Make no mistake, adolescence is a war. No one gets out unscathed.
- Harlan Coben
How much is that doggie in the….shelter (hopefully). Puppies have an amazing ability to draw us in. The cute, rounded face. The roly-poly body. The non-stop love and affection: kisses and cuddles. (On a side note, we breed some dogs to remain as puppy-like, in both looks and actions, as possible. King Charles Spaniel, anyone? A 10 week old puppy… is there anything more adorable or lovable?)
Then comes 6 months, 6 weeks, 6 days old. Or as I refer to it 666 …the Beast. There’s a reason why most of my clients’s dogs are between the ages of 7-13 months old. They become teenagers. Imagine your teenage daughter simultaneously going through adolescence and teething (dogs start to lose their their baby teeth between 3-7 months). Chewing, slamming doors, stomping feet. ”You’re not the boss of me” attitude. You tell your dog curfew is 10:00, and they walk through the door at 10:15. Yep. Welcome to Dante’s hell.
The average age of a dog entering a shelter is under 18 months old. There’s a reason for this: they’re a teenager now. That cute fluffy, obedient puppy has now been replaced with a willful adolescent. Remember when you’d call your puppy, and they’d come loping over to you? Now all they do is flip you the middle paw and go in the other direction!
Remember, everything happens for a reason. Your dog needs to go through these changes, just like children do. Yes, the pack is integral and operates as essentially one cohesive unit, but there’s a difference between being an active, contributing member of the pack and a little baby that mom takes care of. They are growing pains. They need to find their own identity to discover their role within the pack.
In the words of Shakespeare: This too shall pass.
Things will be destroyed. Your dog will try to wander if left off-leash. Proper groundwork in training while they are still a puppy will mitigate this, but it will never eradicate the tempestuous “teen-aged” beast. Remember, you are in this for more than a decade. It will not always be this bad. For some owners, it will last a full year. For others, a few weeks. Breed does play some role in this. My beloved Darwin was a teenager when I adopted him from a local shelter. He was dumped there for obvious reasons: no leash skills (he literally dragged a shelter volunteer face-first while I was there). He jumped and barked. Chewed relentlessly. He was every owner’s worst nightmare. I don’t blame the owners for taking him to the shelter. When I adopted him almost 20 years ago, there weren’t the plethora of dog trainers there are now. Sometimes you just don’t know what to do, you feel helpless. Education is key: learn.
You’ll notice that I referred to Darwin as “beloved”. Believe me, that’s not how I referred to him while he was going through his Beast phase (I had plenty of other, choicer words). It passed. Six months after I adopted him, he calmed down. I didn’t have to run a daily marathon to keep him exercised. Innocent shoes were no longer fearful for their lives when he walked into a room. He matured into a wonderful, goofy, loving dog.
So please, don’t judge your dog by who they are now. If I could burn every photo of me as a teenager, banish every story from my adolescence, I most certainly would. Give them time, give them patience. You will be rewarded for your endurance over those 6-8 months with more than a decade of loyalty, love and, well…a good dog.
This week’s blog articles will focus on how to survive adolescence with your dog. Stay tuned! In the meantime, I’d like to hear some horror stories of what your dog did while a teenager. Please share in the comments section!