"Dogs who rebel we call 'problem dogs.' Perhaps they are merely independent thinkers, wondering why they should accept the status quo." That's a romantic notion from Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's book "Dogs Never Lie About Love," but you can take practical steps to curb Max's apparent rebellious behavior regardless.
Just like humans, dogs experience developmental stages, from puppyhood to adolescence to adulthood. Adolescence is when rebellion rears its head in dogs as in humans. During that phase between puppyhood and adulthood, dogs -- even trained ones -- may challenge their human families in many ways. The teenage dog may look like an adult, but his brain and habits are not yet fully formed. It's during this time when dog parents can take measures to guide their little rebels into adulthood. Rebellion can linger if not addressed.
How Dogs See Things
When dogs rebel, it's not to get back at their human parents. Rather it's a result of instinctual drives and developmental issues. These include defense drives, along with a dog's need to establish his place in his pack. Rebellion can even occur as a result of pain associated with rapid growth. Excessive chewing can be a result of teething and a growing dog's increased need to chew. Hormones also play a role; spaying and neutering curbs this.
When Rebellion Can Begin
Maturation rates vary among breeds, but adolescence can begin anywhere from seven to 12 months. Dogs reach sexual maturity around then, too, compounding the problem. Every dog is an individual, with his own personality and tendencies outside breed characteristics. But generally, symptoms of rebellion include selective amnesia regarding previously learned commands, refusal to listen, jumping, nipping and housebreaking malfunctions. Unfortunately, many dogs are brought to shelters for behavior issues between 8 months and 18 months of age -- right in the thick of adolescence.
What Can Be Done
Addressing rebellion during adolescence can help prevent it long-term. The first step to calm the savage beast is to spay or neuter. This cools raging hormones, resulting in calmer, less rebellious behavior. Good training is also key. Start with puppy classes but don't stop there. Continue training throughout adolescence to reinforce and build skills. Provide regular exercise, affection and a sense of security to help your dog realize life with you is pretty good and there's nothing to rebel about. If the behavior continues outside adolescence, seek professional help. At the least, ensure it's not a problem.
- Cesar's Way: The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Dog Owners
- NY Times: Dogs Never Lie About Love - Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs
- Dog Breed Info Center: Oh Those Adorable Puppies! Puppies vs. the Adult Dog
- Petfinder: Surviving a Canine's Adolescence
- VeterinaryPartner.com: Adolescence - The Teenage Dog
- Peninsula Humane Society: Surviving Your Puppy's Adolescence
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.