Bringing up pup - From adolescent to adult


People too often misinterpret a puppy’s adolescent behaviour as a permanent problem, leading them to rehome their pup. But you can handle this passing phase with a few helpful tips, Stephanie Hollebrandse writes.

From the age of six to 18 months, puppies start to think for themselves – they’ll test their independence and question your authority. Where they once obeyed your command without question, your pup is now more likely to indignantly ask ‘what will you do if I don’t?’

Adolescence is a critical time in your relationship with man’s best friend.

Here are some helpful tips to get through this time with your very own rebellious puppy teenager.

Be prepared

Adolescence will generally set in somewhere between six and 18 months. During this time pups will grow more confident in exploring their own world and potentially become independent of their owners.

Animal Behaviourist Dr Joanne Righetti says “The dog may appear to stop listening to commands; a previously perfect recall may be forgotten.”

“They may start to push the boundaries, like jumping on the couch, pulling washing off the clothes line, digging, escaping and barking.”

When this happens, it’s important you only give a command when you mean it and when you’re prepared to follow through. If you’ve called your pup to come and it doesn’t, go and get it right away. It’s also wise to add a short obedience lesson to your daily routine, practising commands such as ‘sit’, ‘down’ and ‘stay’ on a regular basis. It’s crucial to be prepared for this time in your puppy’s life.

“This is the period that most dogs are given up to shelters as owners cannot cope. If people understand that this is a stage pups go through, they are more likely to cope,” Joanne adds. Joanne suggests a good way to deal with adolescence is to get together with other dog owners experiencing similar behaviours. Let the dogs run off steam while you share the problems you’re up against – much like a canine adolescent support group.

Be smart

Being consistent with your training will also help your puppy feel secure in its role. Be sure to use lots of discipline and praise. While your pup is likely to be less responsive during this phase, when it does respond it will be aiming to please.

The use of interactive toys will nurture this positive response, while also keeping your pup entertained. A stuffed Kong will help it idle away the hours when left at home alone, ultimately preventing household problems such as destructive chewing, excessive barking and hyperactivity. “Adding mental stimulation, such as training treat balls, will help to keep your dog focused,” Joanne says. “If you have the resources to do so, it’s also beneficial to hire a dog walker or use doggy day care on the days you’re not able to be with your puppy. Being around people will also help to promote mental stimulation.”

There are lots of warning signs that puppy adolescence is approaching. Being aware of these signs and getting some advice will stand you in good stead to deal with the situation.

Andrew Biggs has owned and operated Hanrob Dog Hotel and training facility, a family-owned business, since 1981. “Learning to read your pup’s triggers will allow you to understand how much daily exercise it requires, what toys it prefers and how to put basic training in place to avoid any further misbehaviour,” Andrew says.

In addition to regular exercise and mental stimulation, grooming sessions are a good way of keeping your pup calm. “It’s all about knowing what makes your dog tick and giving it what it needs on a daily basis,” Andrew adds.

Be patient

Setting expectations from day one with your puppy will put you in the best position possible when adolescence sets in. For instance, giving it food at the same time each day and assigning 15-20 minutes a night to play time will help to avoid further problems. And try to be patient. “If it starts to ignore commands it learnt at puppy school, go back to the basics and teach them again,” Andrew says.

“Whether it’s jumping at the gate or refusing to come when called, go back to everything you taught in those early stages and train it again.” Most importantly, this time in your puppy’s life is something to enjoy. “Don’t crush the young dog out of them,” Andrew says.

Dr Joanne Righetti says to remember that adolescence is simply a stage in your puppy’s life.“Dogs are learning all the time and if owners don’t teach them how they would like them to behave, especially during adolescence, chances are unwanted behaviours will last a lifetime,” Joanne says.

So, if things get tough, step back and remember why you chose your special pup to begin with. Take the time to understand each other and you’ll get through this troublesome time. From here, look forward to the fun times ahead, because there will be many.

In summary

  1. The signs
  2. Ignoring previously learnt commands, such as ‘come’
  3. Digging and escaping
  4. Destructive chewing and excessive barking
  5. Hyperactivity

The solutions

  1. Give a command once and follow through immediately. If your pup refuses to come, go and get them straight away.
  2. Get together with other dog owners experiencing similar behaviours and let the dogs run off steam.
  3. Using interactive toys, such as a treat filled Kong, will help your pup idle away the hours when left at home alone.
  4. In addition to regular exercise and mental stimulation, grooming sessions are a good way of keeping your pup calm.

Get active

Providing your dog with regular exercise and activities is key to getting through adolescence. To find out more about what sports, clubs and training are on offer, visit the activities and events section on the DOGS NSW website.