Terrible teens – fundamental period of every dog’s development

Believe it or not, like humans, dogs also go through that terrible teenager stage. For dogs, the stage is between the ages of 18 and 20 weeks and it is called the juvenile period. It is during this period when the onset of sexual maturity takes place. The length of the period depends on the specific breed and his individual personality.

Those hormones

Have you ever experienced how young dogs are best friends one day, and the very next day they will be fighting? This is typical of the teenage stage and can be blamed on hormones, which from about 16 weeks start to play a role in their development.

Two of the well-known hormones, testosterone and oestrogen, are found in both males and females, and assist the pup to develop physically. These hormones also play a role in certain potential personality traits and behaviour patterns, and is the cause of big changes in the puppy.

Big changes

One such a change in dogs is where they start challenging other pets in the household. This is where testosterone plays a big role, as it is necessary to give the dog confidence. If the dog is ‘successful’ in the challenge, the testosterone level increases and the behaviour will be repeated.

Although hormones can be blamed for the many changes the pup goes through, genes and learning experiences that the puppy is exposed to adds to the adult behaviour of a dog. Therefore, proper training is crucial during the teenager stage.

Hazard avoidance behaviour

Hazard avoidance behaviour is when a dog suddenly ‘questions’ certain situations, and depending on the guidance and exposure he receives, it can have a lasting effect on adult behaviour. In most cases, the hazard avoidance behaviour would have already set in during the juvenile period. While some breeds have a much earlier onset, others take a little longer.

Changes that can be expected during this stage include:

  • Pulling on the leash and lunging
  • Hyperactivity
  • Jumping up
  • Attention-seeking behaviour
  • Lack of focus on the handler and being easily distracted
  • General disobedience
  • Separation-related behaviour (barking, destructiveness)
  • Inappropriate mounting

Guidance

To ensure that you ‘raise’ a well-balanced pup with proper behaviour skills, it is of utmost importance that the puppy attends socialisation classes between 10 and 18 weeks of age. This will also teach you how to guide your dog in the correct manner. The development of the pup’s personality during this stage is very malleable, and that is why constructive learning and adaptation experiences will ensure good emotional development. Even more so for the ‘strong-willed’ pup who needs guidance towards acceptable behaviour, which includes bite inhibition, no bullying, rules in the household and adaptation to change.

The next step

After a good socialisation course, a basic obedience course will reinforce social behaviour and training. A reputable instructor will guide you through the different behaviour problems and teach you how to deal with them without making the situation worse. Any suspected behaviour problem should be addressed through the help of a qualified animal behaviour practitioner who understands all the influences impacting the behaviour.

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