When your dog reaches his or her ‘teenage’ years, a few behaviour issues might creep in. Pet behaviourist Claire Hargrave addresses some common problems.
Why has my dog’s behaviour suddenly changed?
Between seven and 14 months, your dog is going through adolescence. Your pet is becoming stronger, more sexually mature and more confident in his or her reactions.
If there has been any tendency towards frustration in the past, it will become more marked now.
Why is my dog suddenly pulling on his (or her) lead?
Pulling on a lead is an avoidance strategy. Consider whether your dog is relaxed on his or her lead. Look at the environment you are in and try to take your dog somewhere he or she can relax. Go back to basics with lead walking and take some treats out with you to reinforce good walking habits.
My dog has started showing signs of hostility. What can I do?
If the groundwork hasn’t been done properly, your dog might start showing resource-based problems. This is where a dog's natural instinct to guard the things it values – eg, food bowls, toys, territory, and people – leads to behaviour problems.
You might need to remind your dog that hands come to give – rebuild this association by letting them see you put their food into an empty bowl. They should then eat the food piece by piece from that bowl so that they can understand that you are giving, not taking, their food.
Does your dog feel safe? Is there anything that is making them feel threatened? Consider where their bed is. You may have placed it somewhere aesthetically pleasing, like by the back door, but is this actually a quiet area where your dog can rest and feel secure?
Why is my dog suddenly barking at night?
You need to find out what’s triggering the barking. Barking is another distance-creating behaviour or can also be a way to seek your attention.
Maybe your dog isn’t coping at night as well as you thought. This could be because your relationship has become more intensive than is healthy and he or she hasn’t developed sufficient independence. Or it could simply be that something is happening outside to frighten him or her.
To help your dog relax, you could:
- Put a roof or a soundproof cover on his or her bed.
- Add some old towels to your dog’s sleeping area that have been in the linen bin for a while to get your scent on them.
- Give your dog a puzzle feeder so they can amuse and comfort themselves.
What are the signs that my dog is too attached to me, and what can I do?
If your dog greets you too excessively or greets you when you are simply entering the room, he or she might be getting too dependent and have separation-related problems. It’s worth considering putting a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) diffuser such as Adaptil next to your dog’s bed. This mimics the smell of the chemical released naturally by a mother dog – and helps dogs feel at ease.
If your dog is anxious or worried, and you respond by giving attention (as you would with a child) then he or she might become even more anxious without you, or start to feel that this behaviour is being rewarded.