Puberty Makes Dogs More Emotional Just Like Teenagers, Study Finds
Being a teenager was great: you had very few responsibilities; school finished at 3.30pm; and you were building friendships you’d hopefully keep for years to come.
On the flip side though, there was puberty. All of those hormones flying around made it pretty hard to concentrate on most things – and don’t even get me started on those mood swings.
Well, now it seems those exact traits are also experienced by adolescent dogs, with researchers saying pooches become less responsive to instructions from their carers during adolescence.
The similarities don’t end there though, with the new study finding dogs were harder to train at the age of eight months, when they are going through puberty.
Researchers also found dogs were likely to ‘play up’ to test the strength of their relationship with their carers if they feel insecure about the bond they have with them.
Dr Lucy Asher, a senior lecturer in Precision Animal Science at Newcastle University, told The Guardian that just as teenagers that have a less secure relationship with their parents are the ones ‘more likely to show more conflict behaviour’ towards them, this is ‘the same finding we have [between adolescent dogs and their carers]’.
In dogs, this could help them weigh up whether it’s better to stay with its carer or follow its reproductive urges to find a mate, Asher explained.
The study, published in the journal Biology Letters, is the first to find evidence of adolescent behaviour in dogs. The team explored canine adolescence by looking at the behaviour of German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers or crosses of those breeds, with Asher saying such breeds start puberty at about six to nine months old.
They looked at how obedient dogs were to commands such as ‘sit’ at different ages, as well as asking the dogs’ carers to score them on ‘trainability’ – asking them to rate them on statements such as ‘responds immediately to the recall command when off lead’.
Asher and her colleagues compared results from dogs at the age of five months – before adolescence – and eight months – during adolescence – with Asher saying: ‘They are nearly twice as likely to ignore the “sit” command when they are eight months as compared to when they are five months.’
Further work revealed signs of separation behaviour increased around eight months of age, including shaking when left alone. This was associated with lower obedience, also at that age.
Asher hopes these findings will help owners be more understanding of their dogs, particularly because adolescence can be a vulnerable time for dogs as many are taken to shelters for rehoming at this age.
She said in a statement:
This is a very important time in a dog’s life. 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 lecturer said it’s ‘very important’ owners don’t punish their dogs for disobedience or start to ‘pull away from them emotionally’ at this time, as that would likely just make any problem behaviour worse – as it does in human teenagers.
Who knew pups were so similar to us?
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