In the beginning…..
So the story starts like this….you say ‘let’s get a dog!’ and it then turns in to ‘aww a puppy will be best’, so before you know it (reality – I really hope you research not only the breed but breeders too, get the health score, visit the dog before they are ready and then return to take it home) and you are now living with an alien species that does not understand English – or your natural language.
You have this perfect image in your head, but it’s not quite working out. Puppies wee and poo all over the place, they are chewing and nipping, and wailing if you even try to leave the room.
So you take then to a fantastic reward based trainer and you both start to learn about each other, and how to understand each other. Your puppy is returning to you when called, are starting to walk nicely on the lead (hopefully), and not running off with your socks from the laundry basket.
Yay, you did it! Or did you…..??
Feeling smug, you thought that a one hour a week for 6 weeks will be enough to train your young pup into the perfect adult dog. But I hate to break it to you, there is the adolescent stage to get through – teenage hell.
It’s the time when your puppy becomes more aware of their surroundings, other dogs, become sexually mature (if not socially mature yet) and go through physical, emotional and hormonal changes.
Testosterone and other hormones are surging through them, giving them confidence to explore further away from you whilst also having a second fear period (to keep them safe). Their brain is one fug of mush so all their good learning is lost in the mist. Focusing on their humans is the last thing on their mind.
Sadly this is the age when most dogs are given up for adoption as owners think that they are just being disobedient, and cannot commit to helping them through this difficult life stage. Or they have been neutered/spayed too early before the hormones have settled down as they think getting this done will magically transform the dog’s behaviour.
Your dog is not being malicious, or punishing you – they don’t think like that. They are just being teenagers. It’s a natural life stage that every dog goes through, and our job is to give them the guidance and patience to help them along.
What we need to do is give our dog’s some slack, stop and think what they are going through and work out a plan to help them instead of getting angry with them.
Tips for survival…
Go back to basics with your training. Recall is generally the main problem, as they are just more interested in the world and less bothered by your presence. Don’t take it personally, but instead reassess how YOU can be more interesting and engaging to them. Rather than walk around the same route distracted, how about bringing items for them to explore, sniff, search or play with you. Gain their focus by you working harder to earn it. Trick training is great for this so mid walk, ditch the phone and instead practice some party moves such as nose touches, spin on the spot or something else you want to impress your friends with. As you become more exciting and engaging, then your dog is more likely to want to stick by you, and return to you when you give them that clear instruction.
You may need to build up the difficulty levels of all your exercises by starting back at easy (no external influences) and slowly practice in ever increasing distractions. Manage your expectations and realise that for your teenager, being called away from other dogs will be the hardest thing for them so set them up for success.
Group classes for teenage dogs can help, we offer tips on getting the focus back, teaching your dog to settle amongst other dogs, and learn again recall and lead walking around other dogs. Check here for the latest courses we offer for your adolescent dog.
Put the effort and time in now to continue to train your dog, you will get the most amazing adult dog in the end.