Getting through your dog’s teenage years

Kids aren’t the only ones who go through adolescence. Dogs go through it, too. Sadly, adolescence is the period when most dogs are surrendered to shelters. In fact, the median age of dogs given up for adoption is 2. At age 2, dogs are no longer puppies, but they still have a great deal of energy. Exercise, training and socialization are some of the keys to keeping dogs happy, healthy and well-behaved. Read on for some suggestions for how to navigate the teenage years with your dog.

Exercise is essential for a dog’s well being. Give your dog an outlet for all of that energy – and for chewing. If you work all day, consider doggie daycare. Take your dog to a dog park to run around or make sure she gets a good walk each day. Provide her with toys to keep her occupied. No plush toys, though. Make sure they are toys that are tough, like Nyla bones. Use interactive toys like a Kong or the Buster cube. Hide a treat inside the Kong or let her use the Buster cube to eat her meal while getting exercise. She will busy herself trying to get the treat (or the meal) and she will enjoy the reward.

Another suggestion is to crate train your dog during the day while you are at work. This will keep him safe and prevent him from entertaining himself by being destructive as he waits for your return.

Keep up with your dog’s training and make it fun for him. Play fetch, throw a Frisbee or enjoy games like hide and seek. Spend time focusing on recall, which is important if you let your dog off leash at a park or on a hike. You can do this by playing follow the leader. Run away from him and tell him to “come.” Reward him with a treat when he comes, then run off and do it all over again. These types of games are also mentally stimulating for your dog.

Continue to socialize your dog as much as you can throughout her life, not just during puppyhood. This is critical because dogs that are not socialized enough are more likely to become stressed in unfamiliar situations, which makes them more inclined to bite. Expose her to all sorts of people, environments, and other dogs, but don’t force her to interact with people, animals or objects that she is afraid of. Dogs need to learn how to relate to other dogs and to people and the way to do this is to be introduced to a variety of different situations.

A tired dog is a happy dog, as the saying goes. And if your dog is well exercised, trained and socialized, the better behaved she will be. Taking the time to support your dog this way means that you will have an easier (and more enjoyable) time going through the teenage years with your canine companion.