According to a new study, our dogs experience puberty the same way we do. Confusion, anger, parental resistance, the works.
While we’ve all experienced (and have been) moody teenagers subject to the horrors of puberty, a new study suggests that our canine pals also go through a similar stage of disobedience and rebellion.
After gazing at the behaviour of 378 canines, researchers believe that at eight months old, dogs share the frustration that we often feel towards our parents or caregivers when we hit our teenage years.
“This is a very important time in a dog’s life,” says animal behaviour researcher Lucy Asher, from Newcastle University in the UK. “This is when dogs are often rehomed because they are no longer a cute little puppy and suddenly, their owners find they are more challenging and they can no longer control them or train them.”
“But as with human teenage children, owners need to be aware that their dog is going through a phase and it will pass.”
The experiment found that pooches at eight months old would take longer and be more reluctant to respond to a ‘sit’ command given by their owner than they were when just five months old. Interestingly, the eight-month-olds didn’t show the same obstinance when the command was given by a stranger, pointing to parental resistance.
“It’s very important that owners don’t punish their dogs for disobedience or start to pull away from them emotionally at this time,” says Asher. “This would be likely to make any problem behaviour worse, as it does in human teens.”
However, those dealing with wilful canine children should bear in mind that this behaviour will not last forever.
“Many dog owners and professionals have long known or suspected that dog behaviour can become more difficult when they go through puberty,” says zoologist Naomi Harvey, from the University of Nottingham in the UK. “But until now there has been no empirical record of this.”
“Our results show that the behaviour changes seen in dogs closely parallel that of parent-child relationships, as dog-owner conflict is specific to the dog’s primary caregiver and just as with human teenagers, this is a passing phase.”