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.
I'm sure you are all aware of the news about the likelihood that the Government will ban XL Bully dogs. I have to say I don't agree with banning any breed as this doesn't address the underlying issues, however I do agree that something needs to be done to stop the numbers of dog attacks.
A ban will just move breeding 'underground' and actually could generate more money for breeders of these dogs. The big challenge is an XL Bully isn't a breed so there is no standard, so who can decide what is an XL Bully? These dogs are crosses and most likely created due to the ban on the Pit Bull. I believe all this will do is make breeders create another type of dog that is outside the government restrictions.
I know lots of wonderful Bully type dogs; however, some people are attracted to the breed due to the status of having a very large powerful dog and these people will go for looks or colour, and not be considering the health and temperament of these dogs. The breeders will not be health testing, raising them with care and understanding of how to raise a well-adjusted dog, and the new owners, wanting a status dog, will unlikely be taking them to certified reward-based trainers to give them appropriate life skills. For all of these reasons, it’s time to make changes.
It's time to focus on who is allowed to breed dogs. It's time to focus on education on how to raise dogs to be well adjusted and able to live in a human world. It's time to regulate the Dog Training industry so that people cannot just watch some 'quick fix' TikTok video and think they know how to fix a behaviour problem or spend money with an unqualified trainer. It’s time to stop and think if getting any dog is the right choice for the dog and family and understand in this world where we can get almost anything instantly, whether it’s time to stop and think first before buying.
Having said all the above, I want to reach out to any Bully dog owner and say there are lots of certified reward-based trainers across the country that are ready to help you. Please don’t panic and give up your dog (I can already see so many dogs being abandoned or given to rescue). I suggest you start with getting your dog happy to wear a muzzle. I can recommend the below link for well fitted muzzles and information about living with a dog that needs to be muzzled.
If you have a Bully and just want to talk to someone, please give me a call.