I work with a lot of adolescent dogs. In fact, I just came back from helping a client with an almost year old dog that had successful disemboweled their couch cushions. I had to laugh to myself because I distinctly remember the day some 20 years ago when I came home from work and my two adolescent pups and not only shredded a portion of the couch, but also attacked the deck. That was the day I truly embraced using a crate for the first time.
Since then, the young dogs I’ve lived with have been in a crate (in the bedroom where we all sleep together) when I am not home. As they outgrow that terrible must chew everything in sight phase, I gradually start giving them more freedom until they are ready to stay alone for a good long stretch.
I know that leaving my dog kenneled, as well as all of the other adolescent management practices I use, keep my dogs safe and alive, and keep me from endless frustration. I also know that no amount of training can help adolescent yahoo behavior if I don’t also manage their environment while they are learning what is and is not OK. Here are the top adolescent management tools I use:
- The kennel/crate (as previously mentioned). I don’t want my dog to get into trouble when I’m not around. The only way to make sure that doesn’t happen is with a crate, kennel, or puppy-proof room.
- Baby gates or x-pens to limit full house access. I can’t be everywhere all the time, so these aids help keep dogs close by.
- Doors. Yup, I close them. The doors to the rooms we are not actually using at the moment are closed until my pup is a grown up dog, usually until he or she is around 2 years old.
- A leash and a long line for away from home exploration.
- Fences! My own fenced yard, my friend’s fenced yard, schoolyards, and other places where dogs can romp, run, play and chase toys without getting into big trouble.
- Chew toys, stuffed Kongs, bones, and other interactive food toys. Did I mention that adolescent dogs must chew!
- Exercise. OK—not exactly a management tool, but I guarantee that your teenage dog will not be able to behave appropriately (no matter how well he or she is trained) if he or she doesn’t have enough exercise. Off leash, rowdy, running fun time is an essential for teenage dogs.
I mention a lot of barriers—doors, kennels, gates, fences and leashes. One important note about these tools. I don’t use them to keep my dog in another room or away from me. I use them to keep my dog near me so I can supervise and engage. When a well-exercised teenage dog is chewing on something fantastic at my feet, I know that dog is content and happy—and so am I.
Want more ideas for dealing with your adolescent dog? Look for my article, Teen Angel: Surviving Adolescence, in the November 2014 issue of the Whole Dog Journal!