Teenage Wasteland

Part of being a good trainer is knowing when a “tried and true” method is not working and needs to be changed or modified.  This is especially true when working with puppies who have been taken from their litter-mates too early and don’t have a working understanding of correct social behavior with other dogs and with other animals in general.

Lacey is approaching what I call the “teenage wasteland” time in her life.  At this stage of a dog’s life, rebellion and constant challenge is the order of the day more often than not.  All puppies go through this stage before they finally find their stride; everyone I know who has raised dogs from puppy-hood has gone through this, and I’ve gone through it with all of my dogs, too.  It’s a very difficult time for dogs and their humans.

Because she has not had the benefit of learning from her litter-mates, Lacey is having a harder time learning proper, polite etiquette.  She has no understanding of what giving space is or means, and she gets frustrated when she exhibits unacceptable behavior towards Glimmer and Glimmer corrects her, expressing that by getting right in Glimmer’s face and barking at her loudly. It’s the canine equivalent of a teenager yelling at their parent, “You don’t know me!”

Lacey is dominant by nature.  Although she will accept it, she does not like being put in a follower position on walks, and she is very vocal when she disagrees with a correction from either Glimmer or Violet, the cat. She can also be quite vocal when she disagrees with me – which happens every time she doesn’t get her own way.  For my part, I address the bad behavior calmly but assertively and work to redirect her attention.  But where Glimmer and Violet are concerned – and this is where knowing when to change a method makes a difference – it’s in their paws, now, to teach Lacey good manners.  I monitor and supervise them, of course, just to make sure no harm comes to any of them.  But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Sometimes, the only way a dog can learn is with the help of other dogs – and, in this case, a cat.

Getting through the “teenage wasteland” phase of any dog’s life is, in my experience, far more challenging than house-breaking and potty training.  It’s the time when a dog’s hormones are going crazy and where it sometimes feels like you’ll never have a peaceful moment ever again.  But if you remain calm, and if you allow your other animals to help you (without causing harm), I promise you the reward at the end of it all will be more than worth the frustration you’re going through now.

Lacey has a lot of challenges to overcome because she was separated too early from her mother and litter-mates.  But with time, patience, calm, assertive energy, and a lot of help from Glimmer and Violet, not only will she get through it, but she will come out of it shining like a diamond and showing everyone just what an amazing girl she really is.



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