The Terrible Teens

Mar 03 2015 : Mirror (Bangalore)

“They are not dangerous. They are teenagers!“ This line just keeps replaying itself in my mind as I wind up my classes in North Carolina to return to Bengaluru.

Teenagers can be a handful, irrespective of the species.But when we don’t recognise that with dogs, it can result in a lot of unnecessary unpleasantness and even abandonment of the dog. Avoid all the unpleasantness by equipping yourself with the right tools and knowledge.
The teenage period of a dog is from 12 to 18 months.During this period, expect your teen to be a teen hormonal and emotional. Don’t be surprised if an ecstatic puppy suddenly flips and starts sulking for no apparent reason. Expect plenty of drama. All boundaries will be tested. The immaturity of a puppy in the body of an adult. Challenging? I know! But it will pass.
Teenage gets easier if your dog has the necessary good habits well before he hits that phase. Six to twelve months is a great time to start preparing your pup.
First up bite inhibition. Your puppy should have had the opportunity to learn this from his mother and siblings.If he has not had ample opportunity to learn that, make it your priority. Trying to teach this to a teenager can be potentially dangerous to people and the dog.
Entering teen months with a dog that does not know how to walk well on a loose leash is another source of great stress.It’s a vicious cycle that companion dogs and guardians get into. A dog walking poorly on a leash results in owners pulling the dog more. That causes the dogs to pull more.This quickly spirals down to a battle of strength. While such battles may be good for upper body workout, they are terrible for dog-people relationships. It’s also very damaging to the neck of a dog, having a ripple effect on the entire body and behaviour of the dog. Invest in comfortable, good quality equipment and do some rapid, intense intervention to learn the right technique of walking a dog. Habits need at least three weeks to change. So go ahead, pencil that in right now in your calendar and get cracking on it. You will thank yourself for having done that.
Environmental and social exposure given to your dog before teenage will determine how well he handles himself in the different situations he finds himself in. If he has been in these situations during his puppyhood and taught himself how to cope, then he is more likely to carry over some of that learning to his teenage and to exhibit more predictable behaviour. Common situations that dogs need to learn to cope with are greeting visitors, being around other dogs, being around children in the family, car rides etc. During walks, the dog needs to have learnt how to pass people, other dogs on leash, street dogs, cows, traffic and other common distractions.
Once you have prepared well for the teen period, then sit tight, tell yourself that the roller coaster ride starts now. Find other experienced pet parents to be able to vent to on those frustrating days. Keep a behaviourist’s number handy. If you weather it, you are in for a life of unconditional unadulterated love that everyone deserves to experience at least once in their life. If you prepare well, that experience is just a teen away.

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