Teenage dogs

In 2020 after literally trying to get the research published for years, we (Naomi Harvey, Becca Sommerville, Gary England & I) were able to publish our findings on Teenage dogs. We found dogs were more likely to ignore commands given by their caregiver and were harder to train at the age of eight months, when they are going through puberty. This behaviour was more pronounced in dogs which had an insecure attachment to their owner.

Puberty can be a vulnerable time in a dog’s life. This is when dogs are often rehomed because they are no longer a cute puppy and suddenly, their owners find they are more challenging and harder to control or train. But as with human teenage children, our data suggest this is just a passing phase.

The paper felt like it was published at a very important time for dogs. There has been a sharp rise in the number of people getting puppies during COVID. Unfortunately, this means many dogs will not be getting a complete socialisation experience and then, just as people are starting to return to work and leaving their puppy at home more, puberty hits. Many rescue charities have raised concerns about the potential for a rehoming crisis of COVID pups.

Feeling some personal connection or responsibility around this issue, I convinced my family we could rehome a teenage COVID pup. My children (4 & 8) didn’t take much convincing. I also thought it might be time for me to retire my older dog Martha, now 13, from her demonstrating and piloting duties for our dog science. Anyway, long story short here is Maple, a 7 month old working cocker spaniel. She definitely has the hallmarks of a teenage dog, but is also affectionate, clumsy, playful and generally wonderful. I’m working very hard to make sure she feels a very secure attachment and staying patient while she goes through that adolescent phase.

Teenage dogs? Evidence for adolescent-phase conflict behaviour and an association between attachment to humans and pubertal timing in the domestic dog is published in Biology Letters. 

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