4 to 10 Months – Independence Days.
Your puppy may go through a period of independence during this time. Confidence is a great thing but it can also get your puppy into trouble. This may lead your puppy to:
- Wander off to explore the neighborhood when you aren’t watching
- Ignore your command to come when it smells something interesting next door
- Or give chase to a rabbit, squirrel or the neighbor’s cat
All of these things are fairly harmless, but they can also be deadly if your puppy decides to run into the street at the wrong time. For this reason it is very important that you keep the puppy on a leash at this time if you are not in an enclosed area.
Daily training sessions are a must during this period of time. The amount of training you do and the amount of time you spend interacting with your puppy will directly determine how well it will mind you when you ask it to do something.
10 Months to 4 Years – From Teenager to Adult
It is now thought that puppies become teenagers at about 10 months of age. This goes a long way in explaining some of their actions! Almost all breeds are physically fully grown by 12 months, but may take a few extra months to “fill out” completely.
Dogs who are not properly trained and socialized as young pups may now begin to exhibit some increased aggression, resource guarding and may even try to test your authority. But if you have done all of your homework, trained consistently on a regular basis, and spent lots of time hanging out with your dog this should not be a problem. Actually, you most likely will not even notice much of a behavior change at all.
Continue to train your dog consistently and on a regular basis every day. This will keep the lines of communication open and you and the dog will continue to build a stronger bond. Regular outings and play dates with other friendly dogs is a must throughout the dog’s life in order to keep it properly socialized.
4 Years and Older – Adult Ed to Senior Living
No matter what your reason was for getting a puppy, it is your responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment, provide leadership, and train it so it will develop into a well-mannered dog and a trusted family member. If you are not prepared to make a ten to fifteen year commitment, you need to rethink this whole dog ownership thing.
Over the past few thousand years dogs have been bred to interact directly with humans. While they can read our emotional state of mind and our body language … they can’t read our minds. They need us to tell them what we want. In order to communicate with your dog you need to have a bond with it and then become its teacher. And the teaching and training doesn’t end at 6 months or even 24 months. Teaching your dog is a lifetime job.
Trust & Respect
Your dog is not a wolf and it is not a “pack” animal. It is more like a child, a student and a family member. Your dog doesn’t need you to be a “pack leader.” It needs you to take on the role of a supportive parent, a teacher and a trusted friend. In order to be these things you need to establish yourself in a position of authority through respect and trust. If you fail, your dog will never be the great companion you want it to be.
Many people still think that you have to be a dominate “pack leader” and that you have to be big, bad and aggressive to control your dog. They also think that if you don’t act this way, your dog will battle you for a leadership position or take over your household. This couldn’t be further from the truth. One famous TV trainer has always said that dog’s only WANT to be a follower and have no interest in becoming a leader.
If you begin the relationship with your dog by building a bond of trust and respect, it will always want to please you. After all, it’s in their DNA. Anyone can be a good leader. It is an attitude based on mutual respect and trust, not on punishment, dominance or aggression.