“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” —Woodrow Wilson (28th President of the United States)

A true statement, and one that reminds us to always treat our dogs with compassion and understanding, regardless of what they may do or how they behave. This caused me to think of my puppy, Wolfie, who is going through his teenager stage. It is not easy to remain calm and composed when dealing with the resulting behaviours, but how people deal with this difficult period makes a huge difference to how your puppy’s personality develops as he becomes an adult.

Wolfie is 5&¾ months old and his hormones kicked in about 4 weeks ago. Living with any teenage puppy is difficult, and there are a few more considerations when your puppy is a giant breed. Wolfie is an Irish Wolfhound, weighs about 45kg and is the size of an adult German Shepherd. He still has a lot of growing to do.

Puppies are often very boisterous when they play, biting and growling, racing around, pouncing, and trying to engage with anything and everything, in a very happy and excited manner, flopping to the floor when they are worn out. When your puppy becomes a teenager, his arousal and frustration levels go up, and his tolerance level goes down. This results in the same type of play, but with a different emotional state, due to hormones and changes in his brain chemistry. He is restless, unsatisfied, and doesn’t know what to do with himself. Play is not so pleasurable, he gets frustrated, and as he tries harder to resolve these emotions, he tips into mania. This is not a balanced state of mind, nor is it one that can be easily distracted or calmed.

When Wolfie has a hormone surge, I am the obvious target for venting that frustration as the only moving object to interact with. He’ll use toys or branches of the trees as a means of getting it out his system and calming down when on his own, but not when I am about. Normal behaviour for a puppy going through the teenage period, but strategies need to be put in place to help him calm down. The emotions he is experiencing mean that he tries harder to achieve some relief, but gets ever more frustrated when that doesn’t happen. Your puppy is not enjoying this, he is trying to reach resolution, and that may mean an increased drive to interact with you, resulting in reverting to puppy biting behaviour, but without the restraint that he had when he was younger. It looks like he is intentionally trying to bite you, and this is when the relationship can break down. There is also an increased chance of injury, more so when the puppy in question is a giant breed.

This period is one that we often find the most difficult to cope with. Our puppy who has been taught how to behave calmly, not eat the furniture, or bite us, has lost the plot, and is once again doing all those things. Worse, he’s bigger, stronger, and far more intent on this manic behaviour than ever before.

It is important to understand that your puppy is not in control of himself when he behaves like this, he is not intentionally trying to bite you or destroy the furniture, although it seems that way. It is also difficult to control your own emotional response to his behaviour. We get frustrated and upset, asking ourselves why would he do that if he loves us? Why would he try to bite those who care for him, look after him and love him? It undermines our trust in our puppy, and may cause us to behave in a way that is not optimum for either of us. But, using force to handle the situation can put you both in danger, and the outcome is never good.

What should we do? Remember the quote at the start of this piece. How will your puppy feel if you meet his perceived aggressively challenging behaviour with aggressive behaviour of your own? What will his eyes say, when he looks at you? It’s hard-wired into all of us to respond to the things we perceive as a threat. Retaliation by striking out at our puppy when he is coming at us with his teeth, intending to bite, is a reaction that can happen before we have had time to process what we are doing, and that your puppy is not a threat, rather he has no idea what he is doing.

Instead, we must suspend our emotional response and approach this with the compassion and understanding it deserves. Our puppy is at the mercy of hormones and emotions, and what he really needs from us is calm behaviour and kind strategies, based in positive methods, that enable him to get through this difficult stage as easily as is possible. Approaching things in this way ensures that the trust between you and your puppy remains intact, strengthens, and develops. It results in you both have a better relationship and understanding of each other, a true partnership, and bond that cannot be broken.

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11 thoughts on ““If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” —Woodrow Wilson (28th President of the United States)

  1. We’re going thru some anxiety issues ourselves with our 2 year old Border Mix. He would never yell at me, if I was anxious , [just smother me with 1,000 puppy kisses] so he definitely is teaching us in patience , empathy, & compassion. Best of luck to your puppy! 🙂 sounds like your already coming to terms with helping him during his trying time.

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      1. Thank you so much Kathy! Glad to hear Wolfie is coming along. Sal’s anxiety involves hearing noises outside and barking /whining excessively … Any experience with that? Thank you for offering! 🙂

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  2. I have a friend with a Wheaton Terrier who’s having quite a time as her puppy grows up. She was told wait about two years and this dog will be a calm wonderful pet, but right now she (the pup) is nuts and naughty, to boot. Knows what to do to get attention, but fortunately Chloe is compassionate yet firm with her. I admire her patience as I don’t think I’d have it with that dog! 🙂 (Of course I’d do it if she were mine, I couldn’t make a puppy feel bad about being at home!)

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    1. Hi Belinda, yes, they are all calmer and lovely once they’ve gone through this stage, and a bit of maturity really helps to balance them. Hope Chloe is working her way through this period ok, it sounds like she is, but it is time consuming and difficult!

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    1. Hi, thanks very much for looking at my blog. I’m pleased you like my post. Yes, your sons would behave similarly to Wolfie, as mammals brains function in the same way, the differences are down to the different species and how they evolve, and perceive the world.

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