With all of the physical and emotional changes that happen to young people in their teens, that transition period can be quite difficult. The same can be said of dogs, and it’s in your best interests to know what to expect in the doggie teenage years. Adolescence can begin anywhere around 4-6 months depending on the breed; some dogs don’t “grow up” until as much as 2 years!
There are various changes that dogs go through and you should be aware of them all. They can be categorized as physical, behavioral and nutritional.
Let’s examine physical changes first. The process of growing can result in painful conditions such as hypertrophic osteodystrophy. This is a condition that affects the bones in growing dogs, especially giant breeds. Bone growth happens at growth plates which are found on the end of long bones. These growth plates are very susceptible to injury. Always keep a close eye on your dog to prevent any. Make sure your dog does not jump from high places. Depending on your breed, you may need to limit the amount of exercise that your dog gets to prevent certain other orthopedic conditions such as osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD).
Some behavioral changes that may occur with dogs at adolescence often stem from the hormones related to puberty. You will see male dogs starting to lift their leg to urinate. You may be in for some laughs and embarrassment when your dog reaches sexual maturity, because they sometimes hump your legs and pillows. As they start to feel more mature and grown up, they may try to rise up the pecking order of the household. If this becomes a problem, neutering may help.
Other behavioral changes to look for include being overly sensitive and fickle to new experiences, which can be due to the fear period which normally occurs at this age. It is essential to keep working on your dog’s socialization to make sure that he learns to take everything in his stride. Training your dog is a must as they always try to push the boundaries. If necessary, you can take your dog to obedience classes to be as well mannered as possible.
Your dog’s nutritional requirements also change at adolescence. Their growth rate is slowing down, and they don’t need as much food. Depending on the breed, your dog may need to switch from puppy food to one that is more suitable. There are brands that even have what is called a “junior” diet for the needs of your “teenage” dogs.
Here are some tips to manage a teenage dog:
1. Training, training and more training – Having a firm, yet gentle technique will achieve the best results.
2. Patience – Dogs do not intentionally misbehave to make your life difficult; he is just exploring what his limits are. Be ready to gently remind him of your expectations.
3. Make the most of this time – You want to maintain a wonderful relationship with your dog, so spending quality time with him to help him through adolescence is important. Remember to not only train him but play with him often.
It is common for people to give up on their dog at adolescence, because of the extra challenges that occur. Taking the time to understand his behavior will help you get through this time, and you’ll have a loving loyal companion for life.
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