The scenario: You started working with (training)your puppy the day you brought him home at 8 weeks. Over the next couple of months you trained him to ‘sit’, ‘come’, ‘stay’, lie ‘down’, ‘stand’ up,’look’ at me and walk nicely on a leash. You and everyone else are impressed with you and your clever pup.
One day while romping off leash in a safe area, you call, “Rover, ‘come’.”
Rover glances at you and continues sniffing. Worse, Rover doesn’t glance at you and continues his exploration moving ever farther away from you.
Welcome to adolescence.
The timing of the onset of puppy adolescence is not carved in stone. It depends on several factors… breed, size, temperament, to name a couple. Generally though it sets in at about 4 months and continues, in many instances, until pup is two years old.
Shelter people will confirm that they intake many, many dogs between the ages of 6 months and two years.
“The #1 cause of premature death in dogs in North America is misbehaviour,” said Ian Dunbar. That statement is why I am The Puppy Nanny.
So where does it all go wrong?
First of all, we humans think that once we train something, that’s it; no need for constant reinforcement. The dog ‘gets’ it. It’s all good and what’s more, it’s ‘done’. Not so. Not so at all.
Training your dog must continue throughout his life. Are you shocked?
Think about a new skill that you learned and then didn’t use. Is that skill readily accessible to you many months or years later when you are faced with the same skill requirement again? Not likely. I am reminded of learning to light a Coleman lantern many years ago.I needed to know how during several seasons of cabin life.Faced with a Coleman lantern now, I would probably cause an explosion or set the place on fire. Why? I have not have occasion to use that skill in many years. Even months later I think I would have been challenged to remember.
The way humans remember things is by repetition; dogs are no different.
So, what to do when your adolescent pup blows you off for the first time?
Insist that he do as you have asked… be calm and persistent and praise him when he complies. But insist that he do as asked every time. If it’s ‘come’ that he’s blowing off, go close to him (within 3 feet), ask him to ‘come’, then ‘sit’, then back up a couple of steps, ask him to ‘come’ and ‘sit’ again and then praise reward and release him. Do it all over again in a short while but this time from a shorter distance. Keep the distances short for a few days and then check and see what happens if you call when pup is farther away. (If you have any concerns about his coming, use a long line.) If he comes, make a big fuss; if he doesn’t, go back to the 3 ft distance and repeat that process.
Apply the following formula to any commands(requests) that your adolescent pup is blowing off:
- shorten the distance,
- insist on compliance
- repeat several times,
- praise reward and release.
This is the simple formula to keep your pup trained and training through adolescence.
If you ignore his first offence (non-compliance), more will follow and quicker than you can imagine you will have a young dog who has lost his manners.
If that happens, you’ll have a couple of options:
- Call a professional trainer
- Pull your hair out in frustration , yell a lot and get angry with “that stupid dog”!
- Surrender your dog to the local shelter to become someone else’s problem
None of that is what you had in mind when that adorable ball of fluff arrived in your home, is it?
You can have your dream dog… yes, you can.
Start training early.
Reinforce constantly and consistently.
Accept only pup’s best during adolescence. Insist on it!
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