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Help! My Dog is a Teenager! - Part 2, What do I do?

So we’ve covered what the brain is doing during this difficult time in the previous blog but what should we be focusing on now we know they have poor ability to retain information and act appropriately?

If you have a puppy who hasn’t yet hit adolescence, spend as much time as possible building a quality relationship. This includes training, cuddles, play, engagement, trust, communication. Focus on guiding your puppy to make the right decisions and just having a good time with you! You should be their secure base for whenever they need anything.

If you are unfortunate enough to already be experiencing adolescence, then take a deep breathe because you probably need it!

Focus firstly on what management you can put in place. How can you prevent as many undesirable things from happening as possible?

Does you dog need to go back on a long line whilst they are unable to process risk and control their urges to charge up to every dog? Do you need to look at introducing a head collar because loose lead walking is just impossible at the moment?

Do you need to reintroduce baby gates, pens or crates to encourage your dog to sleep more.

Do you need to promote more calm behaviours to reduce your dog’s baseline stress levels? Anything sniffing, licking or chewing is calming for dogs and you can see our blog on enrichment ideas here. 

Do you actually need to take a less is more approach and consider reducing your dog’s exposure to the things they find stimulating such as interactions with other dogs/people or even walks in general? Remember your dog probably doesn’t need the level of physical exercise you think it does. These positive endorphins of exercise can be just as stressful as the negative ones let alone if they’re barking and lunging at dogs because they want to play or dragging you down the road tracking a sniff. Sometimes reducing these experiences or booking an enclosed field for your dog to safely blow off steam without having to offer any level of obedience or engagement can be useful. If you try to train your dog in an environment they repeatedly find too difficult or too frustrating, eg, a town centre with lots going on, you risk making it even harder to train through as they anticipate this frustration every time they go into this setting. This can then affect their ability to make progress in these environments as they move into adulthood.

Once you have a dog who’s baseline stress levels are as low as you can, you’ll have a dog in a better state to start learning. Remember that learning through adolescence is essentially 1 step forward and 2 steps back. Smaller 2 minute training sessions are going to be a lot more beneficial than trying to take your dog to a big group class environment for an hour every week. Most people seek support for dog training when their dog is an adolescent. It is important to recognise that the most significant improvements in your dog’s behaviour will happen after they have matured so until then, you just need to keep chipping away!

Go back to basics with training simple things like a sit with duration, eye contact, hand touches and other useful fun engagement exercises away from the things that cause a massive emotional outpour to your dog. These can be used either as a distraction or as an alternative behaviour to lunging, screaming, spinning etc. You can then practise these exercises at a distance from triggers your dog finds particularly exciting and gradually decrease this down.

So adolescence is tough for both the human and the dog. Try to stick with it! Remember that sometimes less is more and reduce your expectations because your dog can’t help it. Seek support from a trainer before it becomes an issue and you will get to the other end of it. Good luck!


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