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Teen Angst: Dogs Have It Too

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If you’ve lived through the teen years with a child, you know they can be quite challenging.  As it turns out, dogs go through that difficult adolescent phase, too!  Dogs are considered adolescent from 6-18 months of age, and they exhibit many of the same behaviors human teens do:  high energy, short attention span, raging hormones.

The November issue of Whole Dog Journal offers these tips to help you navigate this fun but challenging time with your dog:

  • Exercise!  At this age, dogs have endless amounts of energy, so it’s very important to keep them physically active.  Walks are a good energy burning outlet, but don’t be surprised if your pup is still full of energy after a long walk.  Offer mental stimulation in the way of puzzle toys to challenge him.  He will need some down time to prevent overstimulation, so include some rest time during the day.  His body is still developing, so wait to begin activities such as agility training until he’s at least a year old.
  • Train:  Yes, your dog may obey a sit command one day and look at you like you’re crazy the next day, but don’t give up.  The world is full of all sorts of new sights and smells at this age, so your dog may be quite preoccupied.  Keep training sessions fun…and short, mix some play in with training. Schedule training sessions with minimal distractions and start with easier tasks so there will be some progress, then gradually work up to more difficult commands.  Balance commands such as “sit” or “stay” with fun tricks for him to learn.  Reward him when he makes good choices, but vary the treat:  one time it’s special attention or access to a favorite toy, another time a prized treat.
  • Manage his environment:  Dogs at this age are very busy and can get into all sorts of trouble when left to their own devices.  When there isn’t someone around to monitor your dog’s activities, put him in his crate or confine him to a specific area.  Baby gates work great for keeping dogs in a dedicated space.  Make sure he has plenty of chew toys available to him so he’ll chew them and not your furniture.

It may seem as though your dog will never settle down, but with time and patience you and your four legged “teen dream” can enjoy this special period in his life.

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