However, we do need a bit of empathy and to understand what is going on for our dogs. Do you remember being a teenager? Certainly, a time of change and confusion. So why wouldn’t our dogs (or an animal) be similar.
The mammalian brain is physically changing during this period between puberty and adulthood. What this means is that they are more likely to take risks, have less inhibition, their confidence is increasing, their desire to be ‘social’ increases and prey drive kicks in. Sound fun!!
I remember being a teenager well. Finding my place within the world, wanting to be grown up but not knowing how to be. Hormones were of course impacting me and my friends as well, so no one really knew how to manage their behaviour sometimes. My parents were also trying to find the balance between giving me more freedom versus keeping me safe.
I think having an adolescent dog it very similar. We need to understand how many changes are going on physically and mentally. We must find the balance between giving them outlets for what they want versus keeping them safe.
Having suitable dogs that they can interact with without learning to be a hooligan. Using long lines to make sure they don’t learn how much fun running off and chasing a rabbit or bouncing on all the other dogs in park can be! Giving them some quiet time to allow them to process the world. Managing our expectations about what they can do, where they can go and help them cope if they are struggling.
Remembering that management isn’t cruel, it’s about not setting your dog up to fail. What gets rewarded gets repeated! Can you imagine the internal reward (feel good factor) your dog gets when it chases a rabbit across the field. They cannot hear you calling them, all they know is that this is the best thing they have done all day! So why wouldn’t they want to do it again tomorrow? For you, you are terrified that your dog is not listening to you and scared they aren’t safe. It’s the same if you allow your puppy to play with all the dogs they meet on a walk – this isn’t going to help them cope with their frustration of not being allowed to interact when the other dog when they are older. Management is essential during this time in their life.
However, please don’t take this to mean you hide away and don’t spend this time still working with your dog. This period of their life is very important to develop a well-rounded adult dog.
A few thoughts for you to help: How often do you play with your dog? Spontaneous, silly, just running around play? Do you give your dog appropriate outlets for both physical and mental desires? Hiring a dog field is a great way to give them some safe off lead time, do some training games, sniffing time, and be relaxed because you know no one else is around. Get to know your dog – what do they like doing? I love asking people – if your dog had choice of what they get up to, what would they do? This will guide you as to the fun activities you can learn together.
I personally really enjoy this time in a dog’s life. I love getting to know who they are going to become. Yes, it is challenging, yes it can be hard work, but please remember to enjoy it too! We don’t have long with our dogs, so make it all count.