Adolescence - What happened to my puppy???

Adolescence : 5-24 MONTHS
We always know when our puppies hit this stage, as we begin to receive emails and questions about our clients wonderful puppies suddenly behaving badly!   Emily and I will look at each other and ask.... are they hitting that phase?  The answer is always yes!  This week we had three families reach out feeling flustered by their dog's new behavior and after some training sessions, we decided adding this info to the blog would be helpful for everyone to read up on.  

Oh we feel you friends, and we are here to help!  Never feel afraid to reach out for some support!  (The photo to the left is my very own dogs, Zelda and Bianca when they were in this phase...notice the smiles as they sit so happily after dismembering their stuffed bear? Oh.... memories! This photo always makes me laugh because they truly were so proud of themselves and had no clue they were making mom's life a little more interesting!).  My personal advice? Remember they are still babies.  They weren't even alive a year ago,  so try to find the humor in it all.  It isn't forever! 

  Our friends with the SPCA have a great article about this strange and oftentimes frustrating phase in your puppy's development. 

Adolescence occurs between 5 months to up to two years and can be a challenging stage for dog owners.  Adolescent dogs look like grown dogs, but are still very much puppies who go through a resurgence of some puppy behaviors.  This is the Second Destructive Chewing Phase.  While it may take a little extra work to get through this stage, the reward is an adult dog who is the companion you have dreamed of.  

Here are some tips from the SPCA on what to be prepared for:

Destructive Chewing

When your puppy was younger, they explored the world with their mouths and did quite a bit of chewing during the first teething phase.  After this stage, the chewing seems to happen less frequently and, when it does happen, it causes very minor damage.  
However, at around 5 months, your puppy's adult teeth have emerged, bringing about a second teething phase that will last at least one year.  During this time, the type of chewing that dogs engage in can be much more destructive if you don't take steps to prevent it.  
Your puppy doesn't just like to chew at this stage, they need to chew!  They still have aches and pains related to teething, so provide them with plenty of appropriate outlets.  This includes rope toys, natural chews like cow hooves and bully sticks, and specially designed chews like Nylabones or Benebones.  You can also freeze whole carrots and provide those as soothing treats.
When your dog is unsupervised, use baby gates or pens to confine your dog, or try to keep them out of areas they ay be tempted to chew. In other words, plan ahead and be proactive in managing your puppy during this time. 

Mouthing and Play Biting

Just like when they were little, adolescent dogs can be "mouthy" during this time.  This is how they played and interacted with their littermates, so they try to play with you the same way.  This is NOT a sign of aggression.  Its NORMAL, natural behavior.  
Some people worry that a dog will "learn it is ok to bite", if they are allowed to put their teeth on human skin.  But dogs don't bite because they think it is acceptable to us, they bite when they perceive the person or something is doing as a threat.  
Mouthing and play biting are attention-seeking behaviors.  This means that any attention, including saying "no," can end up being a reward.

New Fears and Reactivity

Adolescent dogs can also start to display fearful or reactive (barking/growling) behaviors between 5-9 months of age.  This can be triggered by things that didn't bother them before, like garbage cans on the street, strangers and other dogs - especially on the other side of a fence!
This is not something that your dog will grow out of or just get used to.  If they are showing a fearful reactive behavior now and you don't take steps to make them feel better about these situations, the behavior will continue or worsen as your dog gets older.  Time is of the essence in this case!

Regular Teenager Stuff

In addition to everything else, your adolescent dog is impulsive, has lots of energy, and needs your patience and guidance.  Remember, they may look grown, but adolescent dogs are still puppies at heart!
Some things will get better as your dog matures (between 2-3 years old), but id you haven't already attended training with your dog (or let things slide a little since training), now is a great time to learn how to teach yoru dog good manners by enrolling in our Pup Academy, or scheduling a 1 on 1 Zoom training call with Emily!