By Abby Huxtable

Just when you think your puppy is maturing into a lovely young dog, BAM! Adolescence arrives and you are left wondering what happened to your lovely dog. They seem to have regressed all of a sudden, and forgotten everything you have taught them!

This is understandable, as when training, we work at gradually increasing the distractions to proof or strengthen the skills we are teaching our puppies or dogs. Now, they have this massive internal distraction in the form of their hormones.

Therefore, they struggle to listen to us, struggle to concentrate on us and what we are asking them to do, and struggle to process that information as well as they have been doing.

The hormone surge can also affect confidence levels.

For some dogs, that surge in testosterone can increase confidence, which can see an increase in reactivity1, as they are brave enough to react back. Whereas before, they may have avoided or tried to diffuse the situation.

This increased confidence can also negatively affect recall, as your dog is more confident to be away from you, and chooses the exciting environment over you!

Adolescence is also commonly accompanied by one or more fear periods2. Most commonly, your dog suddenly becomes scared by something, or even various things that have never scared them before.

They need help to come through all of these changing behaviours, to ensure they don’t become habit, and continue into adulthood.

Some examples would be using click the trigger for reactions; back on a long line to practice recall; going a back a few steps to refresh your regular cues. The stronger those cues were before adolescence, the easier it will be for them to respond during adolescence. Good foundations will certainly help you here.

Basically, you need to help your dog through this adolescent period. As their body changes and shows up these behavioural changes, the more you can help them out, the quicker they will be able to adapt and cope with these new distractions. They will come out the other side in a much better state!

Now you can be more confident you do, indeed, have your lovely, mature, sensible dog.

Signs of Adolescence:

  • Males start to cock their legs and ‘mark’
  • Females will come into their first season and may mark too
  • Appear ‘deaf’ when asked for previously well-known cues
  • Struggle to focus and concentrate
  • Increased fear
  • Increased confidence
  • Appear to be ‘testing boundaries’

  1. The behavioural biology of aggression – John Archer ↩︎
  2. Aspects of Juvenile and Adolescent Environment Predict Aggression and Fear in 12-Month-Old Guide Dogs – James A. Serpell and Deborah L. Duffy ↩︎