Puppies are so cute with their clumsy feet and constant desire to be near you wherever you roam. Sure, there’s the teething and occasional potty training accident, but that’s nothing compared to what looms around the corner: adolescence. If Puppy is nearing 6 months, he’s nearing those trying teenage years.
A newborn puppy wants nothing more than to be next to his mother, snuggling in her warmth. Once he is weaned, usually around 6 to 7 weeks of age, he and his littermates develop each other’s social skills, physical coordination and who’s going to win the heavyweight championship, or rather, the ranking process. From 12 weeks to six months, your puppy doesn’t necessarily have the confidence to challenge authority; he’s a bit fearful. This can work to your advantage when it comes to training and developing your role as “pack leader.”
Adolescent canines are much like adolescent humans -- they like to challenge things. Teenage dogs develop a newly found sense of independence. Suddenly that puppy who remained glued to your side is ignoring your call while running off to chase the nearest squirrel. The influx of extra energy and hormones he’s experiencing doesn’t exactly help the situation. Take that energy and channel it into increased training exercises. Integrate training into his entire daily routine. Have him sit while the door opens before a walk or try a trick like “spin” where he not only works, which dogs love to do, but can also release a little extra energy as he jumps and spins with glee.
Smaller breeds, such as Maltese and Boston terriers, transition from the puppy stage into adolescence as early as 4 months old. This is one of the reasons small breed puppies can seem hyperactive -- their bodies are developing at a rapid pace and that energy has to go somewhere. Put a few of his favorite treats (or even his entire meal) into a puzzle toy to keep his mind as active as his body. Twice-daily walks, stopping randomly to give a firm “sit” command, can help him exert some physical energy and reinforce your role as leader of the pack. By the time he’s a young adult, around a year old, he might even be obedient and trustworthy enough to leave alone in the house for 20-minute intervals.
Larger breeds like mastiffs and German shepherds mature slower than small breeds. Expect a large-breed puppy to become a teen around 6 to 10 months old. This may be why the big clumsy mastiff appears to be more needy than the independent Chihuahua; at 6 months old the two breeds are in different stages of developing their confidence and independence. Though it seems a large-breed puppy has longer chewing stages, it’s just an illusion. He’ll simply be older than his smaller sister was when she went through the same phase.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.