Recent studies has found that normal teenage activity not only happens in young people — it often exists in dogs.
The research is the first to find signs of juvenile activity in pets.
The study discovered dogs were more prone to disregard their caregiver ‘s orders and were more challenging to teach while they were going through puberty at the age of eight months. This behaviour in dogs who had an unstable relationship to their owner became more prominent.
Yet Dr. Asher, a senior professor of Natural and Environmental Sciences in Precision Animal Science, notes that puberty may be a difficult period for dogs as many are sent to shelters for rehoming at this point.
“This is a very important time in a dog’s life,” she explains. “This is when dogs are often rehomed because they are no longer a cute little puppy and suddenly, their owners find they are more challenging and they can no longer control them or train them. But as with human teenage children, owners need to be aware that their dog is going through a phase and it will pass.”
The team looked at a group of 69 dogs to investigate adolescent behavior. Around the age of five months — before puberty — and eight months — after puberty, they recorded discipline in the Labradors, Golden Retrievers and crossbreeds of the two.
Dogs took longer during puberty to react to the ‘sit’ order but only when their caregiver issued the instruction, not a stranger. At eight months, the chances of consistently not reacting to the caregiver’s sit order were greater compared with five months. Nevertheless, the reaction to the ‘sit’ order increased during the five- and eight-month experiments for an alien.
Additional proof was discovered as the researchers looked at a wider population of 285 Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds and their crossbreeds. Owners and a less experienced teacher for each dog filled in a ‘trainability’ questionnaire, requesting them to assess claims such as: ‘Refuses to follow commands that have been shown to have been mastered in the past’ and ‘Responds to the recall command while off lead.’
Caregivers offered dogs during puberty lower ratings of ‘trainability’ relative to aging five months or 12 months. Once again, trainers registered an improvement in trainability between five and eight months of age.
The researchers have observed that female dogs with unhealthy ties to their owners (characterized by elevated rates of treatment and fear when removed from them) were more likely to enter puberty early. This research offers the first proof of cross-species effect on reproductive timing of relationship efficiency, providing another connection to relationships between parent and infant.
Dr. Naomi Harvey, co-author of work says that whilst the findings of this report do not shock many dog owners, they have important repercussions.
“Many dog owners and professionals have long known or suspected that dog behavior can become more difficult when they go through puberty” says Dr Harvey. “But until now there has been no empirical record of this. Our results show that the behavior changes seen in dogs closely parallel that of parent-child relationships, as dog-owner conflict is specific to the dog’s primary caregiver and just as with human teenagers, this is a passing phase.”
“It’s very important that owners don’t punish their dogs for disobedience or start to pull away from them emotionally at this time” added Dr. Asher. “This would be likely to make any problem behavior worse, as it does in human teens.”