Research reveals that dogs stop listening when they go through puberty. In other words, they go through a moody teenage phase just like us!
Like humans, dogs go through a moody adolescent stage when they’re going through puberty, according to new research. The study determined that dogs in puberty, typically around 8 months of age, are more likely to ignore commands given by their caregivers, and are also harder to train. This behaviour is more pronounced in dogs with an insecure attachment to their pet parents.
“This is a very important time in a dog’s life,” says study leader Dr. Lucy Asher from Newcastle University’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences. “It’s when dogs are often re-homed because they are no longer cute little puppies, and suddenly, their owners find they are more challenging and can no longer control or train them. But as with human teenage children, owners need to be aware that their dogs are going through a phase and that it will pass.”
Dr. Asher and other researchers from Nottingham and Edinburgh Universities monitored a group of 69 Labradors, golden retrievers, and crossbreeds of the two for obedience at the ages of five months – before adolescence – and eight months — during adolescence. The team found that the dogs took longer to respond to the “sit” command during adolescence, as opposed to before adolescence. Additionally, the dogs were less likely to respond when the command was given by their caretakers as opposed to strangers.
Further supporting evidence was found when the team surveyed the pet parents and trainers of a larger group of 285 Labradors, golden retrievers, German shepherds and their crossbreeds. Interestingly, the dogs involved in the study were only “moody” toward their own pet parents, who gave them lower scores of “trainability” at this time than when they were five or 12 months old. With the trainers, they were much better behaved, even during adolescence.
The experts also found that, like humans, female dogs with insecure attachments to their caregivers (characterised by higher levels of attention-seeking and separation anxiety) were more likely to reach puberty early. This data provides the first cross-species evidence of the impact relationship quality has on reproductive timing, highlighting another parallel with parent-child relationships.
“Our results show that the behaviour changes seen in dogs closely parallel that of parent-child relationships…and that just as with human teenagers, it’s a passing phase,” says Dr. Naomi Harvey, co-author of the research. “The hormonal fluctuations and the remodelling of the brain to become an adult brain cause a lot issues.”
“It’s very important that owners don’t punish their dogs for disobedience, or start to pull away from them emotionally at this time,” adds Dr. Asher. “This would likely make any problem behaviour worse, as it does in human teens.”