Navigating the dog “teenage” phase

May 18, 2023 - 6 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Teenage dog hero

It's crucial to approach this adolescent period with patience, understanding, and a sense of humor. Remember, your pet’s not trying to be difficult or disobedient – they’re just navigating  their way through a challenging new phase of their life. With your guidance and support, they can successfully transition from playful puppy to well-adjusted adult.

When does dog adolescence start, and how long does it last?

Dog teenage years can start at different times for different dogs; for one thing, small breeds tend to grow up faster than large breeds. But generally speaking, you can expect your dog to reach adolescence at about six months of age. This is when they’ll start showing signs of puberty, such as higher energy and increased curiosity. They’ll grow rapidly, their hormones will fluctuate, and they may become more unpredictable – even rebellious. 

Despite these challenges, your dog’s teenage years are also a time for great learning and development. With your guidance and support, they can successfully navigate this period and grow into a happy, well-behaved adult dog.

This phase usually lasts until your dog is about two years old, but keep in mind that some pups may leave their adolescence behind earlier or later than the average. All dogs are unique and develop at their own pace!  

What to expect during the dog teenage adolescent phase

The dog teenage phase is a time of significant change. You’ll notice a variety of new behaviors and challenges, including:

  • Increased independence: Your once-obedient puppy may start to assert their independence, often in ways that test your patience. This includes ignoring commands, wandering off on their own, or flat-out stubbornness. Don’t worry: This is a normal part of their development, and it’s a sign that they’re growing and maturing.

  • Selective hearing: This is another common issue during the dog teenage phase. Your dog may suddenly seem to forget commands they previously knew, or ignore you when you call them. It's important to remember that your dog is not doing this out of spite; they’re either trying to navigate their growing independence, or they’re simply getting distracted by their surroundings thanks to their newfound curiosity.  

  • Surge in energy levels: Your dog may suddenly seem to possess an endless supply of energy, leading to boisterous and sometimes destructive behavior. It's extremely important to provide your dog with plenty of physical and mental stimulation to help them burn off excess energy in a positive way.

How to deal with puppy adolescence

It's important to stay calm and patient with your pet during this time. Remember, they’re not being difficult on purpose. Here are some key training strategies for helping your dog through this challenging phase  

  • Be consistent: Make sure to reinforce good behavior. Reward your dog with praise and a healthy amount of treats when they do something right, like going potty outside. Continually repeat these techniques with minimal variation, and your dog will keep getting better at behaving the way you want them to.

  • Revisit puppy recall training: Your dog may start to ignore your calls or commands during this period, so it's important to reinforce their skills. Pay special attention to recall training — i.e., making sure they come when called – in a safe, enclosed area. Always praise and reward your dog for responding to your call. This will reinforce the importance of responding to your commands, even when they’re distracted by their surroundings.

  • Don’t neglect playtime:Your dog will be bursting with energy during this time, and ample playtime will provide a healthy outlet. Incorporate games and exercises that challenge your dog both physically and mentally, whether those are puzzle toys or runs through the dog park. This will help them burn off energy andkeep  their mind sharp..

Training classes/activities for teenage dogs

Enrolling your teenage dog in training classes or organized activities can be a great way to keep them engaged. These activities provide a structured environment where your dog can learn new skills, socialize with other dogs, and channel their energy into something positive. Plus, you might get a much-needed break! 

These classes can help reinforce good behavior, teach your dog new skills, and provide a structured environment where they can learn and grow. Organized activities like obedience classes, agility training, or even doggy daycare can be beneficial. Look for classes that use positive reinforcement, which is the most effective and humane dog training method.  

Behavior around other dogs

During the dog teenage phase, your pet's social interactions with other dogs may change. Your pup might become more interested in playing with other dogs, which can lead to playful and rambunctious behavior. But it’s also possible that your dog will become more assertive and dominant around other dogs. Closely guide these interactions to prevent any conflicts or aggressive behavior.  

