Dog, his “adolescence” between hormones and irritability

THEbehavioral instability, discomfort and turmoil. Irritability and skyrocketing hormones. What happens in the difficult phase ofadolescence, can affect adult life, relationships with family and with the like. No, we are not talking about bipedal teenagers but quadrupeds. Well yes, even the dog goes through the same critical transition phase that we go through. So here is a small guide to help him get through this period with the greatest possible serenity.

“Teenage dogs” like human teenagers, the study

Just like in boys, even in dogs, the transition to reproductive and adulthood brings with it an increase in conflict, towards the reference figure: as children disobey their parents, so the four paws disobey their masters. Not only that: just like human puppies, so the most restless dog puppies enter puberty earlier and are more conflicted during adolescence.

The question has been investigated by a group of British researchers (led by Lucy Asher, from Newcastle University’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences). Theirs study on “teenage dogs”, published in biology lettersconcluded that during puberty and adolescence (i.e. usually between six and nine months of age) even dogs go through a phase of disobedience towards their reference humans and general indolence. But the intensity of this rebellion depends on the type of relationship and the level of attachment between dog and owner: the greater the trust towards the reference figure, the greater the serenity and balance of the teenager, minor episodes of disobedience. Sound familiar?

Guide to adolescence… of the dog!

“Adolescence is a very intense period, whose turmoil concerns the emotional, cognitive and hormonal sphere of growth”, explains Sabrina Giussani, veterinary surgeon expert in behavior and Past President of SISCA (Italian Society of Animal Behavior Sciences). «At the beginning we talk about puberty, determined by a hormonal peak which in females manifests itself with heat, while in males with a particular receptivity to the heat of females».

Then comes the social maturation. After the hormones, that is, the phase of transformation, an emotional and cognitive experience which, if well managed, thanks to the baggage of skills acquired, defines the personality of the adult dog. His ability to face everyday life in the best possible way, but also exceptional situations such as travel or moving.

Oakley, the dog trained against panic attacks so calms his owner

At what age does adolescence begin in dogs and how long does it last?

As with humans, adolescence doesn’t come at a precise time for dogs either. Depending on the individual, the moment of development can start earlier or later than the average.

Some clue as to the timing of its inception comes from the bounty. A small dog soon becomes a teenager. For example, a chihuahua has faster growth times and could enter the adolescent phase as early as the fifth month of life. Conversely, a Great Dane could take up to a year.

It goes without saying that the duration is also tailor-made, based on the size: for small dogs we are talking about a few months, while for the older ones it can take up to two and a half years.

Symptoms of canine adolescence

Not all dogs experience adolescence with the same intensity but, generally, in this period more or less all prove recalcitrant towards the stimuli that are offered to them. Eg? They don’t obey commands, they refuse to continue their walk in a certain direction, they oppose every rule. «It is the age of confrontation, of testing, of breaking the mold to explore one’s limits. Often, in this phase the difficulties that we believed to have been overcome in the first few months re-emerge explosively» explains Giussani. “During adolescence all the knots come to a head: in this period the ability to manage emotions gained during the socialization phase of the first months is tested”.

If your dog had emotional difficulties as a puppy, these may worsen during adolescence. For example: has he developed a feeling of fear and agitation towards people he doesn’t know? It is likely during adolescence you bark at all the people you meet for the first time. Or, that you approach other dogs with exaggerated quarrelsomeness.

3 tips to help the dog-teenager

As in the case of bipedal adolescents, the phase passes. But it can pass leaving more or less aftermath. Depending on how the owner/parent behaves. To better overcome this phase, the veterinarian therefore suggests some behaviors.
1. Listen and pay attention. It is essential to pay attention to all stages of your dog’s growth, and not just the first months of socialization of the puppy, in order to identify
atypical behaviors and sudden manifestations of stress. If the dog’s adolescent symptoms were to be ignored, the immediate risk would be to quickly lose all the progress achieved.
2. No to force. Properly communicating with a dog that wants to go his own way can be stressful, but force should never be used to convey our intentions to him. Forcing the dog by force, for example by picking him up or pulling him with the leash, would only reinforce his idea that this is the right communication system to use, and he would repeat it with his human referent in other situations.
3. Any compromises? Why not. Rather than scolding your teenage dog who, for example, doesn’t want to turn left, it’s better to indulge him for a few meters in the direction he has chosen (and then go back and turn left).

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Help from pheromones

In complicated moments of the dog’s life, such as adolescence, they can also help pheromones. In particular the “maternal fulfilling pheromones”: they are an olfactory chemical message that transmit calm and serenity in the dog. It is important to use pheromone products as a preventive measure, for example, in the form of a collar.