Puppy Parenting Tips:
The Rebellious Teenage Years
By Gary Le Mon

These Puppy Parenting Tips are required reading for any dog lover whose furry youngster is in the rebellious teenage years, 6 to 18 months of age.

As you and I know, puppies have a way of melting hearts. This affection causes many people to take on the responsibility of a new dog in the household without considering long-range effects.

But new dog owners should know that the puppy's cuddly, agreeable manner changes suddenly between the ages of six months to eighteen months. At this time, he or she can become a hellion for a period of time. This is a normal part of canine development, much like the teens in human beings, that brings greater independent thinking, an interest in a wider world and some testing of boundaries. Understanding the changes going on in your teenage dog can help you weather this animal right-of-passage with greater insight.

Why Puppy Behavior Changes
Much like a human child, a puppy has a number of spurts of physical and mental development. During these periods the puppy may demonstrate behaviors seemingly out of character, making life difficult for the owner. This adolescent period which varies depending on breed is a critical phase in the dog's mental development. Generally the puppy already has achieved most of its growth and strength by this time. Now comes the work of learning how to manage this new power in the wider world. This emotional and mental ability to process new experiences and understand limits has been instrumental in making dogs valuable companions for humans in their work and home lives for thousands of years. Although some of the behaviors can be disruptive, they are important developmental mileposts in creating a well-adjusted and mature canine.

4 Puppy Parenting Tips

1. Housebreaking Lapses
You may have begun your housebreaking efforts early, congratulating yourself on how well your puppy has caught on to the training -- only to find that he has suddenly forgotten everything he learned or has developed an attitude that implies "you can't make me do anything." If your puppy is exhibiting this type of behavior, remain calm and clean up any messes without comment or emotion. Try to catch your puppy in the act and redirect him to a puppy pad or outdoor spot, if possible. Simply continue reinforcing the training consistently and lovingly. He will soon give up his rebellious ways and become a more responsible household member.

2. Destructive Chewing
Feeling strong and powerful may lead your puppy into destructive acts such as chewing doors, furniture or clothing. Some breeds may dig incessantly using your sofa, your garden or the carpeting as their exercise ground. Although chewing and digging are instinctive behaviors, they can cause hundreds or thousands of dollars in damage or, more importantly, can put your dog in danger.

High on the list of puppy parenting tips is directing your puppy's chewing behavior to more acceptable items such as raw beef bones, nylon toys or rubber toys that can be filled with treats the dog has to work for to extract. These toys can employ natural actions that dogs would use in the wild. Keep all valuables, electric cords and other items off the floor or in cabinets to prevent damage. Giving your dog plenty of exercise can also help burn off nervous energy that leads to destructive chewing and digging. The old phrase, "A tired dog is a happy dog," is especially true for puppies. Make sure your puppy gets several vigorous walks each day. This exercise will benefit you too.

3. Ignoring Commands
After a period of what seemed like perfect obedience to your commands, your puppy may begin to challenge your authority over him. He may even turn away from you or find any other distraction rather than obey your wishes. Although this behavior is disheartening for a conscientious dog owner, it is not a permanent mindset in the dog's personality. He is merely testing his limits and will eventually appreciate the advantages and rewards of complete obedience to your wishes. Regardless of his reluctance to comply, you should continue your training sessions as before, patiently waiting for this rebellious period to pass.

4. Wandering
Adolescent curiosity about the outside world may cause your puppy to find escape routes out of the yard to investigate the neighborhood. If you detect any sign of escapism in your puppy, take immediate measures to secure all fenced and gated areas to ensure he cannot find a way out. One of the most important puppy parenting tips is to (almost) never allow him off the leash when outdoors. You may want your vet to implant a microchip to allow identification and recovery if he should escape. Every dog should have an identification tag attached to the collar with the owner's address and phone number to allow the finder to contact you.

A puppy's rebellious teenage years can be challenging for dog owners, but with a little extra love, vigilance and effort you can use this energetic period to train and bond with your dog on a whole new level.


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