Many dog owners are very enthused at the prospect of taking the dog for hikes, snuggling on the sofa, sharing the bed, roaming the house freely, among others. Around 5-6 months of age, dogs can be reasonably trustworthy with hitting the correct potty place and choosing their toys and chews over personal belongings. It is a sort of “honeymoon” period. How tempting it is to drop the leash! Metaphorically speaking.
Too Much Access to Space
Once the dog seems to have a handle on where his potty place is and is using it consistently, many owners begin to significantly decrease use of the crate. It becomes more of a routine to allow the dog in rooms of the home, which were previously off limits. Supervision may be a little more relaxed. This is a cautionary tale.
Dogs adapt to the routines and boundaries that we set up for them. At six months of age, a young dog is on the brink of adolescence. Changes happen as the adolescent dog becomes more exploratory with space and behaviors. Stimuli in the environment are processed differently, and many dogs escalate fear and reactive behaviors during this time. It is the time to stand by boundaries and manage behavior. A return to several puppy strategies, such as crate time and limiting access to space, is in order to prevent undesirable habits from taking hold.
Too Much Human Expectation
As much as we may want to be out and about with a well-behaved dog at the end of the leash, this skill takes time and practice. Gradual outdoor leash work yields the best results. A young dog can be easily distracted and overwhelmed by the great outdoors, so slow and steady is the way to reach leash walking goals.
Young dogs spend lots of waking time in a seeking mode. They are drawn to the most interesting elements in the environment at that moment. Leaving children’s toys alone, lying calmly during mealtime, greeting guests in your home and in the street are all behaviors that must be trained in. Preferably in stages as the animal can tolerate exposures.
Too Soon for Certain Privileges
Access to beds and other furniture is a privilege that can be earned through respectful and calm behaviors. Teach the dog to “sit and wait” for an invitation. Launching on the sofa or the bed is not pleasant for any other occupants. In homes with children, it can be unsafe. Running completely untethered even in a contained yard is a privilege for a dog after he is trained to come reliably when called.
Many behavior problems can be avoided when owners acknowledge that raising a puppy or rehoming an adult dog is a process. There is no rushing Mother Nature.
Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel CPDT-KA, 2019 all rights reserved
Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC