Pets

Dogs go through a stroppy teenage phase too

Well, at least they can't slam doors...

By Karyn Henger

Who knew? Just like teenagers go through a difficult, stroppy phase, apparently so do adolescent dogs!

While a dog won't slam doors, binge on alcohol or lie about where they're going with their friends, research from Nottingham Trent University suggests that with our canine teens we might have to put up with non-compliance, hyperactivity and barking, chewing or digging.

The findings were made quite by accident when scientists were conducting research to spot dogs that would be suitable for training as guide dogs - hundreds of dog owners, whose dogs were analysed, reported 'adolescent' behaviour at around eight months.

Sounds about right, says Kiwi dog whisperer Doggy Dan, who has written a book about the similarities between raising children and raising dogs, What the Dogs have Taught Me About Being a Parent.

Doggy Dan with his now fully-grown dog, Moses.
Doggy Dan with his now fully-grown dog, Moses.

"The best way to frame it," says the dad-of-two, "is that while there are huge differences between children and dogs, there are actually far more similarities. And one of those similarities is that they start off as little babies then they begin discovering the world and becoming more confident, and then they go through almost a teenage period where, I'd say 50 per cent of the serious behavioural issues I work with in dogs, are coming from dogs aged between eight months and two years."

A 12-month-old dog is the equivalent to a 14-year-old human.

Dan draws the comparison, "When you've got a six-month-old puppy (or seven-year-old child) you might be able to say 'get back in your bed' and the dog will go back to their little basket and jump in. But at 12 or 14 months the dog will just look at you and carry on walking away.

"They're far more likely to challenge you and they're far more likely to ask the question 'why should I?'"

Sound familiar?

So how do we handle a stroppy adolescent dog? The same way we would a stroppy adolescent person, Dan advises. You've got to be cool, calm and consistent.

"The basis of what I teach is that the most important thing is to look at ourselves and what we are doing, because what we're doing will affect the dogs. So it's a case of 'how do we get our children and our dogs to choose to want to follow us?'

"It's about earning their respect through building a loving and trustful relationship with them."

He continues, "We know that screaming and shouting doesn't work and neither does bribing them with food treats - if you used chocolate constantly with your children to stop bad behaviour - say they're fighting and you say 'please stop fighting, I'll give you some chocolate' - the kids very quickly learn that you just fight first then take the chocolate."

Misbehaviour can sometimes come from a need for attention, or because a dog is not being stimulated. Exercise your dog every day, give him lots of positive attention and don't 'reward' bad behaviour. We explain:

In the case of the dog who keeps getting on the couch when they know they're not allowed, instead of yelling at him to get down, simply remove him from the couch without saying a word. Repeat a second time and if they do it a third, put them into time out in the laundry or bathroom for five minutes. "Few things are more discouraging for a pack animal than being separated from the pack," Dan explains.

So we just had to ask, if you can have a stroppy teenage dog, can you also have a dog that seems middle-aged, or has grumpy old man tendencies?

The answer is yes. The middle-aged dog might be more settled. The grumpy old man dog will be less tolerant - and maybe less appreciative than you'd anticipated of the brand new puppy you've brought home to give them a new lease of life.

Humph.