COMING THROUGH THE TERRIBLE TEENS.
Meet beautiful Hank. He's been with us as a lockdown puppy who was clever and responsive until he hit the terrible teens.
Adolescence can be a real struggle for a lot of families. Puppies can go from little angels to sharks overnight and Hank's family found that their days were filled with hard mouthing and grabbing hold of his lead. They knew that none of his behaviour was "aggressive" but it was often painful because he had very little bite inhibition and couldn't control his frustration or excitement levels
It's hard to be consistent when your pup starts to go "all teenagey".
CONSISTENCY IS CRUCIAL
It's tempting to try lots of different strategies to try and fix the behaviour, and one of the solutions that many owners try to do is tire their teens out because they think they'll be more manageable.
This isn't a solution! In fact, it invariably makes things worse because a tired teen is likely to be more cranky and difficult to manage.
Hank's owners have been amazing. They've persisted with all the strategies we gave them and kept everything stable, calm and focused on the 3 Cs as they tried to turn Hank from a Reacting Teen Dog into a Thinking Teen Dog.
DOG TEENS AND HUMAN TEENS
Research on a cohort of teen Guide Dogs in the USA found that they share the same behaviours that human teens go through:
Increased risk taking Lack of self-control Increased irritability.
Hank's owners have faced a lot of these things over the last few months - with teeth attached! They've experienced a lot of frustration and irritation - which is something that doesn't often get talked about.
It can feel embarrassing, or it might provoke guilt when you feel angry with a teenage dog. But that anger is understandable. Being mouthed by a teenage dog is painful. When we hurt, it often makes us want to shout and it takes a massive amount of self-control to not give vent to how we feel.
We've worked with owners who have gone through the whole range of emotions, including wondering if they should never have got a puppy in the first place. If you've been there - you're not alone. Teenage dogs are hard work. Especially for anyone living in the UK since March 2020. Raising a teenage dog has been really hard for owners who have come through 2 lockdowns and not been able to do all the socialisation and habituation they would have ideally wanted to do.
We work with a lot of teenage dogs - they probably make up most of our case load. They get referred from vets, local groomers, other colleagues or they come to us with desperate owners who are at their wits' end. The dog they want to go for rambly ambly walks and share cuddles before the fire with is more like a land-shark than a cuddle-muffin.
TEENAGE MOUTHING IS NOT AGGRESSION
They often get labelled as "aggressive" and their owners have usually been given a lot of confusing and conflicting advice on social media or by friends, family and canine professionals.
Mouthing is normal for puppies and adolescent dogs. That doesn't mean it's ok - it very much isn't, but recognising it for what it is makes it easier to deal with. It's simply an inability to deal with excitement or frustration. Adolescent dogs almost use it as a stress buster - they mouth as a release of frustration or excitement because they don't know what else to do.
STRIPPING EVERYTHING BACK
We have a lot of success with Terrible Teens and we take the same approach with them all: less is more.
Reduce the stimulation, provide calm base lines and be both persistent and consistent.
It's what Hank's mum and dad have done and their recent update said it all: we didn't think we'd be at this stage for Xmas at all!
This stage means a cuddly dog who can now be in the sitting room, lounge about on the sofa and calmly watch things from the window.
He's gone from land-shark to cuddly boy in the last few months because of the hard work his family have done with him. It's been quite a journey and his mum and dad's patience and skills have paid off.
They've been amazing with him. Their love for and devotion to their boy has been clear from the start and they've worked really hard to help him settle down and learn to control himself.
And now they're all getting the cuddly Christmas they deserve.