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Navigating the Teenage Years: Training Strategies for Adolescent Dogs

🐾 Let’s talk adolescence in dogs! 🐾

Adolescence can be both an exhilarating and challenging period in your canine companion’s life.

Similar to humans, our dogs undergo a phase of growth, transformation, and exploration during their adolescent years. Depending on the breed, this stage typically occurs between six months to two years of age.

You might observe your dog becoming increasingly independent and easily distracted by their surroundings, possibly testing the boundaries you’ve established. They might engage in behaviours like digging, chewing, or excessive barking. Remember, this is a normal part of their development.

Indeed, the adolescent stage can present challenges for dog owners, leaving you reminiscing about the days of the cute, loving, and well-behaved puppy that you diligently trained.

Rest assured, adolescence is a phase that will pass. However, providing the right support is crucial to ensure your dog matures into a stable and well-balanced adult.

Let’s delve together into the importance of effective management, safe and appropriate socialisation, consistent training, and physical and mental stimulation.

πŸ• Managing Interactions for Adolescent Dogs

Adolescent dogs are similar to teenagers – brimming with energy and curiosity, with arousal levels that can spike rapidly. To prevent undesirable behaviours from creeping up, you must oversee their interactions with other dogs and people.

βœ… Use leads, long lines, and gates as necessary to maintain control during walks and outdoor activities.Β 

βœ…Β Supervise playdates closely to ensure positive experiences for all involved.

βœ… Keep play sessions short and engaging, and incorporate natural breaks to prevent over-excitement.

If you sense your dog is getting too rowdy or if any dog appears anxious or overly aroused, stop the interaction and encourage your dog to engage with you in more suitable activities. Redirect their focus to sniffing, simple and easy training cues they enjoy, or interactive games to help them channel their energy positively.

🌎 Making Their World Smaller

While your dog’s natural curiosity drives their need to explore further away from their main caregivers (you!), it’s equally vital to establish structure and prevent overwhelming experiences and flooding during this impressionable stage of their lives.

❌ This doesn’t entail confining them indoors until they reach social maturity, βœ… but ensuring their encounters are positive while setting up their environment to encourage desirable and appropriate behaviours.

You can also consider creating designated play and rest areas within your home or garden, as this can help establish boundaries and routines, making it easier for your adolescent dog to understand what’s expected of them and help them switch off and relax as appropriate.

Providing plenty of mental stimulation 🧠 through positive reinforcement training, scent games, and interactive games can also help keep their minds engaged.

πŸ‘Œ Prioritising Quality Training Sessions

Adolescent dogs benefit more from brief, focused training sessions than prolonged, exhaustive ones. Keep training enjoyable and reward your dog for performing desirable behaviours.

Remember, if your dog appears forgetful, it’s not intentional: they are not doing this on purpose to annoy you. If your dog doesn’t respond to a cue, think about why that might be.

❓Is the environment too distracting?

❓Are there too many things going on for them to be able to focus and learn?

❓What rewards are you using? Are they motivating enough?

❓Is your dog feeling well overall? Even an upset tummy can influence your dog’s behaviour!

If needed, always return to the basics. Having to go back a step in your training is not a sign of you or your dog failing. Your dog is undergoing some normal physiological, hormonal, emotional and behavioural changes that will impact their ability to train and perform previously learned behaviours.

Simplify the task to ensure their success anytime you need to, and reward them plenty every time they get it right. This reinforces positive habits and maintains their motivation to learn. Continue with your training routine, and use management techniques when necessary.

🧠 Exercising Mind and Body πŸƒπŸ»β€β™€οΈ

Adolescent dogs possess abundant physical and mental energy. While physical exercise is crucial, it’s only part of the equation. If your teenage dog remains restless even after hours of strenuous physical activity, merely increasing exercise may exacerbate their hyperactivity.

This can be particularly important for working dogs and breeds who have a lot of energy and a lot of drive ⚑.

I have worked with a lot of working Labradors and working Cocker Spaniels lately, who needed more of a job to do and focus on rather than another walk!

Incorporating activities that challenge their mental faculties, such as scent detection and sniffing games πŸ‘ƒ, is extremely important to fulfil your teenage dog’s needs. These activities engage their senses and provide mental stimulation, which can be just as tiring as physical exercise.

Consider enrolling your dog in a scent detection class or one-to-one programme. Not only does this provide mental stimulation, but it also leads to more calmness and relaxation and strengthens your bond with your dog through shared experiences.

PS. I also recommend ❌ refraining from ball-throwing and chasing games 🎾. This repetitive and fast-paced activity can not only put unnecessary strain on your dog’s joints but also create an obsession with the ball. Hiding your dog’s ball for them to find it using their nose is a much more appropriate and suitable game to play and something I can definitely help you with through training.

