Puppies are rainbows and sunshine embodied into animal form, spreading joy and smiles to all those around them.
But it doesn’t last forever.
Your once adorable puppy has evolved into a mid-sized land shark, demolishing the room like a tornado. Now, they are reckless, questioning authority, acting impulsively, giving you gray hairs, testing boundaries, and exploring their independence.
What happened to your little furry angel?
Understanding the Adolescent Pup
Puberty in dogs is a mixture of the terrible twos and teenagerhood, occurring around six months to two years old. Older puppies appear more rambunctious and misbehaved without their previous tiny puppy status, granting them universal forgiveness for their mistakes. Here are some tips for surviving your dog’s terrible twos.
Review and Reinforce the Foundations
Stay consistent with a routine for potty breaks, feeding, training, sleeping, and exercise. Continue to redirect their teething needs to approved chew toys. This period is about reminding them what the household expectations are.
Offer Mental Outlets
Almost all dogs are working dogs. You can help them fulfill this by teaching them new tricks, “jobs” around the house (ex: closing a cabinet, picking up toys, getting a drink from the fridge, or by signing up for a dog class like agility or nosework).
If you don’t have time for training, invest in puzzle toys. Purchasing these is one of the best tips for surviving your dog’s terrible twos. These activities are mentally exhausting for dogs because they encourage natural foraging and problem-solving instincts. Feed them dinner through food-dispensing toys or freeze their meal inside a Kong.
Give the Right Amount of Exercise
Teenager dogs need more physical activity than their younger selves. Extend the length of your walks or add another one during the day. Set up play dates with some of your friends who have well-behaved dogs and let them romp in the yard.
Teach an off Switch
By teaching an “off switch,” you are helping your dog learn when it is appropriate to play and when it’s time to rest. Not all dogs have an off switch installed—it’s up to you to teach them. This is especially important for working dogs, high drive dogs, or high energy dogs (ex: shepherds, collies, German shorthair pointers, and heelers). Look up tutorials for “relaxation protocol” for instructions.
Control the Environment
Don’t give them the option to fail. Having a puppy will probably increase the signs of a dirty carpet, amongst a long growing list of house damages. It’s okay to limit their freedoms until they are mature enough to earn them back. You both may need it to make it through puppy adolescence alive.
Crate training is helpful for when you are out of the house, need to give all your attention to a work meeting, or need some quiet time. Other ways to control behaviors are keeping the kitchen counters free of tasty temptation and storing the trash can out of reach.
Puppy adolescence is normal. They need you to be patient, steady, clear, and provide them with healthy outlets. Remember that this is just a phase, and this is manageable. Don’t worry; you will survive your dog’s dreaded teenage years!