so your puppy just turned 5 months old, and all of a sudden, that sweet, obedient little one, who you have worked so hard to train is acting like he hasn’t learned a thing and even seems like he is intentionally defying you! eeks!
but don’t worry, it’s normal! welcome to the tweens!believe it or not, your puppy is no longer an “official” puppy, he is what we call a tween. not quite a teen, not quite an adult. think of him as a 12-year-old child.
just like with human tweens, this means he is getting a little adventurous. he’s testing out the world a bit. he’s looking to explore new things, and stand on his own four paws. mommy is no longer the center of his universe (don’t worry, he’ll come back around, moms).
so how do we survive this time without ripping our hair out? here are 5 tips to help you through this difficult time.
limit your tween’s space/free run
it’s normal to start giving our tweens extra freedom because, well, they are bigger, and it seems like they are ready. but with that extra size comes new behaviors like counter surfing (“ooh, i just realized i can reach the counter and take that sandwich. cool.”) so, be careful not to move too fast. a little more space is okay. for instance, moving from pen to small room (laundry room, kitchen, etc.), but if you allow them too much, bad habits can form and you can set your tween up for failure. careful not to go from crate/pen to full run overnight. take it slow. one room at a time.
increase structured training sessions
during this trying time it’s important to keep your tween’s mind busy. so if you were doing two 15-minute sessions per day, increase that to four or five (or more). keep them thinking. the size of their world is growing, so keep them intellectually challenged so they can handle new experiences seamlessly.
be careful when socializing with adult dogs
when a dog turns 5 months of age, they lose what we call their “puppy license.” adult dogs who may have given them leeway in their earlier behavior because they were “babies,” may not any longer. they are now expected to have social manners and act more like adults. if you were in class last week, you saw that my cooper was letting the tweens know that they were out of line. cooper did this in a healthy manner (a low grumble), but many adult dogs are not as controlled and annoying behavior may end in a nip, or worse. so when your tween is interacting with adult dogs, unless the adult has invited them to play, make sure they do not jump on, grab at or bother the adult dog. teach them it’s now time to respect their four-legged elders.
have more fun
your tween has now had all their shots, so get them out in the world. start taking them to coffee shops, friends’ homes, cool new places. practice their manners at these locations, so they stay focused and learn good behavior is not just for home and class.
however, don’t move too fast. try 1-3 trips per week. keep the trips short and sweet and fairly calm. don’t make their first trip out to the strand on a saturday afternoon. start quietly and build them up.
they not only need the outside stimulation, but their socialization needs to be continued, so they grow to be healthy, well-adjusted adults.*
attend to this “fear impact period”
dogs have several “fear impact periods.” these are times in their development when new things can become scary.all of a sudden, one day, they see a flag that they’ve seen every day for the past two months, but this time it scares them and they start to back-up, lunge or bark (or do all three).it is crucial that you handle this appropriately now!!! it won’t go away. if not handled, it will get worse, and you will find yourself with that adult dog that lunges, growls and barks at everything.
how do we handle this?
the moment your dog sees the “scary thing,” get their attention by saying their name. when they look at you, give them a treat. this teaches them, that thing is good, you don’t have to worry about it.never force them to approach. let them decide for themselves when they are ready to get closer. forcing interaction with something scary can increase the fear.
for more help with this, feel free to call or email me privately.
just like the puppy stage, this stage too will pass. with a little bit of thought and diligence, you and your tween will get through this unscathed.
stay focused and don’t take anything for granted.
next is the teens! yay!