Like human children, puppies go through different stages of development both physically and mentally, which happen in a more or less linear fashion but that can begin and end at different times for different dogs.
Many dog owners would be able to think back and name some of the phases their own pups went through – chewing everything, selective deafness, being flighty or nervous of new things, and various others; and many would also tell you their dogs also went through a phase when they seemed to have the same temperament as a stroppy teenager too!
Whilst your first reaction to this might be to roll your eyes (unless you witnessed it yourself!) the concept that dogs go through a “teenaged” phase equivalent during their first year of life is not a new one; and in fact, the results of a recently published study from a number of UK universities indicates that there might be some truth in the theory after all!
The study found that when puppies hit puberty and the onset of sexual maturity, they begin to display parallels to many of the behaviours that human teenagers do at the same point!
So, do puppies have a development phase akin to teenagers hitting puberty? Quite possibly. Read on to find out more.
The research that indicates that puppies go through a teenaged phase was conducted in combination by Edinburgh, Newcastle and Nottingham universities, and involved both direct study of 69 dogs at five months and then eight months of age, plus questionnaire responses from 285 owners of puppies at the same ages.
How old are puppies when they undergo their teenage phase?
The research indicates that pups will start to go through their teenaged phase when they reach the onset of sexual maturity, and this comes at different times for different dogs. Smaller dogs may begin to hit puberty at around four months of age, whilst for very large and giant breeds, they can be approaching nine months to a year at the outside.
Generally though puppies become sexually mature at around the 6-7 months old mark, with it beginning within the 5-8 months of age timeframe being the norm.
This is an interesting question for one obvious reason; when dogs are spayed and neutered, this removes their ability and also, urge to reproduce; and so stops both sexual urges and the heightened production of sex hormones that come with puberty and the onset of sexual maturity.
However, dogs need those sex hormones as part of their development, and so they cannot be neutered before this.
When a dog reaches sexual maturity, such as for bitches, undergoing their first heat cycle and for males, discovering their interest in bitches, they can then be neutered shortly afterwards. This ends the teenaged phase; but for unneutered dogs, it theoretically ends when they’re full adult dogs, generally around a year old.
This is down to the onset of the production of sex hormones, which flood their bodies and cause all sorts of effects on them emotionally as well as physically. Their impact can manifest in other physical ways too, as well as increased growth and the development of sexual urges; such as acne, in some cases!
Do all puppies go through a teenaged phase?
Unless a puppy’s development is delayed or something anomalous in their body chemistry means they don’t begin to produce sex hormones and reach sexual maturity, this is a development stage every puppy will go through as standard.
However, it will manifest very differently for every puppy; some will display marked changes and indicators of it, and others few or even none will be evident to their owners.
Wondering what to look out for to indicate that your own puppy is going through their teenaged phase? Well, this will be different for every dog, but the researchers who conducted the study began by looking at pups’ concentration and obedience, and found that pups in the teenaged phase were less obedient when it came to responding to commands they already knew, such as “sit.”
Interestingly, this selective disobedience only manifested with their own owners, and they would respond to other people more reliably!
They were also somewhat harder to train to follow new commands during the teenaged phase, and had a shorter attention span and were easier to distract.
As mentioned earlier, spaying and neutering will bring the “teenaged” phase to an end, but removing this element from the equation, this depends as the age of onset and how long the teenaged phase lasts is different for every dog.
Large and giant breeds will tend to have their teenaged phase later and last a little longer, as they develop more slowly; but there is no hard and fast rule.