Managing the Terrible Twos

The adolescent stage of your dog's life, depending on the breed, takes place anywhere from 4 months to 2 years and culminates in sexual maturity. Generally, the smaller the dog, the sooner he matures. Larger dogs enter (and end) adolescence later in life.

Adolescence is a time when the cute little puppy can turn into a teenage monster. He starts to lose his baby teeth and his soft, fuzzy puppy coat. He goes through growth spurts and looks gangly, either up in the rear or down in front; he's entering an ugly-duckling stage.

Depending on the size of the dog, 40 to 70 percent of adult growth is achieved by 7 months of age. If you have one of the larger breeds, you'd better start training now, before the dog gets so big that you can't manage him. As Buddy begins to mature, he starts to display some puzzling behaviors, as well as some perfectly normal but objectionable ones.

Surviving the juvenile flakies

We use the term juvenile flakies because it most accurately describes what's technically known as a second fear imprint period (see "Suddenly he's afraid: Weeks 8-12" earlier in this chapter about the first fear imprint period). Juvenile flakies are apprehension or fear behaviors that are usually short lived. They're caused by temporary calcium deficiencies and hormone development related to a puppy's periodic growth spurts.

The timing of this event (or events) isn't as clearly defined as the first fear imprint period, and it coincides with growth spurts; hence it may occur more than once as the dog matures. Even though he may have been outgoing and confident before, your puppy now may be reluctant to approach someone or something new and unfamiliar, or he may suddenly be afraid of something familiar.

Fear of the new or unfamiliar has its roots in evolution. In a wild pack, after the pups become 8 to 10 months of age, they're allowed to come on a hunt. The first lesson they have to learn is to stay with the pack; if they wander off, they might get lost or into trouble. They also have to develop survival techniques, one of which is fear. The message to the puppy is "if you see or smell something unfamiliar, run the other way." Apprehension or fear of the familiar is also caused by growth spurts. At this point in a puppy's life, hormones start to surge. Hormones can affect the calcium uptake in the body, and, coupled with growth, this can be a difficult time for the growing puppy.

Being patient with the flakies

One day, when our Dachshund, Manfred, was 6 months old, he came into the kitchen after having been outside in the yard. Then he noticed on the floor, near his water bowl, a brown paper grocery bag. He flattened, looked as though he'd seen a ghost, and tried to run back out into the yard.

If Manfred was going through a growth spurt at this time, which is normal at 6 months, he could've been experiencing a temporary calcium deficiency, which in turn would produce his fear reaction.

He'd seen brown paper grocery bags many times before, but this one was going to get him.

We reminded ourselves that he was going through the flakies and ignored the behavior. A few hours later, the behavior disappeared.

If you happen to observe a similar situation with your puppy, don't try to drag him up to the object in an effort to "teach" the puppy to accept it. If you make a big deal out of it, you create the impression that he has a good reason to be afraid of whatever triggered the reaction. Leave the puppy alone, ignore the behavior, and it will pass.

How To Housetrain Any Dog

How To Housetrain Any Dog

Fundamentals of Dog and Puppy Training. Although dogs shouldn't be attributed with having human characteristics, they are intelligent enough to be able to understand the concept of, and execute, certain actions that their owners require of them - if these actions are asked in a way that dogs find rewarding.

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Responses

  • birgit
    How to deal with second fear stage in dogs?
    6 years ago
  • florian furst
    How to train puppy from terrible twos?
    3 years ago

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