Remember that bumbling ball of fur who plopped into a “sit” and melted into “down” with just a couple of minutes of practice? And, the adorable way he dropped his little head and gave you the best sad puppy eyes when his shark teeth hit your hand, and you instinctively said “ouch”? Well, those days are gone when puppies hit their adolescent stage. Technically, dogs hit the equivalent of their teenage stage between 6-18 months. But, I find that the absolute worst phase for urban dogs is 5-10 months of age.
Here are a few tips for surviving the raging hormones, lack of motivation, and VERY selective hearing.
Follow-through When puppies are super young, they’re biologically inclined to want to please. “Oh my goodness, you want me to sit? Ok, and thank you for that bite of biscuit. Garsh, I love you so much.” As pups develop and become more independent, they sometimes choose NOT to listen to cues they once readily (and happily) complied with. It’s super easy for us understanding humans to give our pooches a pass because we know they’re in a funky stage.
But, if you ask your darling fur babe to “touch” and she stares at you with her best “I don’t wanna” face, and you go on your merry way, all you teach your precious pooch is that your words really don’t mean anything. Doing so can bite you in the butt when it really counts, just like Gavin did when he was this age.
So, in the above example, move your hand a tiny bit closer. Help a puppy out. A lot is going on in her body, clouding her compliance capability.
If she then touches your hand, say “yes.” But, do not reward. If you treat your teenage pup for the slow responses, she’s getting reinforced for sloppy behavior. If your puppy is REALLY in a punky place, she might turn her head or continue to ignore you. But, fight the urge to hover over her shouting, “touch, touch, touch.” Adding pressure and force to the situation never does any good. Take a step away and gently offer just your hand (not the verbal cue) again until she responds. Some pups make take QUITE A FEW repetitions. Patience is important at this stage, and make sure you help your growing dog remembers that good things happen when she listens to you will pay off for years to come.
Use play as a reward. Often at this age, puppies turn up their naughty nose to the most scrumptious treats. If you’re playing hours of fetch to try to tire your hooligan hound, make it count! Ask for a “wait” before you grab the ball. Impulse control is critical. And, who wants gashes in their hand from an over-eager puppy mouth when the only reason you are picking the ball up is to toss it for your clamping canine? Ouch!
Ask for a “sit” before tossing it again. Or, if your dog likes to do drive-bys, have a second toy ready and bounce or squeak it. When he graces you with his first toy at your feet, toss it as a reward. This is a great way to shape “drop.” But, only give the cue when the ball is out of his mouth.
Too much talking, and your pup learns to ignore you.
Lighten up. I called Gavin “El Diablo” when he was a terrible teenager. Often, I would ask him to “sit,” and he would stare at me, then tear around the living room like he was the Tazmanian Devil, and lay down (not sit, as I asked) right in front of me right before he would grumble again for punctuation. As long as no serious behavioral issues are developing and your puppy is not in danger, chill out a bit. I find that when my clients get too serious during this stage, it alters their body language so much that it actually causes the pup to respond even less.
So, try not to take atrocious behavior to heart.
Practice an easy behavior or play a game so your pup remembers that you are not such a stick in the mud. Oh, wait, if you were a stick, your pup would be SUPER interested in you!!!
Follow these few steps and remember, your adorable juvenile delinquent will soon look at you again with the glitter gaze that made you fall in love i
And, when your precious pooch is back in your good graces, check out these awesome products to show the world your dog is the best!