Puberty in dogs: How to master the puberty phase

Do you know this? One minute your four-legged friend is a playful puppy, romping around with you in the garden and enjoying your closeness - and then everything changes overnight: playful scuffles with his fellow dogs turn into bitter arguments, small animals on the ground are now prey that your dog energetically chases, and he continuously questions your authority? Welcome to the world of the pubescent dog! We explain how your dog experiences his hormonal changes and how you can best support him during this time.

Adolescence: From young dog to adulthood

Adolescent dogs go through several stages of development. Puberty is a particularly important phase, because it points the way for your future together: Here, the dog owner's education plays a particularly important role.

Little by little, your puppy develops into an adult dog: After the first four phases of life, the neonatal phase, the transition phase, the imprinting phase and the socialisation phase, the other phases of life follow:

  • Ranking phase: The ranking is clarified between the 13th and 16th week of life and is thus the 5th phase of life. During this sensitive time, which can be compared to a child's phase of defiance, your four-legged friend tests limits and checks what he can allow himself. Therefore, always remain consistent and keep the upper hand.
  • Pack order phase: In the 6th developmental phase at 5 to 6 months, your dog is about to enter puberty. In this phase he has to learn what his role is in the family pack. Basically, he should be at the bottom of the hierarchy - behind your family. In this way, you will avoid problems in the future, because he will recognise your position as leader of the pack and the positions of the other members of the pack.
  • Puberty: This is the time of change! At just under six months of age, your four-legged friend's hormonal balance kicks into high gear and the puberty phase begins. He is already changing teeth and shedding his fluffy coat to exchange it for a shiny coat or rough hair. From now on there is a state of emergency: your dog becomes more dominant and self-determined. He laughs in the face of any potential danger and may rebelliously challenge the previous hierarchy. Don't lose your nerve during this time! Despite some challenges, you can support your furry four-legged friend during this exciting time, our parenting tips for dog puberty will help you.

Depending on the breed of dog, your four-legged friend is fully grown and sexually mature at 24 to 36 months. During this period, puberty subsides and your dog becomes an adult.

Puberty in dogs: The most important questions and answers

Your puppy is cuddly, eager to learn and affectionate. But what happens when he becomes a pubescent? From now on, your pelt-nose undergoes hormonal changes and increasingly perceives different stimuli, which it can often only process slowly. We answer the most important questions about this special time:

How can I recognise the start of puberty?

When your puppy develops into a young dog, his world suddenly turns differently and many things he liked before suddenly seem annoying. Signs of the onset of puberty are, for example:

  • Smells of other dogs such as marking sites become more interesting.
  • Your dog distances himself more and may run away more often.
  • Your four-legged friend increasingly develops typical breed behaviour, such as hunting instinct (especially hunting dogs) or territorial behaviour (especially guard dogs).
  • Playful bickering quickly degenerates into a serious scuffle.
  • Your furry friend no longer responds to learned commands and often puts her ears on alert.
  • Previously unproblematic situations may suddenly trigger fear or aggression.
  • Your dog has mood swings: One minute he's asleep in his basket, the next he's wide awake and hyper. If he greets the neighbour's dog happily today, he may be rebellious tomorrow. If he can't get enough of you in the morning, he'll take off in the afternoon to discover the world.
  • He expresses himself more verbally, using many different sounds such as whining, yelping, barking and even growling.

Why does my dog react aggressively?

During puberty, dogs often behave aggressively towards other dogs. If the hierarchy in your pack is not clear, he may also be rebellious towards you and your family and start to bully. For example, he suddenly claims the sofa for himself and defends his comfortable place. In the worst case, he marks his new favourite place and other places in the house and tries to take the place of the pack leader. The hunting instinct also develops. Therefore, your four-legged friend will probably chase everything that comes under his nose - no matter whether it's the cat from the neighbourhood, a little sparrow looking for food or even the parcel delivery boy on your property.

My dog is tired all the time and has hardly any appetite. Is this normal?

Your dog's brain develops rapidly and produces new hormones. Dopamine, for example, increases curiosity and your puberty animal is constantly exploring and sniffing out its environment. Stress hormones are also released now. These make your four-legged friend more susceptible to external stimuli. If his brain processes all the influences of the day, your animal will quickly become tired. The hormones also cause mood swings, which can exhaust your dog and therefore reduce his appetite.

Our tip: Despite puberty, listlessness and loss of appetite can also indicate illness. As a responsible owner, you should therefore keep a close eye on your pet during this demanding time. If your dog does not eat for several days and seems lethargic or even apathetic, it is best to go to the vet and have the symptoms clarified.

Why does my four-legged friend often bark and whine?

Dogs communicate a lot through body language, but they also show their displeasure, joy and excitement through different sounds. Especially during puberty, your four-legged friend perceives more stimuli and is not able to assess some situations right away. If the postman invades his territory, your dog will bark threateningly. If a pubescent male dog smells female dogs in heat, he may howl restlessly at the front door for several minutes. Basically, puberty stresses your four-legged friend, which he makes known by whining and growling, especially during rest phases.

Are there differences between females and males?

Dogs' consciousness and behaviour basically change independently of their sex. However, our four-legged friends live out their puberty phase differently and show differentiated characteristics of their sexual maturity:

  • Female dogs usually enter puberty earlier. They come into heat for the first time and react more sensitively to their environment. Often female dogs are not yet able to correctly identify the upcoming hormonal fluctuations, which is why the sex drive is not always pronounced during the first heat.
  • Male dogs no longer do their pee sitting down, but now lift their hind legs - even at the edges of furniture and corners of rooms. Playmates suddenly become very interesting in other ways. Male dogs want to breed and now regularly mount female dogs. They also dominate rivals in this way and, in the worst case, even provoke a scuffle with other dogs, older dogs or even other animals such as the neighbour's tomcat or deer.

Puberty behaviour in dogs: 4 parenting tips for the pubescent animal

Whatever happens during your four-legged friend's puberty, don't forget: it's only a few months! We give you 4 tips for raising your dog during the puberty phase:

  1. Keep your nerve: Even if it seems difficult, show love and patience despite destroyed cushions or your four-legged friend going off on his own in the neighbourhood. Your dog is not trying to annoy you with his behaviour. Sometimes he doesn't know where his head is at and has to deal with his hormone surges.
  2. Stay consistent: Your four-legged friend must always be able to orientate himself to you, especially in his hormonal chaos. Immediately counteract boorish behaviour and set clear boundaries! If your dog is cleaning up your wallpaper again without being asked, don't punish him. As a good pack leader, you ignore his behaviour without being impressed and instead praise correct behaviour profusely. In this way, you set the tone for your furry friend and support the development process.
  3. Show understanding: During puberty, your four-legged friend may have erased all learned commands from his hard drive. So a simple "Come!" suddenly seems strange to him. It is also possible that he simply does not feel addressed. Therefore, especially during these phases, spend a lot of time with your pet and make learning fun by motivating and encouraging him regularly.
  4. Provide protection: Adolescent dogs are usually unaware of dangers and often behave in a risky manner. Therefore, always stay alert and keep your four-legged friend out of trouble. It's better to let your dog walk on a leash, especially when he's fussy. This way you can avoid provocations and possible quarrels and thus reduce the risk of accidents. Be a safe haven for your dog and he will quickly understand that he can rely on you.

Conclusion: Adolescent dogs are a real challenge! Don't be impressed by their possibly mindless behaviour. If you keep your eye on the ball and give him enough love and understanding, he will master his phases of defiance with ease. How do you experience your dog's puberty and how do you cope with it? We are curious to hear your story.

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