The most challenging time of raising a puppy is the adolescent period. Dogs become “teenagers” and seem to forget everything they have ever been taught. This period is individual to each dog, but it may begin when he’s about eight months old and continue until he’s two years old.
Adolescence does not begin and end overnight. However, some noticeable changes include becoming larger and stronger, as well as exhibiting “stubborn” behavior and a desire to begin exploring outside a previous comfort zone.
One common mistake is giving your puppy too much freedom too soon. Young puppies have an innate desire to be near you, and this gives owners a false sense of security. As your puppy gets older and more confident, he will likely no longer stay close by, and it may feel like any prior training has disappeared!
There are numerous strategies for dealing with dog adolescence, both before it starts and during this phase.
Train Your Puppy
While your puppy is still young, start training! Puppies are never too young to learn the basics of sit, down, stay, come, etc. You need to be consistent with this training throughout your dog’s life, but especially while he is very young, so he gains a good understanding of what you are asking.
Positive reinforcement is essential, so make sure you reward your pup with appropriate treats when he succeeds. Make sure to break up the treats into easy, chewable bites.
Start teaching your puppy to exercise self-control. Teaching “leave it” and “drop it” are great ways for dogs to learn self-control, and this transfers into other areas of your dog’s life.
Introduce Puppy to a Crate
Another important thing to remember is crate training. Using a crate gives your puppy a safe place to relax, and even as he gets older and the crate isn’t needed to maintain house-training, it’s still a great idea to keep it around to use when you need to prevent your growing puppy from getting into trouble.
As your puppy gets older, keep in mind that you should continue to practice the basic obedience skills so that your puppy doesn’t forget them! You should practice these behaviors several times a week and reward your dog for his or her efforts. Some dogs find food rewarding, while other dogs find toys and playing to be more motivating. Use whatever your dog likes best to reward him or her for making good choices, especially if he makes a good choice without being prompted. Maybe your puppy sits to ask for attention — don’t take that for granted! Reward your puppy for making good decisions like this, and he will continue to make those good decisions.
Puppy Chewing and Teething
Keep those puppy-safe chew toys handy during adolescence. You may think that teething ended when the adult teeth came in at around 6 months. But there is a secondary chewing phase between 8-to-10 months that occurs as the adult teeth settle in the jaw. Continue to puppy-proof your house, keep an eye on your adolescent, and keep enticing chew toys in easy reach of him.
Mental and Physical Exercise
Mental stimulation is important for dogs and puppies of any age, but it’s particularly important for adolescent dogs with a lot of energy. Help keep your teen dog from getting into trouble by providing plenty of mental stimulation. Activities like fetch, walks, games, obedience and trick training, puzzle toys, food-dispensing toys, and group classes are great ways to keep your dog’s mind active. A tired dog is a good dog, but a mentally tired dog is a great dog!
Also consider a food that helps your pup mentally and physically, like one of the four distinct nutritional platforms from Purina® Pro Plan®. With real meat as the first ingredient and no added artificial colors or flavors, this food is bound to help your dog succeed.
Although this is the most challenging time when raising a puppy, it is also the most rewarding. By training early and continuing to train, you’ll find the adolescent period is easier to navigate, and you’ll help the puppy become a well-adjusted, polite adult dog.