The average age of a dog surrendered to a shelter for behavior issues is between 1-3 years old. This is not surprising to me. Why? Because adolescence is a ROUGH age for dogs.
They have just exited out of puppyhood, which comes with its own challenges, and have now entered a period of big and complicated feelings.
Not unlike humans, adolescence is a time where young animals mature into adults. They start to see the world from a new lens, which can often lead to behavior problems if we do not proactively help them through this period.
Below are a few things to keep in mind when dogs go through adolescence.
1. Be prepared to have extra patience.
You may have thought that you are over the hump--- that now that your dog is 1 year old and done with puppyhood, you will be able to be less patient with them because they are not a baby anymore. I think that quite the opposite is true. Adolescent dogs need the most patience and support as they enter adulthood.
It is normal to see your adolescent dog be not as responsive as they used to be when you call their name or ask them for a known behavior. This is because when they were a puppy, you were their whole world. Now that they are a teenager, they are aware that there a lot of other interesting things in the world for them to pay attention to you. They are not becoming stubborn or defiant, they are just a normal teenager!
For that reason, I recommend reinforcing (paying) your dog as often as you can when they choose to pay attention to you or offer desirable behaviors during this age.
2. Give more outlets
Adolescent dogs not only have more physical energy than they did as a young puppy, but they also have more mental energy too! Make sure that you offer regular opportunities for your dog to burn both physical and mental energy every day. These outlets reduce stress, build confidence, and help to decrease many adolescent-typical behavior problems.
- Running off leash or with a longline
- Playing with other dogs
- Training sessions (manners, tricks, sports)
- Food puzzles
- Nose games
- Hide and seek
3. Continue to teach them that the world is a positive place.
Many adolescent dogs develop new big feelings towards things, sometimes things that they have already experienced as a puppy. It is common for dogs to be more uncertain or hesitant about things such as people coming up to the front door, or seeing another dog while out on a walk, once they hit the age of behavioral maturity. Do not ignore these responses and expect that they will "grow out of it." Instead, we want to help them to learn that these experiences are positive and nothing to worry about!