too.
What to expect:
- Numb brain, dog forgets simple instructions like how to sit, or their name
- Unpredictable/rebellious behaviour – acting out
- Toilet training set backs
- Dog trying to “take control”
- Excessive energy
- Bullying/dominant behaviour towards other pets/children
- Exploring/running away/pushing boundaries
How to get through it:
- Patience, structure, calm consistent behaviour
- Know that inconsistency will create/reinforce confusion/frustration in the dog
- Interrupt unwanted behaviour immediately
- Stay with or go back to the basics, do not try to teach anything new
- Know that “up on” is a dominant behaviour, keep the dog on the floor, crate, dog bed
- Remind yourself that “this too will pass”
- Remind yourself that they need your guidance/strength
- If you are getting frustrated, remove yourself from the situation. Go for a walk or have a bath, do something for you. Do not put your emotions on the dog.
- Do get professional advice/training/support at the earliest possible stage.
Your dog will go through many developmental stages; this is just one of them. Most dogs are socially mature at about 2 years old, and mentally mature around 3 years old, but that is not the end of the developmental stage either.
If you have a dog in this stage and are unsure of how to deal with it, please, please reach out for professional help. If you are unsure of who to contact, go to your local contact at the rescue. Please do not give up on your dog, please suck up your self-esteem; it’s ok to ask for help. You offered your home to your dog, do whatever it takes to keep them there and safe. It’s just another stage.
I write this from my experience as a professional certified dog trainer, and as a parent with life experience with mental development.
Certified Trainer Educator