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Tackling teenage problems

At around six months old, most dogs reach an awkward adolescent stage (although with some dogs this can occur right up to their second year). Everything you taught your dog seems to be forgotten: he won’t come when you call or even think of obeying the commands “sit” or “down”. Here’s how to tackle it.

The psyche…

During this time, the young dog is attempting to assert his rank, just to see whether he can get to be the boss. At this stage you will probably need to do a lot of obedience training to put your young dog in his place. Praise is very important and even an older dog should be congratulated when they do something right.

A dog expects a hierarchy within the family similar to that he would experience in a pack. So don’t allow him to get away with too much. You should suppress even the first signs of aggression with suitable measures as soon as they manifest themselves. Although it might be very cute to watch your puppy aggressively defend his bone – this sort of behaviour may be difficult to cure once he’s several months old, and might even be dangerous if you have a big dog.

Eating habits…

No dog is naturally aggressive. A dog who acts aggressively against humans has not profited from important training measures during the first months of his life. For example, you should only feed your dog when you have already eaten and avoid giving him anything from your own plate. In the pack the highest ranking dog will only let others eat when he himself is satisfied. Thus, when your dog gets his food before you eat, he will think he’s the boss.

The training…

Try taking your puppy’s bowl away some times when he’s eating, or encourage him to give up chewing bones or playthings as well without complaining. If he growls or even wants to bite, you have to react rigorously. Put your dog into “place” or lay him on his side. Hold him down gently with your hand over his neck. Only when your puppy surrenders and relaxes (this can take several minutes in the beginning) should you let go. Speak comforting to him during this time. This dominant soothing, as it is called, can be used any time when he is misbehaving, for example, when he lifts his lips, or growls whilst being groomed. This method of discipline won’t hurt your dog if carried out correctly. Indeed it is similar to the behaviour a higher ranking dog in the pack would show to put a younger dog in his place. Let the puppy get up only when you think it is right–even if he begins to struggle.

Gripping the dog’s mouth with your hand is also a gesture of dominance among dogs and serves to strengthen your position. It must be clear to all members of the family, that the dog is the last one in the family hierarchy. In order to quell your puppy’s first ambitions to climb up in hierarchy he should be forbidden to sit on the sofa for example, or to sleep in the bed, unless you explicitly allow him to do so.

“Mating” the legs of family members is another behavioural trait which is often misunderstood. It is not a sign of mislead sexual behaviour, but a sign of dominance. Even female dogs show this behaviour with dogs of a lower rank. You should never tolerate this behaviour, particularly not with children. If it occurs more often, you should demonstrate your dominance to the dog by laying him on his side and holding him as described earlier. Start these measures early – it is best to begin just after he has got used to the new home.

Consistency the key

If you start a consistent training programme, your little puppy will grow up to be a charming and well behaved dog. You only show him his place in the hierarchy. It is in his nature to keep trying to achieve a higher rank. And it is your task to prevent this from the start.

No negative approach…

The notion that dogs must be put into their place by means of beating has long since been regarded as outdated. Dogs who are beaten tend to be anxious and might well bite through fear. They lose confidence in people. You will achieve more with consistency and praise – and of course love! You should also consider that it is not only the dog who is the pupil – we as owners also have much to learn.