Just as with human children, dogs go through developmental stages – from puppyhood into adolescence and adulthood, exhibiting certain typical behaviors.
Here’s an overview of what you can expect during the different phases.
Your dog’s puppyhood, contains the critical socialization period and your efforts here will help your dog grow up to get along well with all kinds of people and other dogs.
Your puppy begins to shed some of its goofy nature (unless you have a Lab) and adolescent behaviors that are driven by hormonal influences begin to arrive around 6 months of age, yet depending upon the size of your breed, it may be sooner. A small dog such as a Pomeranian, might mature at 5 months but a large dog, like a Great Dane will be later at 11 months.
Teen aged dogs get better control over elimination, the puppyhood habit of biting – lessens, their ability to focus on things improves and they begin to sense their considerable physical strength and agility.
Your dog will be more erratic and unpredictable than in puppyhood acting like a goofy, playful puppy one moment and then in the next, a teenager obsessed with anything and everything – except you, their owner.
You can have a rebellious teenager on your hand, ignoring you altogether, as they become very curious about the rest of the world and more comfortable wandering off. Due to the flooding hormones in their bodies, new challenges may emerge, like, intentionally mouthing you, more exuberant play including being bolder in jumping and body slamming, they may exhibit more chewing, digging, counter surfing, stealing and escaping. You may find yourself yelling more, pulling your hair out, and chasing after the dog, what fun, huh – gotta love those teenagers.
Your dog will show more confidence towards you, which is good…… but as they’ve gained the ability to predict how you will react to certain things they do, they may mess with you. You know, have a little fun at your expense, like stealing the remote control to get your attention, and instigate a game of chase. Needless to say, obedience and manners training is mandatory at this stage if you haven’t started already.
Adolescent dogs become more concerned with their social status and territory and this leads to increased independence, assertiveness, territoriality, protectiveness over possessions, and heightened interest towards other dogs and strangers (with its possible, resulting, potential for heightened aggression as well.)
Your puppy, who may never have barked before, may start barking for the first time as an adolescent. Until Rosy, my Sheltie/German Shephard mix, was about one year old, I had never heard her bark and was surprised the first time she did so while standing on my balcony looking down at a service worker who walked close to the building. Once you realize your dog does bark, the question will be how often it does it. Unless you want your dog to bark a lot, when it first appears, this is the right time to re-direct the dog quickly into another focus before barking has a chance to develop into a self-reinforcing behavior pattern. We can talk about barking in a future podcast episodes.
Now this is interesting and might help explain something you’ve noticed in your dog. Some dogs who were confident puppies, can go through an adolescent stage where they become fearful, startling more easily at new stimuli or strangers as they enter their teenage stage.
Has this happened to your dog? Patricia McConnell a leading certified, animal behaviorist, calls it, “juvenile onset – shyness,” where dogs become cautious as teenagers.
I’ve spoken about the first 3 months of your puppys life, being the critical socialization period, (podcast episode # 8) however this does not mean you can stop socializing your dog after 14 weeks, especially if your dog exhibits the adolescent fearful period.
You’ll want to continue your dog’s social education for at least the first year of its life. As Patricia McConnell describes it, “Social animals like dogs and humans have a strong sense of familiar and unfamiliar and dogs need to learn that part of what’s normal and familiar in life is to meet unfamiliar people and dogs.” So bottom line, keep socializing your dog into adulthood.
Other adult dogs may treat your adolescent differently then they treat harmless puppies. Improper behavior from an adolescent such as in-your-face greetings, body slamming during play or direct threats toward adult dogs will not be tolerated in the same way as it might be from a young pup. Your juvenile is likely to get a “correction” in the form of growls, snaps, and pin downs to send the message to mind their manners. The first fight I ever witnessed between Rosy and another dog, was with one she was romping with at a dog park. Rosy chose to body slam this older dog. The adult snarled at her, but Rosy looking away, missed the warning, and when she again mischievously threw herself against her, the older dog, got angry and let her have it. Wow, seeing my “baby” in a dog fight was alarming but, it didn’t last long, neither was hurt, and Rosy did learn her lesson. Now that Rosy is 6 years old, she herself, does not tolerate any youngster who wants to box her face and jump on her head. It’s an immediate pin-down.
