Dear Puppy Owners,
I hope that you are pleased with the puppy you brought home several months ago. I am proud of all the pups and enjoy the pictures you all have sent.
I am writing to tell you a bit about what you can expect as your puppy matures and starts to go through adolescence. This is not an easy time, and I would expect that some of you would experience the same things that I have with my dogs. However, don't despair, after a few months, it will be over, and the puppy that has been so loving and such a joy will return.
Adolescence usually starts around 9-10 months of age and continues for
several months. The puppy that followed you around and wanted to please
you in any possible way would now rather explore than come when called,
and will test you whenever and wherever they can. This is normal. It is
the same as in a human teenager, and for the same reasons. Hormones are
running rampant at this time in your dog's life. There are several signs
that your puppy is coming into their adolescence. Some dogs don't exhibit
any of them, and their adolescence passes without a sign. Others might
exhibit more than one, and in varying degrees. Some of the signs are:
These signs might manifest themselves as growls and grumbles at other dogs or people. This phase can pass within a couple of months if the proper steps are taken.
If you have been letting your pup on the furniture, stop that practice at least until the phase is passed. The bed is particularly forbidden. It is a great honor for the subjects to sleep in the king's bed, and will lead the subject (your puppy) to think it has a right to challenge you for the throne.
He must earn your attention. Only the alpha gets to demand when petting and playing will take place. If your pup comes up pawing or nudging your arm for affection, you must ignore him. A bit later (5 or so minutes) make him do a sit or a down, then give him the attention he craves. Do many long sits or downs throughout the course of the day. Always praise heavily when you release the dog.
If you have not been to an obedience class, now is the time to start. If you have been to classes, get back into the routine of practicing at least once a day for a few minutes. Preferable several times a day. Obedience practice is a subtle way to reinforce to your dog that you are boss.
Make sure your mealtime is close to his. Prepare your meals at the same time. Leave his sitting on the counter while the humans always eat first. After you have eaten and cleared the dishes, put your dog on a long sit or long down and place his dish on the floor. After a minute or more (up to 10), give your dog a release command, and allow it to eat uninterrupted.
Always make sure that you go out the door first. This also applies to stairways, hallways, etc. The alpha will always go first.
All of the things above help to reiterate to the dog that you are the alpha of the pack in a very subtle and, for the dog, easy to understand way. DO NOT do the "dominant rollover" or "alpha roll" that has been suggested by trainers in the past. In dog packs, the only time a dog is forcibly rolled onto it's back or there is contact with the throat area, is when there is a direct challenge to a dog's authority or life. You do not want to create a defense reaction in your sweet puppy.
There are two good books that deal with canine adolescence and dominance. "Surviving Your Dog's Adolescence" by Carol Lea Benjamin and "How To Be Leader of the Pack" by Patricia McConnell. Both are available through www.dogwise.com or through your local bookstore.
I am certainly not writing this to scare you. I am hoping that if your pup begins to exhibit any of these signs, that you will be aware of them and will have prepared you reaction. I also wanted you to know that it is common, it's something that can be dealt with easily, and if dealt with promptly passes quickly. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call or e-mail me. I will be happy to help talk you through it. I also love hearing how your puppy is doing, and don't forget to send pictures!