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  • Liz MacHaffie

Teenage Dogs


Physically awkward? Check. Selective listening when it comes to parents? Check. Getting cliquey about friends? Also check!

Welcome to doggie teenagerhood! This fun and challenging life stage lasts from about 6 months until your dog reaches adulthood. (This is often at 1 to 1.5 years for small to medium dogs and 2 to 2.5 years for large breeds.)


What to Expect


Teenage dogs can experience lots of changes, just like human teenagers. They can include:

  • Fearfulness or shyness toward things they used to be fine with. (Thunder, other dogs, other people, kids!)

  • Territorial behaviors like barking at passers-by in the house or car.

  • Testing boundaries. (And then testing them some more…)

  • Relapses in being able to listen to cues they used to know well. (AKA "selective listening". They're experiencing lots of emotions and can be much more easily distracted, making it hard for them to listen!)

  • A resurgence in jumping, mouthing, and other excitement-related behaviors.

  • New behavior challenges like leash reactivity.

Dog Socialization: What's going on?!


Teenagerhood is also the time when most dogs become less social!

  • Just like people, who as toddlers will play with nearly any other toddler, teenagers become more selective about who they will socialize with.

  • It's normal for dogs to show signs of stress around playmates they don't enjoy anymore. Sometimes this can even become aggression.

  • If your dog was in daycare as a young puppy and starts having difficulty in teenagerhood, it's not likely it's the daycare that's causing your dog's behavior to change, it's his own brain!

  • At this age, one-on-one or small group playdates with consistent dog friends can help maximize your dog's sociability. Avoid letting your dog play in situations where you don't like what he's doing. Practice makes perfect, and he'll perfect the naughty stuff if he gets to repeat it!

  • If you're concerned about your dog's socialization, let your trainer know so we can help you figure out what's normal, and what you can do to help your pup.

What Can I Do?!


While your pup is a teenager, two hugely helpful goals are:

  • Preventing practice of the behaviors you don’t want. (Using a leash, gate, visual barrier, or distance to prevent it.)

  • Setting your dog up for success with where he is at. Oftentimes this is continuing or restarting what you did when he was a pup. Sometimes it means going backwards! (Just like teenage humans...)

Feeling overwhelmed by your teenage dog? You're not alone! If things don't feel right, let your trainer know so we can help you out!

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