Personalized Dog Training
He was small and good, now he's big and bad
-- The Doggie Teens --
You have survived puppyhood and all the chewing, nipping, and messing in the house. Now your puppy has reached the age where he looks like an adult, has been successfully housetrained and has "outgrown" such puppy behavior as nipping your hands. In some ways he still seems to have the mind of a baby (he definitely does not realize how big his body is becoming!) but his behavior and personality seem to be taking another turn. Your dog is now an adolescent - a doggy "teenager." Adolescence begins at different ages for different individuals and different breeds (smaller breeds tend to reach adolescence earlier), but the results are the same. Adolescent behavior is all perfectly normal doggy behavior, but not always acceptable to humans. As Brian Kilcommons states in his book Good Owners, Great Dogs, "You'll know (when your dog has reached adolescence) because he will be annoying you in brand new ways." Recommended reading, Good Owners, Great Dogs by Brian Kilcommons, page 71 "Joe: A Story of Good Intentions and Common Mistakes", pages 95-97 "The Daily Routine - After Puppyhood: He Never Did That Before!" and "The Stages of Adulthood" and pages 182-258 "Understanding and Solving Canine Problems." To order this book contact 4mdogbooks.com or DogWise.com or Amazon.com
So your dog is a "teenager" - what do you do?
For one, you need to continue training and socialization. You must continue to develop communication through training or your relationship will be sure to suffer. Click here to find about how to choose a trainer. Click here to find a trainer. If you have not had a good relationship up until this point, you may start to see problem behaviors develop during the next six months. Make sure that you also continue to socialize your dog. Unfortunately, socialization works in such a way that if you don't use it, you lose it. An adolescent dog who was sociable as a puppy may start to become unsure of new situations if you do not continue to give him good socialization experiences. Continue to let him meet all sorts of people, have him sit for petting, make sure people pet him on the chest instead of reaching over his head, and always keep a supply of small dog biscuits in your pocket so that people can hand feed him (if you tell the people he meets to put the biscuit in the palm of their outstretched hand, then your dog cannot accidently nip their fingers). To find out more about socialization read The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson starting on page 60. To order this book contact 4mdogbooks.com or DogWise.com or Amazon.com. Also click here for additional information on socialization within this web site.
Sometime between the age of 6 months to one year your dog may experience another fear period (the first fear period being around 8 weeks of age). If your adolescent dog is becoming afraid of strange things (such as a trash bag that was placed on the curb) or noises such as thunderstorms, figure out how you can make the fearful object farther away, less noisy, or smaller and work to desensitize him to whatever scared him by making good things happen. For example, if you know a thunderstorm is on the way, close the doors, windows, and curtains and turn on the radio to block out the sound. Act happy yourself, throw a cookie party for your dog, and do not coddle him or express any concern for him or concern about the storm. Laugh and have fun - have the attitude that you wish your dog to have. If you would like to learn more about helping a dog with fears read The Cautious Canine, How to Help Dogs Conquer Their Fears by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. Click here for a list of additional books about socializing your dog and helping him overcome his fears. To order books contact 4mdogbooks.com or DogWise.com or Amazon.com
When your puppy reaches doggy adolescence, he may also begin to (or completely) lose his recall. Meaning you will find yourself working harder and harder to get him to "come" and he will seem to be ignoring you more and more. Unfortunately, many pet owners think their puppy knows "come" much better than he actually does. The reason for this is that young puppies tend to "come" to you as sort of a default - they may not really "understand" the word "come", but since they are young, they do not want to be left behind and are not yet that confident when left alone. After around five and a half months of age, puppies tend to become more independent and start to wander farther away without a backward glance. It's at this stage where you have to practice "come" in many different places with a long rope dragging behind your dog. Call your dog, praise him every step of the way, reward him for coming, reward him for letting you grab his collar and reward him for staying with you (at first, step on the rope so he learns not to take off when you are rewarding him for staying with you). Never call him for anything negative and hardly ever call him when you need to have him do something less enjoyable than what he was doing when you called him. Most of the time, call him, reward him, and let him "go play again." Sometimes call him and play a game such as tug or fetch. Play is often a more powerful reward than food. Recommended reading, Good Owners, Great Dogs by Brian Kilcommons, pages 72-73 "Teaching the Puppy to Come" and "Common Errors People Make When Teaching Come", pages 169-181 "Come and Solving Common Recall Problems", "Telling Tales" and "Frequently Asked Questions." To order this book contact 4mdogbooks.com or DogWise.com or Amazon.com
Also, to make sure that your dog does not wish to wander and is easier to handle in terms of behavior, now is the time to neuter him (or spay her if she is a female)- please ask for advice from your veterinarian regarding the best time to spay or neuter. Females do not need one litter or to go through a heat cycle; males do not need to mate once." If you do not plan to show your dog and pay for the required health clearances, leave the breeding to the experienced breeders. To do this will allow your pet to live a happier and healthier life. Recommended reading, Good Owners, Great Dogs by Brian Kilcommons, page 109 "Spaying and Neutering."
Another unfortunate thing may happen when your puppy reaches adolescence; you may start to see the development of aggression. Neutering a male dog may help to minimize his aggressive tendencies, however, the best way to prevent aggression is to purchase your puppy from genetic lines with good temperaments (especially make sure your puppy's mother has a good temperament) and provide proper socialization and training. Click here to find about how to choose a trainer. Click here to find a trainer. Brian Kilcommons states in "The Stages of Adulthood" on page 97 of his book Good Owners, Great Dogs:
"The radical physical growth is slowed. He hasn't unraveled the toilet paper for weeks. He actually lies quietly at your feet for hours. What's wrong? Nothing. He's growing up. Canine adulthood, from two years til death, has different stages just as puppyhood does. A dog doesn't simply mature and then stop. He continues to change, influenced by interactions, training, environment, personality, and breed.
Adult dogs are concerned with rank. Although they willingly accept you as the leader, they cannot understand a lack of guidance. If you do not give consistent direction or if you stop leading for a while, they will assume that you abdicated the throne. They're not capable of thinking "Oh, my owner is taking a week off" or " My owner loves me so much that she doesn't ask me to do anything." Seeing no one at the helm, they grab the wheel. It's as pressing to them as it would be for you if you went into the cockpit and saw no pilot. Something has to be done and they do it.
You won't notice much at first, maybe a slowing of response time, a reluctance to get off the couch, a wandering farther away for longer. Disobedience creeps up on you, until suddenly "out of the blue," the dog runs away or growls or steals the chicken off the counter. It was not "out of the blue." It's as predictable as a train coming down the tracks. My job is to point to that train while it is still way off and convince you that it will arrive unless you change its course now.
Aggression develops in slow stages with predictable arrival times. Nine to 12 months is your first round. The next is around 18 months, when late adolescence leads to more assertion, independence and aggression. By 24 to 26 months of age, full adulthood has arrived and what has been building up can now land with surprising force. Many dogs have their first serious bite in these months. Late-maturing breeds will hit another round of changes at three years of age. From my experience, most serious dog bites come from unaltered male dogs between the ages of one and three years. Consistent guidance, structure and training can steer you clear of these obstacles."
Recommended reading, Good Owners, Great Dogs by Brian Kilcommons, pages 116-119 "Structure and Direction", "Do You Have A Pushy Dog?", "Common Misconceptions about Dog Training" and "Setting Boundaries", page 124 "Thurman: No Other Choice" and page 125 "Your Basic Control Commands." To order this book contact 4mdogbooks.com or DogWise.com or Amazon.com
Personalized Dog Training by Martha Windisch.
Located in South New Jersey in the town of Chatsworth.