Teen Terrors: pet owners ‘not prepared’ for adolescence

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Italian Greyhound
Image by Holger Langmaier on Pixabay

While most owners think early puppyhood is the hardest part of raising a dog, teenage pups can be just as much of a handful, and require a totally different type of training. Lorna Winter, co-founder and head of training at Zigzag, talks of the hidden challenges owners face when their dog goes through adolescence.

With 1,500 dog owners in the UK surveyed in August 2023, a third (33%) noticed increased energy levels in their adolescent pup; 15% struggled with toilet training; and almost one in 10 said their teenage pup ignored their parents – in typical teenage fashion.

However, despite this shift in behaviour as pups mature, a quarter of owners either don’t know or don’t think a dog needs more training during adolescence – and a shocking 16% would consider giving up their dog for displaying some normal teenage behaviour. Similarly, while the age at which a dog goes through puberty depends on the size and breed of the dog, over two in three (68%) of dog owners in the UK are unaware of this.

Adolescence is an important time in anyone’s life and dogs are no exception

When asked to identify problematic behaviours in a teenage dog ranging from eight – 24 months, almost half (48%) said chewing furniture, which was closely followed by peeing on the floor (43%) and excessive barking (33%) – all normal signs of adolescence which owners mistakenly viewed as problematic behaviours.

Adolescence is an important time in anyone’s life and dogs are no exception. Owners are not fully aware of how puberty impacts dogs breeds differently and it’s concerning that many believe classic teenage behaviours such as barking, increased energy levels or chewing furniture are problematic and, in some circumstances, a reason to give up a dog. It’s important that this knowledge gap is addressed, both to ensure the best life possible for every dog and to reduce abandonment.

When it comes to understanding how much training a dog needs, Zigzag’s research also shows that one in four owners think a dog should be fully trained at just one year, with over one in 10 believing a dog should be fully trained before it even reaches adolescence. Despite 85% of owners agreeing that pups go through a “terrible teens” phase, this research has revealed a drastic lack of understanding surrounding when this period occurs and how to deal with the (normal) behaviours that come with it.

This is a guest essay by Lorna Winter. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk

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