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Local Woof: Surviving Your Dog’s Adolescence

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

Much like in humans, your dog will go through an adolescent phase and this period can be fraught with difficulty. Dogs will enter their adolescent period at around 6 months old, and exit between 18 months and 2 years of age. Smaller dogs tend to mature more quickly, larger dogs more slowly.

During this time you may feel like your dog has forgotten everything they learned in puppy class. You are not imagining it. There is physiological evidence that neural synapses are breaking and reforming at a very high rate. Previously attentive pups will start to ignore you and non-chewers will become destructive maniacs.

Fear not, this is normal. Most of what you will experience is a non-emergency and I find myself encouraging puppy owners to double down. Your progress may slow down and your dog’s attention span might shorten but they are still learning. As your dog becomes more independent they are going to push their boundaries and experiment with new things. Just like with human teenagers, it is really important that you remain present to guide your teenage pup into a well-behaved adulthood. Do not let them just figure it out on their own.

One behavior that is an adolescent emergency is if your previously friendly dog begins to show signs of aggression toward people or other dogs. While this is not uncommon, it is not a behavior your dog is just going to “grow out of.” Without intervention, this is likely to become worse and you can end up with a seriously aggressive dog. If your dog starts to growl, bark or lunge at people or other dogs contact your trainer as soon as possible.

Here are a couple of adolescence survival tips:

  1. Take another class: This will help you to continue to work with your dog through their “teenage years.” It keeps the two of you connected and might allow your trainer to identify any serious problems before they get worse. This could be a great time for a low key class like tricks, or a sport like agility or nosework.
  2. Hang onto that crate: Maintain your dog’s crate training well into adulthood. Continuing to crate your dog when you are not home or sleeping can help prevent problem behaviors like chewing or barking at the window from developing in the first place. It can also be a solution if these behaviors show up. If it’s been three months since your dog was crated, the solution may not be so easy.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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