IMDT Conference Adolescence with Claudia Estanislau www.itsallaboutdogs.org
Having worked with and owned over 1000 adolescent dogs in the last 10 years I thought I would have had enough experience to know how to train during adolescence. I was wrong there is always room to learn more…. Maybe actually too much training could hinder our adolescent dogs? Or our own fears could imprint on our dogs? Perhaps just doing nothing and being there for the ride is the best option? Patience is the key to enduring the adolescence period and remaining calm at all times.
My first Dane Alfie who was an awesome puppy (apart from the chewing of door frames) suddenly had selective hearing during adolescence some people will remember me chasing after him at the local park because of this. This was what I endured for around 6months and the only thing that got me through it was the social and sharing the stress with others in the same boat at the park. This is where I met alot of lovely dog people who have stayed with me forever. Alfie had his adolescent period between the ages of 1 to 2 years. I remember wondering what the hell had happened to my awesome dog and best friend.
It is well known that adolescence generally starts around 5-6 months of age. In males the testosterone levels increase around 4 months of age and generally reach their maximum at around 10 months of age. These levels then drop to adult male levels by 18 months of age.
Adolescence is kind of like our human teenage years, we think we know everything and will display an array of behaviours up and down during this period.
Adolescence is a very difficult time for both dog and owner, owners get worried about changes in behaviour which totally impacts the dog’s behaviour and you can start this awful cycle between dog and human, where quite often the human is reinforcing the unwanted behaviour without even knowing it.
I had this very problem with moses, he hit adolescence with a bang and decided he loved to run off to meet every person at every park, we had a bad association one day at one of our regular walking destinations when Moses was shouted at by a jogger and I was screamed at when moses was just going over to investigate. This paired with the new dog law made me nervous of walking him off lead near people. (He was never aggressive, never barked and never jumped up at anyone. I did what anyone would do and that was keeping him on a restricted short lead in fear of him being restricted by the dog warden for running over to and greeting someone at the park. Moses fed off my fear and it reinforced his behaviour. I am fortunate to be able to walk and socialise Moses with my staff and other dogs every day but this still had little impact when I was worried about what may happen.
Behaviours that you may see in dogs during adolescence and during human teenager years are pretty similar these include:
*Higher excitement levels (drinking at the park with their mates)
*Fight picking (arguing with everyone including themselves)
*Increased sensitivity to touch (don’t even try to touch a teenager)
*Jumping more often (jumping from one idea to the next)
*Mouthing becomes harder (oh yes back chat and sarcasm start to appear)
*Humping behaviours are more frequent (sexual activity will increase)
*Marking behaviours can appear (glasses and cutlery appearing under the bed)
*Exploration behaviours will tend to greaten- dogs will wander off more and explore the world and won’t recall (staying out all night and ignoring you when you speak to them)
*Regression in training (No suddenly means ‘do as you please’)
Claudia was fantastic to listen to and I learned that actually when you have an adolescent dog, keep the routine as normal as possible let them go through this period of change and embrace it and most importantly be there for the ride and keep going, it’s only a small phase of your dog’s life!
Adolescence doesn’t need to last a life time if you embrace it and understand it from your dog’s point of view. Keep teaching the basic commands and don’t panic if they don’t listen to you or display any odd behaviour. Provide them with lots of brain stimulation, exercise, teach them impulse control and let them be teenagers! Remembering your actions could make them reactive! Claudia actually mentioned that she does an adolescent class which has lead me to think that if any of our customers are reading this and nodding please get in touch maybe would could arrange a Heathers Pet Services adolescent party 🙂 So we can help when you need us the most!