Teenage dogs. Is it a real phenomenon? Is your sweet little rambunctious puppy going to go through a rebellious phase? Worse yet, are they going to develop an attitude?
Whether you have a puppy who is about to enter teendom, or you’ve noticed a personality change in your adolescent doggo, we’re here to set the record straight. Dogs do go through a teenage phase, complete with mood changes and all kinds of new requirements.
In this article, we’ll talk about when you can expect to see changes, what these developments look like. We’ll also highlight how you can make life easier for you and your pooch.
At what age does a dog become a teenager?
In general, you can expect your dog to enter adolescence at around seven or eight months old. At this stage, your pup has developed all of their adult teeth, been fully potty trained, and hopefully gotten over their chewing phase.
But as much progress as they’ve made already, the next few months will be full of new milestones. Somewhere between eight months and two years, your doggo will reach sexual maturity, grow into their adult weight, and figure out, once and for all, what it means to be a dog. It’s a time of learning, exploration, and (here’s where it gets challenging) boundary-pushing.
Not ready to say goodbye to the puppy months? Take a trip down memory lane with Puppies and Babies: 7 Ways in Which They’re the Same.
Do some dogs become teenagers earlier than others?
Yes! Size is a major determining factor of when your dog is likely to enter into the teenage years.
Small dogs, for instance, tend to enter and leave this phase earlier than larger ones. You can expect a small dog to start showing signs of adolescence at around six months. And, they typically enter into adulthood at around a year and a half.
Large dogs, on the other hand, may become teenage dogs at around eight or 10 months. They won’t settle into the adult phase until anywhere from two to even three years old.
Breeds, then, are a pretty good indication of when you can expect your dog to go through their teen years. Saint Bernards, for instance, can keep growing until they’re three years old. Owners of this breed, and similarly large breeds like the Great Dane, can expect a longer transition from puppyhood to adulthood.
Chihuahuas, on the other hand, go through a relatively short adolescent period. They generally enter the adult phase at 18 months, and won’t enter the senior phase until they’re nine years old.
What kind of behaviour changes are common with teenage dogs?
Amazingly, the kinds of mood and behaviour changes that we see with dogs are quite similar to what we see with human teenagers.
During this life phase, your doggo is experiencing hormonal changes that can drastically change their personality. It’s not uncommon during this time for dogs to become more aggressive towards other dogs, for instance. This might be more obvious with dogs who are prone to dog-directed aggression, such as Rottweilers or Bernese Mountain Dogs.
Teenage dogs can also become more rebellious. A 2020 study found that dogs in adolescence are less likely to listen to the directions of their Owners, even if they previously had mastered those commands. So, if your pupper suddenly appears to forget everything they’ve learned, don’t take it personally. It’s all part of the process.
Teenage dogs may also be more able and more motivated to escape. Whether it’s because your dog is finally tall enough to hop the fence or because their hormones are telling them to go find a mate, Owners of teenage dogs should anticipate that their pup might develop the urge to wander. In this case, you might consider installing a dog-proof fence to keep your teenage pup safe.
What kind of exercise and diet changes should Owners of teenage dogs make?
It’s not just a doggo’s behaviour that changes during the teen months—they’re also going through some big bodily changes! As such, Owners can help them stay healthy and calm by adjusting their daily exercise and diet.
And, when we refer to exercise, we mean both mental and physical. To be sure, increasing their physical exercise is a great way to help them regulate their hormones and burn off some of their energy. You might find that this life phase will require extra trips to the dog park, a few high-intensity activities, and maybe the help of a Dog Walker.
But mental stimulation is equally as important. Training should continue during this phase, even if it can be frustrating to deal with the dip in obedience with teenage dogs. Finding games and mental challenges such as agility training or at-home obstacle courses, can keep your adolescent pup engaged (and out of trouble!).
And, while a healthy diet is always important, good nutrition is crucial at this stage. Teenage dogs are growing, their brains are creating new neural pathways, and they’re dealing with the ups and downs of their hormonal changes. That many biological tasks require nutrient-rich, high-protein dog meals.
Is this the teenage phase or something else?
Now, we should mention that not all changes that you might see during the teenage months are the result of this life phase. And, differentiating between normal developments and signs of a health issue can be tricky. Here are a few changes that you might not want to assume are the result of this life phase:
- Peeing in the house. Teenage dogs are typically fully house-trained. So, though they may have an accident every once in a while, reverting to peeing in the house all the time is not common and could be a sign of a medical concern.
- Loss of appetite. During the teen phase, you should notice an increase in appetite for your pup.
- Lethargy. The many changes your dog is going through in this phase are tiring, yes. But, with a proper diet and adequate rest, your pup should not be slowing down. On the contrary, you’re likely to see an increase in energy and playfulness in teenage dogs.
If you notice a behaviour change in your pup during adolescence, it’s always a good idea to ask your vet about it. And, if it turns out that the change is common in teenage dogs, your vet may also be able to offer up some words of advice on how to handle it.
Teenage dogs come with unique challenges, but you can get through it together!
Without a doubt, teenage dogs can be a handful. So, here are some final words of advice to help you through it:
- Remember that it’s not personal. Your pupper isn’t acting out on purpose or trying to make your life hard. They’re going through a phase that is largely out of their paws.
- Stay positive. Teenage dogs will push boundaries and even become a bit selfish. Instead of punishing them, you might find that enticing them with their favourite treats and toys will keep them engaged.
- Don’t go it alone. The increase in exercise needs can be overwhelming at first. Calling in a regular Dog Walker can do wonders in managing your dog’s moody teen months.
- Teenage dogs aren’t forever. Before you know it, your dog will be settling into the adult phase and you can look back fondly on all those times they drove you mad.
Have some advice for Owners of teenage dogs? Be sure to share in the comments!