Sexual maturity. It’s defined as the time when a dog is capable of breeding. This stage can arrive as early as 6 months for both males and females, an average is usually 12 months – but if you have a larger breed dog it can take as long as 2 years.
Male dogs start marking and lifting their leg for first time, and females may also start marking. Not only is the female marking her territory, but she is also advertising her availability to any eligible males. Dog to dog aggression is likely to increase during sexual maturity as dogs become more concerned with establishing territory, social status and access to potential mates.
This is the period when adolescence ends – usually sometime between 1-3 years of age depending upon the breed and individual dog.
Adults no longer experience rapid physical growth. Rather than continuing to get taller and longer, many dogs begin to fill out. The most common change you’ll normally see in your dog’s shape will be broadening of the chest and shoulders.
To your great relief, some of the troublesome behaviors that you may have experienced with your teenage dog starts to naturally calm down. Phew! They are not as excitable as when they were adolescents and adults can calm themselves more quickly and relax for longer periods. Your mature dog is more confident as they are now experienced in many social interactions and have reached their physical prime.
This social confidence is a positive trait in well socialized and well trained adult dogs. It can be a pleasure for you to take your dog out in public, but be mindful that this same adult confidence in dogs that have aggression issues, can become dangerous if they are not well managed and trained.
For adult dogs, it’s not end of their social development and learning. They are still influenced by the environment, and social interactions for the rest of their lives, so continue with established routines, good leadership, socialization, training and new opportunities for exercise throughout your adult dog’s life.
If you haven’t listened to our podcast yet, there’s a lot of great stories and quick tips for raising and caring for your four legged family members. Go to www.raisingyourpaws.com.
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Resources for Episode 9 of the Raising Your Paws Podcast.
Title: The Two Most Important Pet First Aid Techniques To Know & Quick Answers About Your Dog’s Behavior.
For more information about Pet Tech, Click here to find pet first aid classes in your area and for more information about Pet Tech’s events and trainings available.
Thom Somes, my guest interview for this episode.
Thom Somes also known as the Pet Safety Guy™ is the president and founder of Pet Tech®, the first International Training Center dedicated to CPR, First Aid, Care & Safety for dogs and cats. Thom’s career started in the medical field over 40 years ago in Michigan. He trained with the Michigan State Police and worked as an EMT for several ambulance services. After moving to California he became an Affiliate Faculty Member for Sharp Hospital and was an American Heart Association Instructor teaching human CPR, First Aid & AED trainings.
Twenty two years ago he merged his passion for pets, teaching and medicine to create the premiere pet CPR, First Aid & Care Training programs on the planet. Thom went back to school and earned his Veterinary Assistant 1 & 2 and volunteered hundreds of hours at Pet Emergency Hospitals and Specialty Centers. These programs were developed by Thom integrating the latest in the neurosciences of teaching and learning theory. Thom has his Practitioner, Master Practitioner and Trainer’s in NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) and has integrated it into all of the trainings, whether taught by Thom or one of the Family of Pet Tech® Instructors. Our unique style of teaching provides the student with an educational experience that is fun while allowing them to access the information in the event of a medical emergency involving their pet.
Pet Tech® offers CPR, First Aid & Care training for pet parents and Pet Care Professionals. There are over 700 Pet Tech® Instructors teaching the Pet Tech programs in 7 countries.
Thom is the author of Knowing Your Pet’s Health, A Guide to Optimal Wellness from Snout-To-Tail. This book is responsible for saving thousands of pets’ lives. It first debuted in Dear Abby in 2001. Knowing the skills and techniques of pet first aid can mean the difference between life and death; temporary and permanent disability; and expensive veterinarian bills and reasonable home care.
Thom is a renowned speaker and presenter specifically in the field of health and safety for pets.
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