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The Troublesome Teens - A Time for Patience

Most dogs surrendered to shelters are given up between the ages of 5 months and 3 years.

Often, these dogs came into their new homes as freshly weaned pups or were given to the family by a friend or relatives and kept for only a few months before being surrendered.

About half of surrendered dogs were not spayed or neutered, and an overwhelming majority (about 96% of those included in an NCPPSP study - had never received any obedience training.

These trends tell us something important about dogs and dog ownership. Young, intact, untrained dogs are HARD to take care of. From about 6 months to 2 years of age, dogs are going through their "teenage" years. They are dealing with "puberty". Developing their independence. Challenging authority.

This is the age where dogs exhibit stubborn behaviors. They can become demanding, unruly, and troublesome. Even WITH training, these are dogs who are asserting themselves and finding their place in their families. Without training these dogs will:

  • Escape fenced yards to go for "romps" seeking out females in heat.

  • Become moody and snappy, intolerant of young children in their space and liable to bite rather than share or surrender a favorite toy.

  • Destroy furniture out of boredom or pent-up energy.

  • Refuse to respond to cues they've already learned, testing the limits of their handlers in an effort to get treats and other rewards without effort.

  • Attempt to train YOU to give them what they want when they bark at you or otherwise engage in tantrum-like behavior.

  • Pull you along on a walk to get to their favorite smells or a passing dog or biker.

These are not bad dogs. They are adolescents. And like any adolescent, they need patience and gentle but firm direction. Most importantly, they need training. They need to know what is expected of them in their home. They need to know that even when they push the limits, they will not be mistreated.

As members of our families, they need opportunities to be actively involved in our lives. To spend time together engaged in play and structured activities. To be given a job they can perform and be rewarded for doing well.

By three years old, an adult dog will mellow and fall back on its training. Given love, affection, security, and direction, even the most unruly teenager will come round when permitted sufficient time to make it through their "coming of age".

So, if you have a young dog causing you trouble, don't give up!

Ask yourself: What did I do during MY rebellious phase?

Yes, it is frustrating to come home to a torn up couch cushion.

Yes, it is frustrating to have to chase down an escape artist.

Yes, it is frustrating... to have a teenager. But the teenage years pass. And for dogs, far faster than they do for us. You can get through it. With patience... and training.

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