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Tips for puberty in dogs

Puberty in dogs, just like in human teenagers, is due to hormonal changes. So at some point your young dog will enter puberty, something you might not have considered when you bought your cute puppy. Now you might be wondering what the dog puberty signs are and what dog puberty behaviour you might expect.

Here we tell you everything you need to know about puberty in dogs and how best to support them during this challenging phase.

When does puberty in dogs start?

The age at which your dog will enter puberty depends largely on their breed. In general, dog puberty signs appear at a younger age in small dogs than in larger breeds. On average, you can expect your dog to enter puberty between 6 and 12 months of age.

Fortunately, you don’t need to know exactly when it will start because dog puberty signs are quite obvious physically and in the way they behave.

Dog puberty behaviour

In the early stages of your dog's puberty, you will notice that it becomes difficult to get your dog to listen. You were so happy that your puppy had learnt to respond to your commands so well, but now it seems as though they don’t even hear you at all. You wonder what happened to the sweet puppy that was always so obedient and followed you around everywhere.

Furthermore, you can expect your dog to suddenly pull on their leash again, lunge at other dogs, jump up on you, and run off more often. They will become stubborn and much slower in obeying your commands. At this stage of puberty in dogs they are testing their boundaries and learning to make their own independent choices - just like teenage children.

But rest assured, this phase does not last long. Some dogs, especially the smaller breeds, only display these initial dog puberty signs for a few days, and in most dogs this stage lasts for a few weeks.

Physical changes during puberty in dogs

After the first stage, the changes in your dog’s body are the most noticeable dog puberty signs. Just like in human teenagers, once again, everything grows and your dog might even have a growth spurt. They might feel a bit uncomfortable with these changes and this could show in their behaviour. For example, your dog might suddenly become anxious in new situations or even be fearful in familiar surroundings.

You need to pay extra attention to your female dog during puberty as they will come on heat for the first time. You will not always notice the bleeding because some dogs lick themselves clean very quickly. Swollen genitals, however, is a clear sign that your female dog is on heat.

If your dog is on heat it is best to keep her on a lead all the time to prevent unintended mating. She might also be aggressive towards other dogs. In our article ''My dog is on heat, now what?'', you will find more information and tips for dealing with a female dog on heat.

At about 1½ years of age, most dogs are fully mature physically. Once again, this timeframe might be slightly shorter in small dog breeds and longer in big dogs. Some dogs are not fully mature physically until their third year of life. From this point on, your adult dog will want to establish their position within your household and this could sometimes lead to aggressive behaviour.

Puberty in dogs lasts between 1 ½ and 3 years. During this time there are alternating phases during which you will notice changes in your dog’s behaviour. Because this is due to hormonal changes, always keep in mind that dogs do not have any control over what is happening to their bodies.

Tips for coping with dog puberty behaviour

The way you treat your dog during puberty influences their future temperament. Most importantly, you should try to avoid conflict with your dog. If, during the first phase, your dog tends to run off often and not return when called, it is better to keep them on a leash. This way you will avoid having to chase after your dog all the time and getting irritated as a result.

If fear is one of the dog puberty signs your dog displays, you should avoid spoiling them, but should also not force them to do anything they don’t want to. If you comfort your dog too much you will be teaching them that the fear is well-founded and they will take longer to get over this stage. Rather distract your dog and focus on something that is fun.

Puberty in dogs is a challenging and sometimes downright annoying phase. Always be patient with and support your dog in getting through this stage. We wish you the best of luck and don't forget - this too will pass eventually!

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