Monday, March 18, 2013

The Terrible Teens

You know, I don't know why they call it the terrible twos.  When my younger dogs were puppies my biggest concerns were making sure they were housebroken and teaching them the canine equivalent of their ABCs.  While exhausting I've got to say that the early puppy period has nothing on the "Teenage" years for trying your allotment of dog-focused patience.

As I mentioned in a few posts, the two terriers are just over a year old and RIGHT in the middle of their "teenage" years.  It's a simple fact that the majority of pets surrendered to animal shelters are between the ages of 7 months and 2 years, and about half of those aren't neutered.  It's something I've thought about in depth as I'm bringing these guys through that very period of time as a pair of unneutered males.

I think a big part of the cause of dogs being surrendered (aside from crappy owners) is that at a year think you're done.  They're not a puppy anymore, usually they've been through at least a puppy class and there you are with your dog.  Then they hit a certain point and seem to either forget or no longer care about a single thing they've learned in the last year.  The reason isn't because they're a bad dog, it's because they're not yet a full-grown dog.  A year is not the end of development for a dog by any stretch - it generally takes 2 years at the MINIMUM before a dog is an adult physiologically as well as mentally.

Which brings me around to my boys.  Shiner and Tibbs are both spending a lot of time on socialization right now, particularly at dog parks as I am trying to desensitize them to the concept of novel people and dogs.  Additionally, desensitizing their reaction to potentially tense situations, loud noises, other dogs scuffling, and so on because at this age their reactivity is very high.  I have the sweetest little puppies in the world right up until one of them fixates on another dog (often one younger than them), and decides the world will not be right until they have licked or humped that dog for a good period of time.  Now, while in the canine world this is normal behavior, people are incredibly touchy about this kind of thing.  So it can be tough.  I'm trying to simultaneously allow my dogs to age out of this phase, ensure they get sufficient socialization, let them run around and have fun, teach appropriate boundaries, and avoid conflicts with other dog owners while we get through it.  Point of fact, a lady referred to Shiner as "vicious" at the park (though clearly this woman has never seen a REAL dog fight, rather than just a kerfluffle that's 90% noise).

The hardest thing to remember at those times is that it IS a phase and they WILL age out of it - in fact, Guinness the Perfect Gentleman had a pretty prolonged teenaged period.  He chased inappropriately, played too hard, snapped to easily, and thoroughly enjoyed destroying anything he could get his jaws around.  But with time and patience and a lot of work, he aged out of it and turned into the dog we all know and love today.  The tough part is the persistence to get there.

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