Ten Tips to overcoming the Terrible Two’s!

We all know that teenage and children can be stubborn, moody, and often enjoy challenging the authority figures around them. But did you know that dogs also go through a similar rebellious stage as they transition from puppyhood into social maturity?  

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This adolescent stage of a dog’s life is most commonly referred to as ‘the terribles’ or ‘the terrible twos’ and believe me, it is aptly named. In the simplest terms, the terribles is a stage of a dog’s life in which they begin to challenge every rule, boundary, and limitation placed upon them previously. Essentially, they are trying to figure out where in the pack hierarchy they lie, and so they test their pack leader (that’s you!) to see how in charge they really are. Up until this point you will have given your puppy a set of rules to live by (ie. no jumping on the furniture, no barking in the yard), but did you really mean them? That is what your dog is trying to find out.  

While the timeline varies from dog to dog, the terribles often hit around 6 months of age and can last until they are anywhere from one to two years old. My puppy Sprout was 7 months old when I first began to see her ‘rebellious’ side emerge, and she is definitely in the thick of things now at 10 months old.  

While every dog experiences the terrible twos, not many owners know about this important stage of their dog’s life, and as a result end up feeling frustrated and discouraged by their dog’s newfound ‘bad’ behaviors. Even as an experienced dog trainer, I have found myself questioning where I went wrong as Sprout and I navigate this challenging life-stage together.  But fear not! This blog is aimed at both educating you on what exactly the terribles are, as well as giving you some helpful ways to deal with many of the behaviors that come with this stage of your dog’s life.  

Here are some behaviors commonly displayed by a dog in their terribles; 

  • Jumping on furniture they were not previously allowed on 
  • Jumping on family members and guests 
  • Humping 
  • Playing ‘catch me if you can’ in the backyard (not coming when called)
  • Barking/reactivity 
  • Attempting to lead on walks 
  • Hyperactivity  
  • Rough/dominant play with other dogs (or human family members) 

Here are 10 ways you can deal with the problem behaviours listed above; 

  1. Increase the amount of structure in your dog’s life (more crate and/or place time, set a daily schedule and stick to it) 
  2. Enroll your dog in training or daycare to increase the amount of socialization they get as well as to provide another area of structure  
  3. If your dog is already enrolled at daycare, increase the frequency of visits to 2-3 times per week  
  4. Increase the amount of walks and/or length of walks 
  5. Go on walks in new places and with new people (check out The Dog Haus facebook page for info on their free monthly meditation walks!) 
  6. Increase the amount of mental stimulation provided to your dog by joining a training class or working on the things you’ve already taught your dog (place, learn a new trick, sit stays, hide and go seek, etc.) 
  7. Keep your dog on leash in the backyard – if you can predict it you can prevent it! 
  8. Find some well balanced, calm, older doggy role models for your puppy to play with 
  9. Stand your ground! Remember this rebelliousness is completely normal for your dog and will pass with time, but giving into their demands will only lead to more problems in the future 
  10. Go easy on yourself and your dog – no person or dog is perfect, let any negative experiences roll off your back and focus on positive growth! 

So there you have it, a how-to guide for surviving the terribles! Remember that all the behaviours seen during this stage are to be expected and will pass with time, patience, and consistent enforcement of rules and expectations. Take a deep breath and be the calm, confident leader your rebellious puppy needs you to be!

Until next time,

Claire

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