› Dog Adolescence

Surviving Dog Adolescence

Surviving an adolescent dog, from angel to devil?Canine Adolescence

Dog Adolescence is a life stage that all puppies and human children must pass through on their way to adulthood.  Certain behaviors accompany this stage such as the testing of boundaries and the need for more independence.  Sounds similar to the human adolescent phase, doesn’t it?

Sometime between the ages of four and seven months of age, in a small breed dog, a perfectly obedient puppy becomes impossible, almost overnight.   Just when you feel you’ve accomplished and graduated from puppy kindergarten classes, your angel grows devil horns.

Dog adolescence is not so different than that we experience with our teenagers.  It is a phase, and it won’t last forever.  It requires patience and understanding on our part but beware that this stage is likely to try even the most patient among us.

What to Expect During Dog Adolescence

Dog Adolescence can last from about six to 18 months depending on the breed of your dog, with small breed dogs going through the phase faster than large breeds. 

Your Baby is Coming of Age...

Boys begin to lift their legs when the urinate and if intact females are within shouting distance may show interest in mating.  Marking with their urine on furniture is all part of the process. 

Females become sexually mature and may also mark.  Neutering or spaying your dog at this time will relieve many of these sexual behaviors and prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Like human teens, the hormones tend to rule the brain during dog adolescence.  Female dogs will experience their first estrus cycle sometime after six months of age.  Males will become sexually active any time after six to seven months of age.

The body of the intact adolescent male dog produces testosterone at a rate several times the adult level of this hormone. As a result, some male-oriented behaviors can become extreme at this stage of life.

Not only will they mark with their urine, but may also roam and become aggressive towards other males.  Humping you and other inanimate objects is a behavior that few people find desirable.

During this period in a puppy’s life, everything seems just to fall apart.  Your bright little puppy who sail through many basic commands now appears to forget everything he learned.  It seems that the adolescent dog now must decide for himself if it suits him to follow through on the command.

Behavioral Changes Observed During Dog Adolescence

Stubbornness and just plain forgetfulness seem to occupy part of the dog’s brain during his teenage years.  Any of this sound remotely like human teenagers?

Basic manners fall by the wayside and house training is all but forgotten as the puppy enters the phase of adolescence. 

Even bite inhibition, which you were sure was under control, now surfaces biting being accompanied by stronger jaws and sharper teeth.  This type of biting is not the mouthing that you were dealing with several months ago. 

Some will begin showing signs of behavioral problems not seen before.  Chasing, Digging, Barking, and total disregard to for commands previously mastered.

Small Dog Syndrome

Not your dog,  NEVER!  Unfortunately, it is about this time when a small pup enters dog adolescence, that behaviors associated with small dog syndrome emerge.  Be sure to prevent them by sticking to your training and socialization routines.


Friendly pups may also go through a fear phase where they become frightened by things that didn’t seem to bother them in the past. 

Around the age of six to nine months of age, a friendly pup may back away from a friendly stranger or begin barking at strangers.  This is a normal part of dog adolescence.

Your pup is now starting to show fear around unfamiliar people and may end up displaying aggression around people who are unfamiliar to him. 

Surviving Dog Adolescence

Unfortunately, many people relinquish their out of control adolescent dogs to shelters and rescue organizations.  What can you do to survive your small dog’s adolescence?

Them versus Us. What can be done to make this period a win-win situation for both you and your dog? 

Exercise and Challenging Activities

Exercise is the best medicine at the  dog adolescent stage.  They need less sleep than they did when they were little puppies and required more physical challenges and more ways to use pent up energy. A walk once or twice a day and a rigorous romp in the yard will tire your dog and reduce negative behaviors.

Challenging toys such as Kongs help keep your dog simulated for long periods of time.  Your dog may enjoy a meaty raw bone, but supervision is advised.  Many large pet stores now sell them.  Look for their freezer section.


If you have started a training program when your puppy was very young, dog adolescence is not the time to stop.

Continue to practice commands on a daily basis.  Confronted by a stubborn or distracted teenager, many people give up, but persistence on your part will pay off.  Even if you can only get in a few minutes a day,  you will help those adolescent neurons keep firing and continue to build connections in the dog’s brain.  

Housebreaking may take a nosedive during this stage.  Some dogs forget where they are supposed to eliminate so a little retrain may be in order.  It is harder to confine an adolescent dog to a crate or small area.  Some people have found that keeping the dog close to them through the use of a leash works well for this purpose. 

Get at least a six-foot leash and attach one end to the dog’s collar or harness and the other end to your belt.  If you notice the dog sniffing around, take him to his regular place to eliminate.  Praise and provide treats for good behavior.

You might even see that your dog is displaying new annoying behaviors.  Nipping, Chasing, Digging, Refusing to come when called—these are actions that need to be addressed individually.  These behaviors can be dangerous to your dog, so they should not be ignored. 


First of all, socialization needs to continue.  Don’t stop introducing your dog to new people, places and animals just because he turned six months old. 

At the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm a dog that might be going through a fear phase or is naturally shy or reserved.  Pick safe places that you know your adolescent will feel comfortable. 

If middle school athletic events are too loud and outside flea markets are too crowded, choose something with fewer people and less noise.

Many stores will allow you to carry a small dog while you shop and your dog may get some attention from shopkeepers and other patrons. 

A visit to a park with plenty open spaces might be a perfect opportunity for both of you to get fresh air, but not be overwhelmed by too many people or other dogs.  If you have friends with well-behaved dogs, by all means take advantage of getting the two dogs together for a pawriffic play date. 

Health Concerns

Arrange to have your dog spayed or neutered.  Unless you are planning to breed him or her, this is the best time to have them altered.  You will avoid many of the behaviors associated with sexual maturity. 

If your dog has any retained baby teeth, have them extracted while they are under anesthesia. 

Dental Problems can be common in some breeds.  Check to see if your dog is beginning to build up some plaque and tarter.  If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to start a tooth brushing routine.

By now the dog should have received all of their puppy shots.  Check with your veterinarian to be sure your puppy is protected. 

Worming and heartworm preventative should also be a priority.  Ask about flea prevention if you live in an area where fleas are a problem.


Grooming can be easier or more difficult depending on the temperament of your dog and his experience level with prior grooming. 

If you train your puppy for grooming from day one, chances are good that grooming will go smoothly during the adolescent stage.  If not, you might find yourself wrestling with a stronger, larger dog. 

Take it very slowly and gently if you have a dog who hates grooming.  A task such as nail clipping that might take five minutes as a puppy might need to be stretch over several days. 

Some double coated dogs begin to grow in their undercoat during adolescence.  Brushing twice a day may be required, just to avoid big mats from forming. 

Most long haired dogs visit a groomer for the first time around the same time they are spayed or neutered.  Prepare ahead of time by teaching your dog to stand, sit, or lie down on a table or kitchen counter. 

Provide opportunities for him to hear and feel a blow dryer.  If you have something that resembles the hum of an electric clipper, turn it on and let the dog become accustomed to the sound.

Extra effort during this phase will pay off later on. 

Remember the adage, This stage too, will pass. 

Just knowing that these behaviors are part of a phase rather than a reflection on your dog or you as a dog owner helps you survive these trying months.

Your patience and understanding will pay off in the long run, and you will end up with a well behaved adult dog.

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