THE TEENAGE DOG
“What’s happening to my dog? I don’t recognize him anymore! Before he was always cheerful and now he seems to want to fight with everyone. He’s even started doing damage to the house!”
Phrases like this are quite frequent after taking an adorable puppy, and only a few months have passed. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Adolescence is a period that brings with it a lot of confusion, and from which unfortunately we all have to pass (even dogs!). In some people the transition to adulthood is less evident than in others, but the transition is always there.
At this stage you may see your dog forgetting every teaching he has received, although in reality he is probably just ignoring your every word. There may be an increase (or appearance) of aggression with other dogs or people. Runaways, destructiveness, hyperactivity, mounting and whoever else has more.
Even inside the house the situation could be delicate, as it could start to ignore every little rule of quiet living with you. We are not only talking about the so-called “commands”, but also simple shrewdness and compromises between two different species.
WHEN DOES IT HAPPEN?
Usually this phase occurs from the age of 6 months, but it can also occur at the age of one year. The hormonal change that will make it an adult dog varies depending on the breed and size of the dog, with significant differences.
It generally precedes the first heat in the female, and then settles definitively after this period.
HOW TO BEHAVE?
Fortunately for us it is only a period, after which we will have an adult dog (possibly) balanced. During the adolescence phase, however, there can be some big mistakes that can compromise the relationship with the dog or create endless behavioral problems.
In this phase, in fact, the dog is trying to understand his role in the world. He goes from the “puppy” phase where everything is a game and everyone is a friend, to the “hormonal” phase where, pushed by a force greater than him, he could get into trouble.
With a lot of patience (remembering that it is a passing phase), we simply must not be surprised by his behavior, not ignore it and above all not suffer it.
At home, for example, we could witness, as we said before, some curious behavior. Let’s make some examples: the dog gets on the sofas or on the bed when before he was never allowed to. He growled when we passed him while he was eating. He does not accept to be alone and destroys the furniture.
In order to prevent these behaviors from stabilising, it is advisable to intervene calmly and firmly on any behavior that exceeds the limits.
It seems obvious to say this, but a very important rule is this: do not use violence. This is a rather delicate period, in which, as we were saying, he is looking for his “place in the world”. A too severe reaction on our part could “crush” him emotionally, giving us back a fearful dog who feels like the last wheel of the cart.
Let’s support him as much as we can, trying to accompany him in this delicate phase of his life.
WITH THE OTHER DOGS
A separate paragraph deserves the issue of “socialisation”. If the dog starts showing signs of intolerance towards other dogs, let’s forget the joy of being able to leave him free to play with whoever he wants.
The hormonal storms he’s going through could lead him to want to “fight” with the wrong dog, maybe a very confident male who doesn’t accept to be challenged by the first young dog that comes along. Be very careful at this stage to choose your playmates carefully.