Having considered the key aspects involved in choosing and living with her new puppy, integrative vet Dr Ilse Pedler describes the teenage antics of Gwen the Jack Russell and updates us on how things are progressing
The teenage years!
Well, they said it would happen, our perfect little puppy suddenly became a teenager! Adolescence can be a challenging time for humans but our canine companions can go through a difficult phase too. This may include:
- Not listening to you
- Not responding to commands
- An increase in sexual behaviour
- An increase in anxiety or nervousness
Adolescence can happen any time between 8-12 months, often later with larger breeds than smaller.
I would say that there were a few changes when Gwen came into season at 10 months of age. She certainly went off her food and became a bit clingier and definitely wasn’t keen on other dogs going near her rear end! However, the slight rebelliousness didn’t start until she was around 12 months and it all began with a deer…
We were having a lovely walk in the local wood, when a Roe deer sprang out of nowhere and she made to dash after it. I
called ‘WAIT!’ in my sternest voice and amazingly she stopped. While I was congratulating myself, another deer leapt out of the brambles and this time it was too much to resist and she was off!
Since then, the chasing game has extended to rabbits and birds but thankfully not sheep. She has changed from a dog that wouldn’t stray far from my side and would come immediately when called, to a dog that looks longingly into the distance when called, weighs up the advantages and disadvantages and reluctantly comes back – most of the time. I can imagine a lot of you saying, coming back at all is acceptable, but where I live surrounded by sheep and cattle, I need to be really confident she won’t chase after them.
As well as becoming less obedient, when puppies reach adolescence, they may also show more sexual or territorial behaviour and also become less social with other dogs. There are also physical changes, some dogs become gangly and awkward while others broaden out and become quite powerful. The puppy coat will be shed and all the adult teeth will have come through which can lead to a secondary mouthing or chewing phase.
Gwen certainly developed some particular habits; we’ve never had a dog that’s been a ‘roller’ before but any discarded bit of fleece or interesting smell and she’s over on her back rolling away in it. Her terrier instincts have also developed and rabbit holes suddenly look a lot more interesting too.
What can you do get through this phase?
I think the first thing is not to panic. All the hard work you put in with training will have laid the foundation of good behaviour and, like living with teenagers, sometimes what you have to do is not rise to the bait and just sit it out. Other
Carry on training
I think it’s useful to remind yourself that training is not just for puppies. Enroll on a follow up course with your teenage dog, or try something different like scent work or trick training. Agility is really brilliant for high energy young dogs but do start slowly as some breeds will still not be fully mature.
Make sure your dog has enough exercise. Bored dogs will turn into naughty dogs. Two or three short walks may be more stimulating than one longer walk.
Activity for the brain
As well as physical activity, your dog needs to be stimulated mentally. Try hide and seek games, filling a box with paper and toilet rolls and hiding treats in them, or puzzle balls which dispense treats as they’re rolled around for example. There are loads of different activity toys on the market now and rather than buying dog treats, why not buy your dog a new toy?
Carry on with socialisation
Take your dog to different places where they may not have been before and expose them to new stimuli. Take care however, as some dogs may be feeling slightly less social. We take Gwen to a local small doggy day care occasionally. They have a huge field with some agility obstacles and also a smaller enclosed doggy playground with a slide and playhouse! She absolutely loves it there and has made friends with several of the regulars.
Reinforce the good behaviour
Try not to get into a cycle of reprimanding your dog when it doesn’t behave as you wish; just as with human teenagers, nagging rarely has the desired effect. Keep rewarding the good behaviour and being positive and encouraging. Even when inside, you may not be feeling it!
Be patient – you will come out the other side!
Finally remember, it is just a phase, all that good work you put in when your dog was a puppy will still be there and like teenagers, you just have to wait for them to come out the other side and be human again, or preferably canine!
Other blogs by Ilse Pedler
Ilse Pedler MA VetMB Vet MFHom MRCVS
Ilse qualified as a veterinary surgeon from Cambridge University in 1989 and started work with Mercer and Hughes in Saffron Walden, Essex, treating both large and small animals. She became a director in 1992 working her way up to senior partner by the time she retired from there in 2020.
Ilse had always had an interest in complementary therapies and studied with the Homeopathic Physicians Teaching Group (HPTG) in Oxford, gaining the Diploma of Homeopathy in 2001. She went on to study Chinese traditional medicine and acupuncture and more recently herbal medicine. Ilse has written many articles on complementary therapies for magazines and is a member of the British Association of Veterinary Herbalists, The Raw Feeding Society, The British Veterinary Association and is currently President of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons (BAHVS).
With over 30 years of experience, Ilse has recently set up Ilse Pedler Holistic Veterinary Care. Here she offers holistic veterinary treatment for animals in Cumbria and the NW, providing services in acupuncture, herbs and homeopathy as well as advice on species-appropriate diets and a wide range of supplements.
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The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website