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When your puppy is 10 months to 1 year old, she is considered a teenager. She is beginning to think of herself as independent. The world is hers to explore. She can go on longer walks and even enjoy off-leash time. But she will need help from you to learn how to enjoy this newfound freedom.
Depending on her breed, your dog may be nearly full-grown and exercising more and more. If you have a breed of dog prone to some common developmental and genetic problems, know that your dog may start to show symptoms at this time — sometimes even earlier. For example, Labrador Retrievers and some other large working breeds are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. These conditions can be diagnosed in young dogs, so talk to your veterinarian about what signs to look for. Knowing what to expect early and being able to manage the pain and discomfort associated with these diseases is critical to providing your dog with a long, happy life. Brachycephalic breeds such as Bulldogs and Boxers are likely to have exercise-related breathing problems. If you own one of these breeds, be sure to consult your veterinarian about managing your dog in conditions that may be difficult for her, such as hot weather. Other injuries become more likely during this active period, so you must be diligent and think ahead to keep your dog safe.
Mentally, your teenager is trying to find her place in the family. She is eager to learn new things, so teach her new tricks. Mental stimulation through exercise and training will help channel your dog’s energy into positive pursuits that will leave her tired and ready for sleep at the end of the day. Hopefully.
With all of the changes happening to your dog, it is no wonder that this is the time many behavior problems emerge. Help her through this stage, and you will be rewarded with a happy and well-adjusted pet. To do so, you need to understand that she is ultimately a pack animal. Consider the world from your dog’s point of view: The boundaries are expanding, and she is going farther from home. If she’s pushing physical boundaries, she figures she can also test behavioral boundaries.
Her daily walk is the perfect place to rebel. To curb this behavior, teach her to “stay” and “come.” Some trainers will suggest the command “wait” which is generally less restrictive than “stay.” Whatever command words you choose to use, you should teach and practice them in a comfortable, safe environment.
When she has mastered them in this setting, you are ready to slowly introduce distractions such as other dogs, new surroundings, wildlife, etc. Remember, take a deep breath, be gentle and consistent, rewarding her good behavior. If you find that she is not responding in a particular situation, return to a less disruptive environment and repeat your training. Being consistent and in control, whether at home or in the park, is the key to surviving life with your teenage dog.
Your bouncy young dog has likely completed her series of puppy vaccinations and has already been started on heartworm prevention. She should also be consistently treated with a quality flea and tick product recommended by your veterinarian. The dosing of these products is dependent on her weight, so as she grows, be sure that you are treating her with the appropriate amounts.
Most dogs are weaned onto adult dog food during this time. Be sure to select a high-quality dog food designed for her age and size. Some pet owners make the mistake of giving human food, giving diets inappropriate for their dog's activity level, or "supplementing" a diet that is already balanced and therefore "unbalancing" a good diet. Vitamins and minerals are important, but any high-quality dog food should already have a balanced supply of them. Overfeeding many vitamins or minerals, or even adding too much protein, fat, or other nutrients can prove very dangerous. Never give your dog supplements unless directed by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian is also a good source for advice on feeding your dog. He or she can suggest specific foods to meet your dog’s needs based on size, weight, activity level, and health status.
Of course, fresh water must be available to your dog at all times. Water should never be restricted, and remember to bring water if you are going to be exercising her at a park or other area away from home.
Dogs want to be taken seriously and to be members of the family. Praise and positive reinforcement encourage loyalty, obedience, and willingness to cooperate. Each training session should end with praise — especially for a young dog. A dog that is left alone for extended periods may howl, whine, or bark continuously. Some may chew or damage the furniture. As a natural pack animal, she perceives being left alone as punishment. Being left alone can cause anxiety and diminishing trust in you. Howling is intended to restore community by voice contact — she wants to know if anyone is out there.
Most of us have to work away from our homes or otherwise leave our beloved pets for periods during the day. The best way to cure her anxious behavior is through gradual training. At first, leave your dog alone in a room for a brief period, while you stay in a different room. Gradually, increase the separation time. Distractions, such as chew toys or background music, may calm her. She might go to sleep while you are gone, which will teach her it is OK to be by herself. Leave the house without a fuss so that your dog doesn’t perceive this as a big deal, and greet her warmly when you return. It may take your puppy two to three months to be comfortable alone. Allow more time and expect more setbacks for older dogs.
Much of this can be avoided by crate training your puppy as early as possible. Dogs who are crate trained see the crate as a safe den, where they can quietly relax. A crate should never be used as a punishment. You should put the crate in a quiet place where she can see the family. Make sure that there is a dog-safe bed and perhaps a favorite toy for her to go to inside. You will soon see that she will go quietly into the crate to rest. You may close her in for short periods at first, and gradually extend the duration. Eventually, you will be able to know that your dog is quiet and content in her crate while you are out of the room. Remember, you should never leave your dog crated for more than a few hours, but once she is successfully crate trained, the stress of separation should be greatly reduced or gone completely. If you have to be out of the house for extended periods of time, you should consider a doggie daycare situation or babysitter for your young dog.
This is an exciting and challenging time for you and your dog. While she may be frustrating at times, remember, your dog looks to you to show her guidance and caring while she matures from a rough-and-tumble puppy to a respectful adult.
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