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The Adolescent Dog

A dog’s development can be categorized into roughly three different stages: Puppyhood, Adolescence, and Adulthood. There are “subcategories” of behavior within the three, such as the puppy fear period, etc, but these three main stages can be helpful as a jumping-off point.   Adolescence is usually described as the age between 6 months and 1 year; depending on the breed that upper cut-off limit can be 14, 18 or even 24 months. Many trainers refer to the adolescent dog as a “teenager” and this is usually a fairly accurate description.   Adolescence is the most difficult time for most pet owners. Your sweet, cuddly puppy who followed you around and seemed to worship you is gone; replaced by a wild thing who’s growing stronger, bigger and faster each day. The puppy who amazed everybody in Puppy Kindergarten with his leash walking, downs and recalls suddenly can not follow a simple “sit” cue, and don’t even think about “stay.” The puppy who followed you around through the park without a leash is suddenly rocketing out your car door  the moment it’s open and is halfway across the soccer field.   Here are some do’s and don’t to help you navigate this stage!   Don’t:   Assume that your puppy is a dud. He’s totally not a dud!   Assume that all your early training was a waste and the puppy has forgotten it all. It wasn’t and he didn’t! All your training is still in there!   Decide to switch training strategies mid-stream and go into a more punishment-based or compulsory training method. That will usually only give you short-term effects and it will likely cause the puppy to avoid and/or ignore you even more.    Lose all your patience and your cool. This is just a phase. He’ll outgrow it!   Do:   Structure your dogs life and environment so prevent as many errors as possible. This is not the time to try off-leash work at the park. Definitely not time to be unsupervised in the backyard too much. Instead you should try to set things up so that he can not mess up too much.   Be patient. In just a few months this phase should be over, and then you’ll have a very well-behaved adult dog, as long as you stick with it.   Continue your regular obedience practice. Even if it feels like you’re slogging through the nine millionth rehearsal of “Sit, Stay, Come,” the regular practice will remind the dog of your leadership.

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