πŸ—οΈ Consistency is Key

Maintaining consistency in your cues, boundaries, and expectations is absolutely crucial when it comes to nurturing a harmonious relationship with your adolescent dog.

Why, you might ask? Well, it all boils down to clarity being the antidote to confusion, which, in turn, plays a pivotal role in your dog’s overall well-being.

When your dog’s expectations are consistently met, they feel secure and are less likely to become frustrated. However, when inconsistency creeps in, confusion occurs, potentially leading to undesirable behaviours like excessive barking, leash-pulling, jumping up, or mouthing.

Let’s paint a scenario to illustrate this point: Imagine you have a “no bed” πŸ›οΈ rule for your dog, but occasionally, you can’t resist letting them join you for a Sunday morning snuggle under the duvet. It might seem harmless, but this inconsistency can leave your dog perplexed, wondering about the rules. And what happens when a dog’s expectations aren’t met? Frustration-related behaviors might surface.

To ensure success, consistency should extend beyond your household. Family members, friends, dog sitters, and walkers should follow the same rules and routines. This unified approach prevents mixed signals and reinforces the expectations you’ve set.

πŸ‘‹ Socialisation

Dogs are inherently social creatures and require socialisation. But rather than pushing your adolescent dog into unfamiliar situations with a wide range of unknown dogs, which could lead to flooding and over-arousal, focus on facilitating interactions with well-matched dogs for safe and appropriate play.

Positive experiences during this phase contribute to a well-adjusted adult dog. Adolescent dogs are still young and impressionable, and it’s critical to prevent negative experiences that might cause them to become worried or scared, as well as situations in which they might rehearse unwanted behaviours, such as becoming too boisterous with other dogs.

Socialisation should be a positive and enriching experience ⭐, helping your dog build confidence and learn appropriate social behaviours.

Monitor your dog’s body language during interactions to ensure they are comfortable and relaxed. If you notice any signs of discomfort, anxiety, fear, or stress, intervene immediately and remove your dog from the situation to prevent negative associations.

πŸ§˜β€β™€οΈ Patience and Understanding

Remember that adolescence is a phase, and like all phases, it shall pass.

Be patient with your dog, and shower them with love and affection. They require your guidance and support during this transitional period.

Maintaining a positive attitude and not reacting to their occasional undesirable behaviours with frustration or anger is essential. This is definitely not the time to turn to punishment and aversive training techniques (frankly, it never is!), as all that would cause is a disruption in your relationship with your dog and possibly even further behavioural problems down the line.

Instead, focus on reinforcing desirable behaviours using rewards such as food, toys, and play sessions – whatever your dog loves.

Offer your dog plenty of opportunities for mental and physical stimulation to help them cope with the challenges of adolescence.

Also, don’t forget to have fun with them! Adolescence can be challenging, so focusing on enjoyable activities with your dog can boost motivation and resilience. Engage in activities your dog loves, whether it’s doing a dog sport, going for hikes, or simply cuddling on the couch.

πŸ–ŠοΈ Seeking Professional Guidance

If you encounter specific challenges or behaviours that leave you uncertain, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from a qualified professional dog trainer.

The sooner ⏰ you access the support you and your dog require, the better. A certified canine professional can offer tailored guidance to address issues before they escalate into problems.

They can assess your dog’s behaviour, provide customised training plans πŸ—’οΈ, and teach you effective techniques to manage and address specific adolescent-related issues.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help, as professional guidance can make a significant difference in your dog’s development.

In Conclusion

Adolescent dogs may test your patience, but with proper guidance and love, they will mature into well-behaved adult companions.

Embrace the journey, remain dedicated to their training, savour the unique bond between a dog and their guardian, and most importantly, have fun with your dog! πŸ’•

πŸ†˜ I Want Help With My Dog! πŸ†˜

Being proactive and working on preventing or minimising unwanted behaviours before they become a more serious and engrained problem can save you a lot of time, stress, and money!

If you are ready to take a step forward in your training journey, get in touch!

πŸ“ž Book your free 15-minute consultation here,Β or

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Dog trainer with her dog

This blog has been brought to you by Giulia, the owner of My Kinda Dog.

Giulia is a qualified and experienced dog and puppy trainer covering Bristol and surrounding areas.Β 

She offers private puppy training sessions, private dog training sessions, and scentwork classes.

Giulia is passionate about helping people understand, communicate, train and thrive with their dogs.Β 

You can see her here with Ruby, her beloved canine companion.