Dog Days: So You Have a Teenager

Dog Days: So You Have a Teenager

What can you expect of your adolescent dog, and why? Learn how to make your dog’s adolescence easier on both of you. (Hint: prevention, prevention, prevention).

Your one-year-old lab mix may look like an adult, but they’re very much not. They’re still learning about the world, still growing into who they’re going to be. Big on enthusiasm, low on understanding. Teenage dogs can seem like human teens, but they’re not doing it on purpose. They can’t really help it. It’s all part of this particular phase of puppyhood. They still need you to guide them and train them like the brand-new critters they are.

Ideally, you began training your puppy long before adolescence reared its ugly head, because, although training won’t prevent this stage of life, the training will have established communication between the two of you. That communication is important, especially during the times when your defiant teenager doesn’t want to listen to you.

Adolescence is a complex process involving physical growth, sexual development, and behavioral changes. Human teenagers often make poor decisions, and their impulse control is poor during their adolescent years, and your canine teenager is apt to be the same way. Although your adolescent dog will not tell you, “I hate you,” and stomp off to his room, he may challenge you in other different (but similar) ways. He may ignore you, challenge you, and defy you. He may also become incredibly affectionate, or he may run away from you. Your puppy may also do all these things (and more) to any older dogs you have at home. Thankfully, though, there are techniques to deal with these adolescent months so you both still like each other when he grows up.

The first thing every dog owner should do is evaluate how much physical exercise their dog needs. Generally, dogs are at the peak of their exercise requirement during their adolescent period. The amount and style of exercise vary greatly. For example, a young Labrador retriever likely requires at least 60-90 minutes of intense, tongue-dragging exercise per day, while a French Bulldog need far less—in fact, you must be very careful with brachycephalic breeds because of their limited ability to breathe and handle heat.

With an adolescent dog, you may find that the statue you used to walk past every day in the park suddenly without so much as whimper becomes a terrifying object to bark at. This is sometimes called the ‘fear period.’ Around the one-year mark, a teenage dog can become more frightened of people, things, and situations than they may have even been as a puppy. This is temporary and extremely common. Helping your teenage dog through this stage will ensure they come out the other side as a happy, friendly adult.