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Tips for guiding your dog through the 'teen' years
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Most pet owners can tell you that the first few days with a puppy in the house can be a handful, but the job of being a good pet parent does not stop when your new pal sleeps through the night for the first time. After you finish guiding your pup through his earliest life stages, it is important to keep in mind that he will be going through his own version of the "teen" years and will rely on a guiding hand.
Jan. 15, 2013 3:10 p.m.



Most pet owners can tell you that the first few days with a puppy in the house can be a handful, but the job of being a good pet parent does not stop when your new pal sleeps through the night for the first time. After you finish guiding your pup through his earliest life stages, it is important to keep in mind that he will be going through his own version of the "teen" years and will rely on a guiding hand.



The accelerated development of dogs may make it seem as though they move straight from puppy to adult, but just like people, they also have an adolescent stage. Although they may look grown up, they are still experiencing changes that can have a major impact on their behavior and health.



"Many pet owners may not realize that dogs experience adolescence," says Jeff Werber, DVM, a nationally known veterinarian. "At this developmental stage, dogs are no longer puppies, but they are also not quite adults. Adolescent dogs have specific mental, social, physical and nutritional requirements that often go unmet, so it is important to make sure we are addressing all the aspects that are part of these 'teenage' years."



When your dog goes through the "teen" life stage - from about 6 months to 2 years - keep these tips in mind.



- Curb bad behaviors: Chewing shoes, soiling the carpet, surfing the counter for scraps of food - these are just some of the behaviors that come up as your still-young dog grows into his adult body. It is important to focus on training during this time to break bad habits - otherwise you could be dealing with them for life. Attending training classes not only helps your dog learn how to behave, it also helps owners discover solutions for unwanted behaviors. The added benefit of training is that it provides an opportunity to create a strong bond at one of the most impressionable periods of your dog's life.



- Establish good eating habits: Just as kids have different nutritional needs than infants and adults, adolescent dogs need food uniquely tailored to their in-between needs. As your dog's body grows and changes, certain nutrients are particularly important for brain and skeletal development and digestive health.



- Supervise socializing: Letting your dog interact with other animals is an essential part of responsible pet ownership. However, at the adolescent stage, it is important that you guide your dog's interactions carefully. As dogs' reproductive systems develop, both males and females can show signs of aggression. You may also find your male dog marking his territory and female dogs might try to flirt with males. When you start to see these behaviors frequently, it is probably time to discuss spaying or neutering with your vet. Not only can these procedures help correct some hormonally driven bad habits, they will also prevent unwanted litters of new puppies.



- Brandpoint



GateHouse News Service

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