When people talk about getting a new dog, only the puppy training (obedience, house, etc.) and the teething issue ever come up. And yes, that’s a big part of raising a puppy.
But around 10 months old, just when you think everything is perfect, they become teenagers. Rebellious little buggers who want to do everything their way. They “forget” the training they had mastered, they “forget” that they aren’t in charge, and they “forget” that biting you isn’t a game or allowed.
This isn’t because they are bad dogs.
During adolescence the body is flooded with hormones (so spaying/neutering your pup is advised – talk to your vet before Cutie Pie is 6 months old), the brain grows and changes, and the final physical growth takes place.
Remember being a teenager? All the mood swings for no apparent reason, the energy surges, the need for more sleep, the hunger, the confusion? I can go on, but you get the point. Up until 18 months, this will be at its most acute. (That’s why they eat puppy food with all its extra goodies in until then.)
When your pup bites you, ask her to think about why she is doing it. They’re smart, they’ll figure out that it isn’t acceptable. When the really hard bite comes, be firm and say “no”. You have put in the time and training to bond with your pup, she remembers that even though her raging hormones clouds it.
Personally, with Caitlin, I throw her out of the house for an hour to cool off when she gets overexcited. She hates being separated from me, so it is punishment she understands. (I banish her from my study at night with the same result.) Yes, I’m covered with bruises for the first month or so in training her through adolescence (caveat: I bruise ridiculously easy and if she really wanted to hurt me, I would’ve lost a limb already), but I know from experience that the more I work with my adolescent pup, the better things will get.
Now, it isn’t over when they reach 18 months. Up until the age of 3, they are still developing. So surges of adolescent madness will still occur on occasion. But know that you will have a wonderful, well-behaved dog at the end of the adolescent years.
Callum was a terror when I got him – even the vet thought that he was too dangerous to be allowed. Tsk. I loved and trained that little monster and today he is “my good boy” (he loves to hear how wonderful, smart and scary he is). Yeah, he likes to scare people at the vet’s office, but he doesn’t tug on the leash, actually becomes aggressive or bites anyone. He only growls and shows his gorgeous teeth a little when they come too close or looks at him too long. I think it’s hilarious: people with pocket-sized dogs immediately think that he is a dangerous animal when they see him (bias against Rottweilers at its worst) so he shows them proper disdain for their ignorance. (Small dogs are more prone to bite people than well-trained big dogs. #Truth from the practice manager where my dogs go.)
Fun segue aside, you can survive your dog’s adolescence. Don’t give up.
All that renewed frenetic chewing isn’t your pup teething again: it’s just a way to release pent-up energy. (Chewing now includes biting you and attacking your feet – or just the shoes you’re wearing.)
How can you help your dog get enough exercise? (Leaving them in the backyard isn’t enough.)
- A flirt stick. (Here’s and article on how to use it and even DIY one.)
- Mental challenges. (Here’s an article on the different ways to challenge your dog mentally with toys meant for them, and one that uses their environment.)
- Go for a hike. (Here’s an article on safety tips for you and Cutie Pie.)
- Move from traditional voice training to clicker training. (Here’s an article on how to do it and why you should.)
- Be flexible. (Be willing to play with her at midnight until she falls down exhausted. There’s no point in getting angry because she now has energy and is wide awake. You can always sleep in over weekends – if she allows it – and catch up on your Z’s when she is all grown up.)
- Be patient. (You love your dog. No-one said parenting is easy.)
- Stick to a routine as much as possible. (Here’s an article on why routine is important to dogs.)
Every dog is different. Some get over the rebellious stage faster – while others linger. You know your pup. Spend time with her and help her through this confusing time. Make it a bonding experience. And if she bites, redirect her attention to something suitable to destroy. (I buy long-life milk in bulk, so the cartons come in big, sturdy boxes – Caitlin destroys a couple a week. It works well for the compost heap.)
If you can’t handle it, ask your vet for help. They know everything about dogs and can either help you themselves or refer you to a specialised trainer.
Want to keep up with Ronel’s Rottweilers? Follow us on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter — we love to take mum’s phone and make appearances there. You can also sign up for Ronel’s author newsletter –and receive a free ebook — where Caitlin and Callum share news, too. (I won’t share your information and I’ll only email you once a month with updates on new releases, special offers, and a bit of news.)
**Legal waiver: I’m not a veterinarian, just an overprotective Rottweiler mum and pack leader. It’s always best to contact your vet if something in your dog’s behaviour is out of character.