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Call of the wild? What is dog puberty like

author Lucy Byrne | Care and raising

Every dog has its individuality and is unique in its own way, so even the period of growing up can differ significantly in every individual. I know dog owners, who didn’t know what to do with puberty excesses of their otherwise loved four-legged friends and they were pretty unhappy about it. But there are some, that almost haven’t noticed any considerable changes towards greater disobedience in behaviour of their partners. In one puppy, this period of resistance, moodiness, but also of playfulness and curiosity can last longer than in another. It’s also connected to the size of the breed. It’s said, that dogs of small breeds grow up earlier than large and giant breeds.

Our youngest dog has just “changed its teeth” and it also crossed the age that’s generally considered to be the beginning of the puberty period, that is six months of age. It’s approximately at this time, when the puppy  starts to become aware of itself more than before and it tries to pull various shennanigans (like what happens, when it doesn’t listen), and this way, it’s testing the patience of its master (but also its position in the pack). Sometimes, it can last until the dog’s one year old, but I also know cases, when the dog calmed down only when it was two or three years olf, that’s when it was completely mature. A large role in the so-called puberty is also played by sexual maturation, when the dogs start peeing with a raised leg, female dogs are in heat for the first time. The completion of hormonal changes then can lead even to a complete change in the behaviour of the dog - a little dog spitfire can turn into a calm dog lady after the second heat, for instance.

But what’s actually so special about dog puberty that every dog owner who has a dog of this age is talking about it? I think, that the dog young ones are very similar to the human ones in this. They start noticing the world around them and the compulsive call for exploration is only seldom stronger than them. Were you also happy how fast your little dog was learning and how obedient it was? Who wouldn’t be happy that they have the smartest little dog not only from the whole group in the dog school, but under the sun. In such case, you might be in for a big surprise. This otherwise very obedient dog suddenly stops reacting to your calls, it starts to lengthen the distances from its master when it’s free, or it even starts running away. I’m not even mentioning the “hunting” of runners, cyclists or other moving objects.

I call it the “call of the wild”, even though it rather applies to the phase, when the dog starts to undertake its first escapes. Most dog owners that I’ve spoken to, admitted to me that they secretly thought, that this period wouldn’t affect them. Ad I was one of them :-). However, dogs have a very good sense of smell, they can catch a trail of their dog friend when you can’t see it yet and before you find your footing, the dog is gone. When this happened for the second time with our little dog, we started using the so-called “tracking leash for some time. It proved to be a success, the dog still has enough room to run around and at the same time, the owner has some sort of a safeguard, that the dog won’t run away. And it can help with training of call commands as well, which should be all the more intensive together with the training of other commands during this period. Escapes, however, aren’t the only accompanying effect of dog puberty. In some dogs, by contrast, the change in behaviour can manifest itself by it starting to be afraid, whether it’s of different things or dogs or human creatures.

But for it not to sound like the young dogs are only rascals during puberty, it’s necessary to emphasise some positives as well. For example, dogs in puberty aren’t only very innovative and you often laugh with them at their mischief, but they are also very playful and friendly towards other dogs. Some of the dogs will be like this for the rest of their lives, other ones will become dog introverts over time. And so, I always enjoy this period of dog games very much. Since nothing pleases me more than to see happy dogs how they’re frolicking in a large pack. And don’t worry, a short-termed disobedience will change to perfect obedience after time :-).