Socialization is crucial during your dog’s adolescence, just as it is during their puppyhood. Expose your furry friend  to a variety of other dogs and environments to help them learn how to interact appropriately. And it’s crucial to make sure these experiences are positive and friendly.  Unpleasant or traumatic experiences during this period can produce a lasting negative impact on your dog’s behavior.

Fearful behavior

The dog teenage phase can also bring about a 'fear period,' where your pet might seem more anxious or fearful than usual. This is a normal part of their development, but it can be distressing for both you and your pet.

Your pup may start to fear things they were previously comfortable with. They may become more cautious or anxious, and they may start to exhibit fear-based behaviors like barking, growling, or hiding.

It's important to provide your pet with lots of support during this time. Try to expose them to new experiences slowly and gently, and always provide plenty of positive reinforcement like treats and praise. If your dog seems particularly anxious or fearful, it may be worth consulting a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

Chewing

Chewing is a common behavior during the dog teenage phase. While it can be destructive, it's important to understand that your pup’s not gnawing on your shoes or your sofa cushions out of spite. They may simply be teething or exploring their world.

Providing your dog with safe chew toys can help give them an outlet (and protect your furniture and belongings). If your dog does chew something they shouldn't, don’t yell or punish them; this may just increase their anxiety and cause new unwanted behaviors. Instead, redirect them to an appropriate chew toy and reward them for making the right choice.

Training your dog

Training is crucial during your dog’s puppyhood, and remains so during their adolescence. As your pup is rapidly learning and growing, it’s vital to provide them with the guidance they need to develop into a well-behaved adult dog.

Consistency and persistence are key when it comes to training your teenage dog. Set clear expectations and stick to them. If you let your dog get away with unwanted behavior, even once, it will send mixed signals and make training more difficult.

Again, positive reinforcement training methods are the most effective way to train your dog: Reward them for good behavior rather than punishing them for bad. This not only makes training more enjoyable for your dog, but also helps you build a strong, positive relationship with them. 

Brain games for dogs

Brain games are a great way to keep your teenage dog mentally stimulated. These games challenge your dog's mind, improve their problem-solving skills, and provide them with a fun and engaging activity.

Puzzle toys are a great option. These toys challenge your pup to access a treat or toy that’s stuck in a puzzle, keeping them engaged for minutes or even hours at a time. Hide-and-seek is another fun game to help improve your dog's recall skills and provide them with ample mental stimulation.

Spaying and neutering

Spaying or neutering your pup can have a significant impact on their  behavior. Veterinarians generally recommend the procedure, but always make sure to talk it over with your vet first to understand the benefits and risks. 

Neutering can help reduce aggressive or dominant behavior in male dogs, and spaying can help prevent unwanted pregnancies in female dogs. However, it's important to note that neutering is not a cure-all for behavioral issues: It's still important to provide your dog with ample training and socialization, regardless of whether they’re spayed or neutered. Also, keep in mind that some dog breeds should be spayed or neutered later than others to ensure proper physical development. 

Always work on your relationship with your dog

Navigating your pup’s adolescence can certainly test your relationship with your furry friend. But remember, this phase is temporary! Remain patient, consistent, and understanding, and you’ll  build a strong, positive relationship with your dog that will last throughout their life.

Your dog’s teenage phase is just one part of your relationship journey. And it can be a time for great bonding and growth. With your love and patient guidance, your dog can mature into a happy, well-behaved adult.

How ManyPets can help 

We here at ManyPets understand the challenges of pet ownership, and we’re here to support you every step of the way. That's why we offer dog insurance to help you provide the best possible care for your furry family member. Our coverage is designed to keep you prepared for any unexpected health issues, so you can focus on enjoying every precious moment with your pet. Learn more about our dog insurance today and give your pet the protection they deserve.  


David Teich
Lead Content Editor

David Teich is Lead Content Editor at ManyPets. He loves pets, Scrabble, Oxford commas, and typing loudly.