The Trials of the Teenage Dog (And How to Deal With Them!)

The Trials of the Teenage Dog (And How to Deal With Them!)

For anyone who has lived with a teenage dog, you will know it isn’t easy. This stage of growing up in any species is challenging for the parents or carers.

Dogs, like us, have to learn self-control, good decision making and cooperation with others, while still wanting to push the boundaries with those ‘in charge’. Modern attitudes demand quick fixes and we expect that to apply to the sentinel, hormone filled, and emotional creature that is our young dog.

There is no quick way through this, even dog professionals have to wade through the teenage terrors to get to the other side, which hopefully is a well-rounded companion. Unfortunately, so many things can go wrong along the way. Many dogs go into rescue between the ages of nine to eighteen months, the teenage period for a lot of breeds. Our expectations of dogs are that they should fit into our lives, not take up to much of our time and just be a dog, whatever that means. Many people don’t want or can’t cope with the massive amount of changes, physically, mentally and emotionally, that take place with our young canine companions.

Take my own young Lurcher. He came to us as a young rescue who had been picked up as a stray. He was probably under a year old when he arrived. He had little impulse control and of course if it moves he wants to chase it, he’s a lurcher, he is pre-programmed to do this.

Have I trained him over night to not chase squirrels, run full pelt up to other dogs to say hi, and generally be over the top in his enthusiasm? No, it is a constant work in progress. We train, a lot! We train in a good reward based class, we train at home in the house and garden, we then train in an open field and on walks with him on a long line.

It’s fun games to him, he doesn’t know we are building blocks to successful recall from distractions, appropriate greetings and play with other dogs or stop dead in an emergency situation, he is just having fun. We have good days and bad days, days when I am so proud of those little gimmers of maturity and days when I just want to tear my hair out and get back into bed and cry. He is a young dog, he needs guidance and time to grow. I never give up on him but that doesn’t mean I have days when I want to sit him down and say ‘mate you are being a cheeky monkey, grow up’.

If I have learnt anything, through this tricky stage with my dog, it’s that I am not alone. Friends, who are amazing dog trainer have admitted their dogs were a nightmare whist growing up. I look at their sweet, well behaved, well-adjusted dogs now and pray mine will get there soon. I have also learnt, that a support network of good trainers and friends are essential in aiding you through this process.

My advice, manage your expectations, they won’t be able to achieve everything right away. Don’t give up, even if you want to.

It’s a stage, they will get through it with a little help from good trainers, sensible handling and effort from you and just time and tons of it. The results will be amazing and you will have a loving, loyal, well behaved dog in the end.

Toni Shelbourne

Toni Shelbourne has worked with domesticated and wild canids since 1989. After a long and successful career with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, she started her own business as a Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner. She is now one of the highest qualified Practitioners in the UK. In 2001 her skills in TTouch took Toni to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust were she meet a pack of socialised wolves. She went on to work with them for over a decade as a Senior Wolf Handler and Education Officer for the organisation.  Through observing the wolves she has a unique insight into their behaviour.  This led to her questioning the ingrained ideas about the alpha theory with dogs, ideas that were often in conflict with her own knowledge and observations. Today she advises wolf organisations and zoos on wolf behaviour and management. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients’ one to one, writes and runs workshops.

Over the last decade Toni has been developing her writing. She spent two years editing and writing features for Wolf Print, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust’s international magazine. She went on to write for national dog magazines, rescue society newsletters and websites. Her first and second book, The Truth about Wolves & Dogs, (Hubble and Hattie 2012) and Among the Wolves (Hubble and Hattie 2015) have been a great success. Her latest writing collaboration with author Karen Bush sees a series of books entitled Help… My Dog is. The first, Help…My Dog is Scared of Fireworks is available as an eBook or in paperback format and is an essential guide for the owners of noise phobic dogs. More titles are planned.

Visit for more details about Toni, TTouch and her books.
Twitter: @tonishelbourne

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