Featuring Sarah Alvarado, CPDT-KA & Bart Emken, CPDT-KA
Concept by Courtney Emken

Once dog owners have gotten through the initial puppy phase, then they end up with an adolescent or teenager dog. And that brings with it a whole new set of challenges. Here’s how to deal:

Your Adolescent Dog NEEDS Exercise

I would say the very first thing is exercise your dog. I think we both have jobs because people don’t exercise their dog. The dog isn’t getting the outlet that they need. Especially people that get like a working class dog or hunting dogs, herding dogs, working dogs, just any of the dogs… They’ve been bred for 20,000 years to be a specific kind of dog, so they’re not gonna buy an apartment, they’re not going to be cool sitting in the backyard or curled up on the couch all day. And that’s where a lot of displacement behaviors come from is because of lack of exercise.

Mental Enrichment for Your Dog is VITAL

Mental enrichment is also very important for your adolescent dog. This can be puzzle toys that you can buy on the market, there’s lots of them. You can also make them at home. One of my favorite things to do when my dogs, my dogs love is to take a shoebox, an empty shoebox, and take packing paper or newspaper and crinkle my dogs’ dinner all up inside the newspaper. Stuff that in the box and then let them tear it to pieces. Yes, it does mean that you have a little bit of extra clean up to do, unless you teach your dog to do a retrieve, and training is also an excellent mental enrichment activity.

Another thing I like to do is scatter my dog’s food or make a trail through the house, and then videotape the dog following the trail. Just anything that’s not putting a bowl down on the ground. 50 years ago, dogs, they used their mind and their body to get food, and now it’s 5:30, bowl goes down. So that’s a primary drive that we are just giving away to the dog. They don’t have to think about food, they don’t have to work for food. So just the simple fact that if you can make your dog think and work for his food, stimulate him that way, enrich his day that way, it’s probably one of the most effective things, I think.

Consider Dog Training—It Helps and Your Dog!

So lastly, training continues to be a very important part of your adolescent dog’s life. You may have had a puppy that stuck right by you, all until it hit about four or five months of age, and suddenly he’s exploring the world a little bit more, the way an adolescent dog will. And maybe he’s running away from you and that’s a behavior you never saw in your sweet little puppy before, so even if you took a puppy class with your new puppy, continuing and doing an intermediate or maybe a canine good citizenship class with your adolescent dog is a really nice way to continue learning with your dog, to continue bonding with your dog, and to provide your dog with all that nice mental enrichment that we were talking about.

With the training and the enrichment for your dog, it’s also incredibly enriching for you. It is literally the difference between having a pet and having a companion. So you’re both learning together and growing together, literally growing together, so I think that’s probably one of the best things you can do for your dog.