Teaching Adolescent Dogs, Part 2: Refining Dog Obedience Training


Are you having difficulties training your adolescent canine?


Training an adolescent dog is a bit like teaching a teenager important life skills, like driving on a busy highway or parallel parking. Imagine: you’ve already made the best plans and you have a nice reward waiting for your student once he’s accomplished the basics.


However, the actual teaching session is not as ideal as you’d thought it would be. Your student is sometimes stubborn and even rebellious to what you’re teaching. The student’s learning pace is also inconsistent. Reality does not quite match the fast and productive scenario you had in mind.


Obedience training can come to a grinding halt if an owner doesn’t have the basic knowledge of adolescent canines.


If you are having training difficulties with your adolescent dog, know that your experiences are not unusual and that you’re not alone with your frustrations. It’s a fact: adolescent dogs are more difficult to train than adult dogs because they’re still developing mentally and emotionally.


However, this does not mean that they are untrainable. Adolescent dogs are very trainable: you just need to be aware of their tendencies so you can shape your training routine around their current mental and emotional states.


How can you get better results when training an adolescent dog?


Teaching and conditioning a dog to follow commands and to respect your authority as the pack leader requires time and patience. It will also help if you know some special details about canine behavior during adolescence:


  1. Challenging the Pack Leader – Like human adolescents, canine adolescents also go through a phase where they question authority. This occurs even in wild packs of dogs and wolves.


Instinctually, young dogs will challenge the social hierarchy and the established rules to find out how far they can go without being corrected or restricted by the alpha dog. Since dogs can’t communicate and receive rules and social boundaries directly, they learn through experience.

What does this mean for an owner-trainer?


If your dog is challenging some of your rules, that doesn’t make the animal a rebel or a bad dog. This actually signifies that your dog is presently maturing and your pet is developing normally.


Unless your dog is aggressive with you when you try to correct negative behavior, you shouldn’t be worried if your dog sometimes forgets what it has already been taught.


How can you enforce your rules more effectively?


Many expert dog trainers use a “yes/no” communication method with dogs.


This type of technique can be very helpful when you’re dealing with a young adolescent. Redirection definitely means “no” and you have to make it clear that you do not approve of a bad behavior.


“Yes” may be communicated through a verbal command and any form of reward that your dog recognizes and enjoys. It’s important that you are consistent with your reward/redirection system so your dog can remember all the concepts that you want it to learn.


  1. Maintain Leadership – Some dog owners feel that puppies and young adolescent dogs don’t need leadership because they’re still “just babies.”


This is actually a harmful misconception that can delay your dog’s progress. It is essential that you establish and enforce a social structure the earliest time possible and you maintain your role as the pack leader.


If you do not enforce your role as the pack leader throughout a dog’s life, you may encounter difficulty enforcing it when your dog reaches adulthood. An adult dog may have already made up its mind that you are not a pack leader and your rules shouldn’t be followed.


Is a big dog necessarily a “grown up” dog?


Some breeds of dogs are naturally large and heavy so it’s common to see pups the size of adult dogs.


Do not get carried away by the size of your dog.


Always keep in mind that the size and weight of a dog is not fully indicative of its mental age and learning capacity.


Your role as a pack leader must also be active regardless of your dog’s behavior. You must not actively suspend your role as the pack leader when your dog is showing good behavior.


Why? Because you would most likely forget to reward your pet for following your previous training protocols. Without a consistent reward system in place, your dog may forget what it is supposed to do in different situations.


The adolescent stage of a dog may seem like a long wait in terms of training but bear in mind that the vital learning phase that determines lifelong behavior patterns begins at adolescence and slowly closes as the dog continues to age.


So training your dog now is actually an investment in future good behavior. With sufficient and consistent training, you can be assured that your pet will behave well once it attains full maturity.


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