Dear Didi: We have a Labradoodle that is about to turn 7 months old. He has been full of energy and a major handful so we hired a personal trainer when he was 5 months old. The lessons were wonderful focusing a lot of intervention, management and basic obedience. All of a sudden, we are noticing a defiance streak. He knows basic commands and it was proven in his final exam with the trainer. This week we ask for a sit and he looks at us with this “i dare you” face and runs around the house avoiding us. Other times he takes his own sweet time performing whatever action we’ve asked of him. He used to follow me everywhere I went throughout the house. Now he does his own thing. Have we somehow alienated our kid and made him mad at us? -Worried Mom in Galt
Dear Worried Mom: May I commend you for seeking out a good personal trainer at the right age?! Unfortunately, the majority of dog owners don’t look for help until their dog is at the stage you are describing. Congratulations on being the proud owner of a teenager!! (insert evil grin). This can be a very trying time in a dog’s life, although completely natural. The adolescent stage can begin as early as 6 months old or start as late as 10 months old, but they all go through it. Some dogs scoot through without too many issues and others….well, we would like to throttle them sometimes!
In my experience, when a new puppy comes into our lives we are very dedicated and attentive to them. We take a few weeks to figure out a new routine to incorporate potty training, exercise needs and meal times. Things are going along pretty nicely and we get complacent and relax. WHAM! Right when we relax, the teenage phase hits and takes us by surprise. The key is to not get complacent. If potty training and behaviors are going well, it is because YOU are doing well. You are being consistent and dedicated. The key to surviving the teenage phase is to stay the course. Their bodies and hormones are changing rapidly. The dog’s impulse controls are being challenged. Confidence is rushing in. They are beginning to look like a dog instead of a puppy, but their brain is being somewhat bipolar. Dog one moment, puppy brain the next. Be patient, be consistent, maintain everything you learned from your trainer. Use leash and crate controls rather than be angry and frustrated. The more you stick to your guns the easier and shorter this phase will be.
If you don’t feel equipped to deal with some of the antics, call your trainer back for a refresher class. Teenage canines can really use good mental and physical exer-cise. Consider signing up for an agility class, dock diving, or nosework. Remember than a daily walk typically is important for us humans but rarely does much for the dog. Many people resort to letting their dogs run at the dog park but this is indulging his desire to be impulsive and he may not be learning healthy dog/dog interactions there. Choose an activity that requires him to think and practice self control, all while getting a meaningful physical workout. Getting through this phase with a healthy mind and body will result in a pleasant canine companion for the next ten years! -submit your questions to www.californiacanineunleashed.com