Once a puppy reaches the age of five to seven months, they enter the phase equivalent to human adolescence, or the early teenage years. Just as with human teenagers, this age is a whirlwind of growth and development, both physically and emotionally, and can be both a fun and challenging time for dog and owner!
Lots of help and good advice is written for dog owners on how to deal with the immediate issues of handling a new young puppy and beginning to train them and get them into the routine they will keep for the rest of their life. However, the adolescent stage of dog development is less well covered, and many owners of young dogs find that they could do with a helping hand!
Read on to learn about the best ways to care for and manage an adolescent dog, between the ages of around five to seven months
An adolescent dog will almost literally be growing bigger and bigger by the day, and their feeding habits should match this! When your puppy is growing, you should review the amount of food that they eat on a weekly basis, and ensure that their food is sufficient to meet all of their needs. Ideally, a puppy of this age should be fed three times per day at set intervals, and you should not be thinking about dividing their food rations up into just two meals per day quite yet.
Five to seven months of age is a very formative stage in the life of the dog, and this is when socialisation is really important! Ensure that your pup gets plenty of opportunity to meet and play with both other people and other dogs, and start introducing them to other animals too if possible, such as cats. During the adolescent phase, your puppy will still feel like a puppy and be keen to bounce up to adult dogs and encourage them to play, but adult dogs will begin to see your puppy as a grownup, and not give them as much leeway for bad manners as they would a younger dog.
Make sure that your puppy gets the chance at this age to learn from the behaviour of other dogs, and gets plenty of opportunity to play and meet new dogs and people.
Your puppy’s training should be well underway by this age, and they should be beginning to respond reliably to the basic commands that you have been working on. At this age you can also begin to start introducing extra commands, and depending on the intelligence and breed of your dog, start teaching them complex or higher level commands, and even tricks!
If you wish to do something specific with your dog when they are grown, such as showing, canine agility or other canine sports, now is the time to start introducing them to these skills and environments, while they are young enough to be receptive to it and take it in their stride!
Dogs of this age should have plenty of different toys of various different types, including toys that challenge them and make them work to gain a reward! Also, spend plenty of time playing interactively with your dog at this age, teaching them about the limits of acceptable play, and what possessions are good to play with and those to leave alone.
Your dog will be teething at this stage, losing their first set of baby teeth and growing in their full size adult teeth! They will need to have plenty of chew toys to help to relieve the pressure on their gums and break their new teeth through, and you should ensure that they are not chewing inappropriate things like furniture for want of something good to chew!
Now is also the right time to introduce your dog to a teeth cleaning routine, in order to protect their dental health for life and avoid later problems.
Your growing dog will be as lively at this age as he ever will be in his life, and you should of course provide him plenty of opportunity to play and to work off his excess energy! However, it is also important that you do not push your puppy too hard where exercise is concerned, and risk causing problems with the development of those growing joints, bones and muscles.
Dogs begin to come into sexual maturity at around six months of age, and male dogs will potentially begin to display sexual behaviours, such as showing interest in female dogs, and humping. Bitches may begin their first season at any stage from around six months onwards, although there may still be several more months to go. Keep a close eye out for the first signs of sexual maturity in both the dog pup and the bitch pup, and start thinking about spaying or neutering them if you do not intend to breed from them.
Dogs need to reach sexual maturity prior to being spayed or neutered in order to allow their body to produce important hormones that they need for development, so it is important to carefully judge when the time is right to neuter your dog.