Understanding the Teenage Puppy Brain: What to Expect and How to Handle it
Bringing home a new puppy is one of life’s most joyful experiences. They’re cute, cuddly, and oh-so-innocent. However, as puppies grow, they go through a stage that’s similar to human adolescence, and it’s not always easy to deal with. It’s important to understand what’s happening in their brains and how to handle their behaviors during this time. Let’s dive into the teenage puppy brain and discuss the changes that happen during this stage of their life.
When do Puppies Become Teenagers?
Puppies enter their teenage phase at about 6 months old, depending on their breed and size. During this time, they go through significant brain changes that cause them to act out and test boundaries. The adolescence phase continues until anywhere from 18-24, when a puppy reaches maturity.
What Brain Changes Do Teenage Puppies Go Through?
As puppies grow into teenagers, their brains go through a lot of changes. One of the most significant changes is that their prefrontal cortex starts to develop. This area of the brain is responsible for decision-making, impulse control, and emotional regulation. As it develops, it allows puppies to make better decisions and control their impulses, but it’s not fully matured until they’re about two years old.
How Does a Puppy’s Brain Change When They Become a Teenager?
The teenage puppy brain goes through a lot of changes that affect their behavior. They become more independent and it can feel like they are challenging you (tip: but they aren’t). They may also be more easily distracted and have trouble focusing.
One significant change is that their ability to make good decisions is limited. The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, so they struggle to control their impulses and make rational decisions. This can lead to destructive behavior, such as chewing on furniture, digging holes in the yard, or getting into the trash. This is the time when people think their puppy is blowing them or challenging them. Our puppies aren’t doing either of these things. Their developing brain is having a hard time making good decisions. This isn’t different from what we know about human teens, who also go through the “bad decision” phase during their teen developmental period.
Are Teenage Puppies Being Spiteful or Blowing off Their Owners?
No, teenage puppies are not being spiteful or blowing off their owners. They’re simply going through a natural phase of development. They’re learning and growing, just like human teenagers. It’s essential to be patient and understanding during this time and provide them with the guidance they need to navigate this challenging stage… no matter how hard it seems on some days.
Is This a Normal Phase that All Puppies Go Through?
Yes, this is a normal phase that all puppies go through. There is nothing wrong with your puppy.
The Adolescence Stage of a Dog: Problems that Come with It
The adolescence stage of a dog can be challenging for owners. Some of the problems that come with it include:
- Chewing: Teenage puppies may have a strong urge to chew on everything they can get their teeth on. It’s essential to provide them with plenty of chew toys and keep valuable items out of reach.
- Increase in independence: The puppy that once used to hang around near you when you were outdoors now takes off. I equate this to the little kids who no longer feel like they need to hold their parents hand in the parking lot. “I can do it on my own”!
- Not Listening: All the hard work you put in to teach your puppy good manners seems to have been forgotten. Don’t worry, it’s not forgotten. All the things your puppy learned is still inside of them. You’ll need to do a refresher on your training to help unlock all the skills that are trapped in their teenage brain.
- Difficulty Learning: Teenage puppies not only have trouble executing the skills they already know, they may have difficulty learning new skills.
- Suddenly Fearful: When teen puppies reach about one year it’s not uncommon to see fear creep in. Things that your puppy was find with are now scary.
- Jumping and Mouthing: Teenage puppies may also start jumping on people and mouthing, again.
- Selective About Dogs: It’s not uncommon for your once ‘happy go lucky’ puppy to suddenly become more selective about other dogs.
A Word on Socialization
While socialization is critical during your puppy’s sensitive period, it doesn’t stop there. Socialization is for life. Socialization is crucial during the teenage stage, and it’s essential to expose your puppy to a variety of people, animals, sounds, and environments.
A Final Thought…
During this phase dog guardians feel as if their puppy is being defiant or can’t learn. Unfortunately, this is the time when puppies find themselves relinquished to a shelter or given back to a rescue. It’s important to know there is nothing wrong with your puppy. With the knowledge of how your puppy’s brain develops, a little understanding of the internal struggles your puppy is having, and some time, patience, and a little more training, you can help your teen through this challenging time. Things are much smoother sailing once you get through this phase of puppyhood.
Teenage puppies may be challenging to handle, but it’s essential to remember that they are going through a normal developmental phase. Understanding the changes that are happening in their brain can help us be more patient and compassionate with our furry friends. During this phase, it’s important to continue training and socializing our puppies to help them develop the skills they need to be well-behaved adult dogs. With patience, consistency, and love, we can help our teenage puppies navigate this challenging phase and become the wonderful adult dogs we know they can be.
Need help with your tenacious teenage puppy? Yes, please help! My teenage puppy has me frazzled!