Puppies, those adorable balls of fluff, can seem like sweet, lovable angels for the first few months of life. However, much like humans, canines go through a growing adolescence stage, and rebellious, dominant behavior can abound, frustrating even the most patient parents.
The onset of canine adolescence usually occurs suddenly around 6 months of age and the entire transitory period can last through 18 months. Sugar seemingly goes from well adjusted to anxious and aloof overnight. During this period your puppy may eschew behavioral training and revert back to old, destructive behaviors such as chewing the legs off the coffee table. This rebelliousness is a result of hormonal changes, much like teenage acne and staying out past curfew.
Puppies are very aware of and influenced by other pack members, including both humans and dogs, during their adolescent stage. This is the period of canine development when your pup may begin challenging or testing your position as pack leader. Sweet little Sugar, who always comes when called, may look away or go in the other direction at the sound of your voice. She also craves independence, and may wander off to explore, much to your dismay. At 7 to 9 months, she may enter a second chewing phase as part of her exploration -- ruh-roh, hide the shoes. Understand that this rebellious phase is a natural part of canine hormonal changes.
Increased dominant behavior, such as leash pulling, body blocking and barking, can signal adolescence has begun. Your buddy may even physically block your path or begin guarding her toys or any item she claims. Some dogs may display aggressive behavior around this time. It’s important to consult your veterinarian and a certified canine behaviorist or trainer if you notice any signs of aggression such as growling, guarding or snapping. Attempting to manage an aggressive dog on your own can be unsafe and disastrous for you and your pup.
Consistency is key during these trying times. Don’t become frustrated and give up on basic commands as a lost cause. Though it may seem like your little girl is ignoring you, don’t be fooled; she’s likely testing the limits. Spaying or neutering before puberty sets in, around 6 months old for most breeds, can help minimize hormonal spikes; however, talk to your veterinarian about the appropriate age and time frame for fixing your individual pup. Fixing can also save your upholstery and patience; inappropriate urination and marking, as well as wandering off, are often the result of burgeoning sexual hormones.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.