The juvenile period can be a challenging time for your puppies. From 12 weeks to sexual maturity, they are growing rapidly, and puberty will hit. This time can create road-bumps in your relationship if you are not prepared! Sexual maturity is breed and size-dependent, in small breeds this can be as early as six months old, and in large breeds as late as 18-24 months old.
Continued socialisation and exposure to new experiences are vitally important during this time as well as giving your puppy an outlet to let off physical energy. Regular walks, games, training, and enrichment toys all provide ways for your puppy to exercise their brain or body.
Some common behavioural issues we hear of developing during this time include:
- Attention seeking
- Inappropriate chewing
- Pulling on the lead
- Jumping up
- Stealing food from the kitchen bench
- Play biting
- Losing their recall
- Aggression to strangers or other dogs
- Separation related behaviours
Remember, all these have initially been normal behaviours in dogs, and they are not trying to ‘dominate’ the situation. Ask yourself the question: What is reinforcing them to do this? What does your dog get out of it? Once we understand that we can put plans in place to reduce or eliminate the behaviour.
Nuisance behaviours can be transitioned to polite manners or managed to a point where they no longer bother us.
Four strategies are:
- Management techniques. These prevent your puppy from practising the unwanted behaviour. One example would be: Keeping your puppy out of the kitchen prevents them from learning to jump up on the bench to steal food.
- Train consistent interactions. Ask for consistent behaviour. An example would be: Requiring your puppies to sit before giving them what they would like.
- Train and reinforce an alternate behaviour. Train and reward the opposite behaviour. For example, Your puppy will not jump up on you when practising sits and stay, nor bark at the door if taught to find a toy when it rings.
- Physical and mental stimulation. A tired, satisfied puppy is less likely to want to seek out their own fun. Regular walks and toys that make them work for their food will reduce their energy.
Why not a punishment?
The problem with punishment is two-fold:
- Punishing dogs for behaviour can create fear and stress, and if the action is due to anxiety, can make the behaviour much worse and repetitive.
- It can make them frightened of us generally rather than of performing the actual behaviour. The dog may learn to perform undesirable behaviour when we are not present.
If you would like further advice on managing your puppy’s behaviour in the teenage years, have a chat with your vet nurse or vet we’re here to help.