Constantly testing the boundaries and challenging your authority – welcome to your dog's puberty phase! But hold your head up high: with these tips, you will get on with and train your dog better during its difficult and stressful puberty phase.
With dogs, the onset of puberty depends on the breed and the individual animal.
This stressful period begins some time after the puppy phase when all the milk teeth have fallen out and the 42 remaining teeth have emerged.The general rule is that smaller dog breeds enter this defiant age somewhat earlier (from around 6 months) than larger dog breeds (from around 12 months).
How does puberty manifest itself in dogs?
Not just teenagers become rebellious and hard work during puberty – your dog will also show the same signs sooner or later. Typical signs are it suddenly showing other types of behaviour, forgetting commands it has learnt and testing all boundaries.
Once your dog enters puberty, its behaviour can suddenly change:
- Your dog marks more frequently during walks.
- It is quicker and easier to motivate your dog.
- Although your dog has already learnt to cope with being alone, it will now howl when you leave the room or scratches at the doors.
- Your dog appears more self-confident and explores its surroundings without paying attention to you.
- It acts differently towards other dogs when playing compared to before, e.g. more dominant or more anxious.
What must I focus on with puberty in dogs?
If you don't want your dog going through puberty to walk all over you, clear rules are essential throughout its entire defiant phase. In order for this to work, everyone in the household like partners or children need to stick to the rules.
We will give you five important rules that you should fully adhere to during puberty:
- Show your dog that it can feel safe with you. In case of danger (e.g. aggressive leashed dogs), actively stand in front of your dog and keep calm.
- Always act as the leader of the pack.
- Reinforce previously learnt basic commands like sit, here, down and stay. Treats can be used to help too.
- Ensure that your dog has enough contact with fellow canines.
- Consciously build in rest periods so that your dog can get used to day-to-day situations later in the day.
If you have difficulties imposing your authority over your rebellious young dog, regularly attending a dog school or a professional dog trainer can help.
What happens in the body of dogs during puberty?
After the puppy phase, the body starts to rearrange its hormone balance. The objective of hormonal change is to reach sexual maturity at the end of puberty.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)
GnRH is formed in the brain and leads to previously functionless sexual organs becoming active. They start by forming their own sex hormones, which in turn influence the brain.
The sexual hormones from males (testosterone) and females (oestrogen and progesterone) cause the part of the brain responsible for emotions to grow and dogs to react more intensely to external stimuli.
In contrast, the functionality of the cerebral cortex decreases, which normally controls conscious and arbitrary behaviour. Dogs going through puberty therefore have worse impulse control than dogs that have already reached adulthood.
The concentration of the stress hormone cortisol formed in the adrenal cortex also increases in the blood during a dog's puberty phase. This is why your dog is suddenly stressed by loud noises like car horns, although it had no problems with them as a puppy.
Although the amount of the wellbeing hormone dopamine isn't increased, the amount of responsible receptors in the brain does. As a vital neurotransmitter, it is normally responsible for positively associating experiences. Since it has an increased influence on a dog's brain during puberty, it is easier to stimulate its reward system with treats or praise, for instance.