Dear Sarah,

I’m not sure what’s going on with our dog. We got him at 8 weeks and have had him for 2 months. He’s been great! We’ve been to Puppy Preschool and he did really well. Now, all of a sudden he’s stopped listening, won’t come back when he’s called and just seems really naughty. What are we doing wrong??

Beth M

Hi Beth,

Firstly, chances are you’re not doing anything wrong. Your puppy has just hit his next developmental stage – the adolescent period. This stage starts at around the 4 month mark (although it can start as early as 3 months and as late as 5 months) and goes until around 2 years, when a dog officially reaches social maturity (or adulthood). So congratulations! Your puppy is normal!

In the adolescent period, you will notice the following changes in behaviour:

  • Puppy biting starts to diminish and stops around the 6 month mark when all of your puppy’s adult teeth have come through. (Hooray!)
  • Toilet training is improving greatly and puppies begin holding on throughout the night. (Hooray!)

But….

  • You start to see lots of selective deafness, lots of pushing boundaries and lots of forgetting basic things like “sit”. If you’re lucky when you call, you may get your puppy turn to look at you, before they weigh up their options and decide NOT to come to you. And at times, you can almost see the middle digit in their paw come up as they flip you “the bird” before running in the opposite direction.

Sounding familiar?

Funnily enough, the same thing happens with humans. Beautiful, sweet children, who at the age of anywhere between 10-13, become challenging, infuriating, boundary pushing, grunting, bird flipping teenagers.

So what happened? Essentially we are talking about hormonal fluctuations and brain development, which play a massive role in the change in behaviour in both humans and dogs during the adolescent period. As owners (or parents), neither of these things are within our control, so understanding that this is a normal developmental phase is half the battle.

So what do you do about it? Simply remain consistent. Work out what boundaries you are going to have in your home and stick to them. And using patience, kindness and consistency, continue to teach your puppy what behaviours are desirable. Because it all pays off once they reach adulthood (just like with the human variety), and you’ll be so glad you did!