New research finds dogs display behaviours we commonly associate with human teenagers during their adolescent years. Depending on the breed, your pup is in adolescence around 6-18 months of age.
This research lends credibility to what has really only been known instinctively or as folklore so far. You may already be familiar with the experience of a playful pup turning into a rebellious grub on the rocky road to adulthood.
Parent-child relationships share similarities with owner-dog relationships
Adolescence can be a time of testing boundaries through increased risk-taking, peer influence and conflict with parents. Like teenagers, adolescent dogs disregard and disobey their owners. This disobedience isn’t as prevalent with strangers and seems directed at the primary caregiver.
Just like in humans, with hormones soaring, changes are occurring in their brain as they grow and change their relationship with the environment around them.
Dog adolescence study
Certain behaviours we associate with teenagers are not unique to humans and can also be found in dogs. Through a series of experiments and survey research, a study headed by Dr Lucy Asher from Newcastle University has uncovered new insights on the topic of dog adolescence.
Observing how dogs responded to commands such as “sit” at different ages, the researchers found instructions given by caregivers to their dogs at eight months old were tougher to train. This was more strongly observed where there was an insecure attachment to their owner. Interestingly when given by a stranger, results generally improved, showing that resistance was directed more often at the owner.
Hope for disobedient and rebellious adolescent dogs
This research can have a far-reaching impact as it adds legitimacy to the idea that behavioural problems after the puppy stage can also pass with time.
When owners find themselves with a strong-willed adolescent dog, sadly there can be a rise in the rates of rehoming, surrender or even abandonment of dogs if they can’t be controlled or trained. Hopefully, this research brings an understanding that this phase will pass.
Read more on The Guardian about how dogs experience emotional difficulties in puberty.