Tips for …….. Working your dog through adolescence

Dogs grow through developmental phases like all other animals.  The adolescent phase begins at around 6-7 months of age and continues until about 18 months.  Behavior changes are expected.  Elements in the environment that seemed insignificant during puppy time can loom much larger in adolescence, escalating into over threshold arousal displays.  The presence of other dogs while leash walking and new people entering the adolescent dog’s space are two examples.  Consistent use of learned obedience cues along with behavior management and remedial socialization strategies are needed to navigate a challenging phase.  A return to puppy behavior management practices can help.

  • Attach a leash or drag line to limit options.
  • Use the crate, gates, or other containment to carve out regular rest and calm-down times.
  • Become aware of which undesirable behaviors you may be inadvertently reinforcing.
  • Be generous in providing meals in a foraging device (or game) instead of a bowl.
  • Use obedience cues in most interactions. When cognition is harnessed, behavior improves.
  • Thresholds can lower, so SLOW DOWN. Consider a reassessment of how you have handled socialization (new people, other dogs, new places, situations and stimuli such as cars, bikes, and noise, among others…)
  • Practice routines (training, play and games) that strengthen the connection and cooperation between you and your “teen” dog

This is a good time to concentrate on teaching life skills, so refresh training cues.  Foundation training can be applied to almost any context where behavior modification is in order.  Emerging undesirable behaviors can be replaced with desirable ones.  Appropriate set up and reinforcement are required.  Looking forward, ask yourself:  what do I want my dog’s behaviors to look like when he’s an adult?  Then, train it in!