Oh those raging hormones!
I am the mother of a twelve year old boy.. Any parent of a “tween” can tell you that’s when the fun begins, the sassing, and the pain in the you-know-what behavior that will drive a parent mad. Well now I get to inform you that this is the SAME behavior your dog will exhibit when leaving the cute butterball puppylike stage, just as hormones hit and he grows up to be a “big dog”. Pups in this stage of life, usually 6 to 18 months of age start to develop “attitude” and drive their owners nuts! This is also the stage where most dogs are given away or taken to the pound. Check any animal shelter statistics, the vast majority of dogs relinquished are less than 2 years old, and mostly due to behavior problems.
This is the time to really be the pack leader in your dog’s eyes. Cesar Milan “the Dog Whisperer” is one of my heroes when it comes to training dogs. Dogs want a leader truly, just as children really want limits, contrary to what they tell you. If there is no pack leader in the house guess what, your dog has to take on that role. It’s simply survival of the fittest and the bottom line is lead, follow or get out of the way. Easy ways to be a pack leader in your dog’s eyes are to make your dog wait at the door and you take the first step out, and then invite your dog out. Yes, even when it’s just to let him outside to go potty, same way coming back inside, make him wait at the door as you open it…pause and then say “ok, come in” and this means you “own” the door. Bolting out of it is no longer an option as that is disrespectful in dog speak. You are the leader and it’s up to YOU to set the boundaries.
This is the BEST time to squelch bad behaviors that used to be considered “cute” by you.
You know what I mean; jumping up on you as a 7 lb. puppy was cute, but now that we are 70 lbs, not so cute anymore. Jumping up on everyone else and knocking them down is also no longer cute. You need to think like a dog and discipline accordingly. Less talk and more action are needed. More body language and less treats to get him to comply. Quit bribing your dog and just be a leader to him. Watch “the Dog Whisperer” on National Geographic channel, if you don't get it in your cable or dish package, order it! It’s worth it!
The other thing that will help some of the problem behaviors is simply spaying and neutering your dog at that stage of life, but it’s never too late to do it. Hormones are what guides the behavior, lose the hormones and there’s nothing to fight about, run away for, and you are truly stopping some forms of cancer in it’s tracks if you don't allow your pet to have heat cycles and breed... Even male dogs can get tumors that cause anal sac problems and all sorts of issues as they age if they are never neutered. Males also smell better if they are neutered, intact males have an odor about them that you can't wash away, hormones. They will also be less likely to “mark” your house with urine, declaring their territory if you have them neutered young and reinforce your pack leader position.
I spoke with a client today who told me about her daughter’s 15 year old Labrador female who recently became very sick and lethargic, and when she went to the vet, they discovered a pyometra, or infected uterus in her. If the uterus had ruptured the dog would become septic and die. Luckily they caught it in time, and she was spayed and the entire infected organ was removed. The dog is now happy and perky at age 15!
I've seen intact female dogs that end up with breast cancer later in life, huge tumors that could've been prevented had they spent just a little money and spayed the dog early in life. Even if they don't have regular heat cycles, that’s hormonal. The very best thing you can do for your dog is have a little operation that will keep your dog free of breast cancer, and no unwanted puppies. There is really no puppy shortage, go to any animal shelter and they'll show you. Maybe you can even get them to give you statistics of how many dogs they had to euthanize due to lack of homes.
See, it’s really not as bad as it seems a little snip, snip and learn to be a pack leader and you will end up with a wonderful companion for a long time! The good news is puberty in dogs lasts about a year tops; in kids, several years. If only it were so easy to get through the hormonal changes of humans! You can't spay or neuter them and you can't give them away to a pound. Child protective services would also frown on putting them in a kennel or crate too or leading them around with a collar and leash. Sigh, they sure don’t make a parent’s job easy do they? No wonder dogs behave better than “tweenagers”!