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Surviving puppy adolescence

Your puppy is an angel. They’ve learnt all their tricks, they have perfect recall, and they love to snuggle with you in the evenings. That is, until they hit their adolescence.

All of a sudden, it seems like they’ve forgotten all their training, developed selective hearing and even start throwing tantrums – what happened?

Just like a moody teenager, your puppy has reached adolescence. 

Get them off to a great start.

PitPat on a collar

See what they’ve been up to today with a PitPat dog activity monitor.

When does adolescence occur in puppies?

Your puppy may start to go through adolescence at around six months old, though this can be earlier for smaller breeds and later for large breeds. It can last until they are around 18 months to two years old, at which point they start to settle into adulthood.

What happens during puppy adolescence?

There’s a lot going on for your puppy at this time in their lives, both physically and mentally. Understanding this is key to being able to make it through this period without any disasters.

Independence and recall

When your puppy is young, they’re wired to stay close to home and their humans. But as they get older they become much more independent and curious about the world around them.

When you’re out and about on walks with them they’ll be keen to explore the world, taking in all those interesting new smells, sounds and sights. It’s no surprise then that their recall will fail every now and then – after all, do you really have something more interesting to offer than that bushy tailed squirrel?

How to cope

When it comes to coping with a lack of recall it can be tempting to keep your pup on a short lead for their walks, but this could actually be counterproductive. Instead, you need to find a balance that allows your puppy some freedom to explore whilst you are able to maintain control for their safety. Use a range of these techniques to make walkies stress free again:

  • Use a long line training lead
  • Walk regularly in well fenced areas where your dog can’t get too far from you
  • Spend time on every walk dedicated to practising recall
  • Bring high value treats, toys and use fun, noisy and energetic tactics to constantly make sure your dog finds you much more interesting than everything else (and accept that you might look a bit odd whilst you’re at it!)

Fear

Around this age your puppy’s hormones regularly fluctuate, and this, in part, can cause a second fear stage (they’ll have already experienced their first fear stage at around 8 weeks old). Things that didn’t bother them before can become a cause for concern for them. It’s important you know how to manage these experiences, so they quickly overcome their fear and so that it doesn’t become a long-term issue.

How to cope

When your dog signals their fear, you need to take appropriate steps to make sure they feel safe. There’s no need to force them to ‘face their fear’. Instead, be calm, patient and maintain a distance from the thing they are concerned about. Let them approach and retreat in their own time, and reward calm interactions with plenty of treats, play and affection.

young golden labrador on a beach

Teething

Your puppy’s adult teeth will be through by six months – but that doesn’t mean the teething stops. They need to set properly in the gums, and your pup will still be getting used to their new jaw. However, at this age they are also developing a strong chew so you may find that their old teething toys or chews are getting destroyed much more quickly. 

How to cope

You need to find an outlet for all that chewing that doesn’t include your designer trainers or brand-new sofa. Opt for natural, long lasting chews and stuffable toys like a Kong. You can smear it with dog-friendly peanut butter or fill it with delicious food and freeze for an extra challenge. Not only will they love chewing it, but it’ll also get their brain working and give you some much needed peace and quiet.

Playfulness with other dogs

By the time your puppy is six months old they should have had plenty of encounters with other dogs. And, as their confidence grows, they’ll start seeking out other dogs for playtime. It’s perfectly fine to let your puppy play with other dogs as long as both dogs are clearly enjoying themselves and play isn’t too boisterous. However, puppies can easily get over excited and miss the signals that other dogs give them when they don’t want to participate.

How to cope

You need to be able to manage your puppy’s interactions with other dogs closely. Here are our top tips:

  • Try and keep their attention on you throughout the walk. Bring their favourite toys or treats and practice their training throughout the walk.
  • If you see another dog, pop your puppy on a lead – this gives you control until you know whether the other dog is friendly or not.
  • Watch the body language of both your puppy and the other dog closely. If either shows any signs that they are uncomfortable, separate the dogs.
  • Arrange opportunities for your puppy to play and socialise with other dogs in a controlled environment, such as puppy socialisation classes or pup-dates with a dog they already know and enjoy playing with.

Forgetting their training

It’s not uncommon for puppies to forget their training as they enter adolescence. The fact is that there is a lot going on in their brains right now. Between the many new experiences, the hormonal and growth spurts, and their strong curiosity, there’s not much space left for all that training.

How to cope

Don’t worry if your puppy seems to have gone backwards in their training. The best thing you can do for them is to keep repeating their basic training and work on focus in particular. In time, it’ll all come flooding back and they’ll be doing sit, stay and down like a pro once again.

Sleeping schedules

Just as you thought you were over the sleepless nights, they’re back. Actually, your puppy has much more energy – they need far fewer naps but may end up sleeping at funny times, leaving them with energy to spare at night. Of course, this usually translates into keeping you up as well.

How to cope

First of all, you want to know when your pup is sleeping and for how long. A PitPat dog activity monitor is the best tool for this, as it’ll show you when they’ve been resting throughout the day. You can use the information to try and adjust their schedule – for example, you might want to prevent them sleeping in the evenings before bedtime and change the time of your evening walk to accommodate that.

It’s also worth considering that you can’t solve your puppy’s sleeping issues with loads of exercise – in fact, that could actually be damaging for them in the long term. Instead, come up with plenty of activities that get their brain working, such as snuffle mats, Kongs, treat dispensing balls and scent work. Solving the puzzles will tire them out without putting unnecessary loads on their joints and keep them from getting bored.

Remember, at this age you’ll need plenty of patience to deal with the downs, but the ups are even better. It’s the time when you’ll really solidify your bond with your puppy and start to see their personality shine through. Make sure you’re with them every step of the way with a PitPat dog activity monitor. The terrible teens? We got you.

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