When your puppy appears to emulate everything that you would expect from a whiny two-year-old, don’t worry; you are not alone. Just the same as baby humans, young dogs go through the same phases as us, only over a condensed time span. This “terrible twos” phase does not have to last long if you handle your pup properly, although mismanagement may lead to unfavorable results.
The Science: Why Do Puppies Develop Bad Behaviors?
Similarly, to a young teenager going through puberty, puppies may develop entirely new behaviors and habits as a result of their changing hormonal patterns. These hormones are especially prominent in unfixed dogs, especially males. After being spayed, female dogs often show less aggressive behavior and are more obedient, although these changes are usually more minor.
This increase in hormones and physical growth, as well as improved eyesight, also leads many dogs to become more excitable, which is difficult for inexperienced dog owners to manage. When a puppy gets older than a couple of months old, it may begin to show signs of fear toward strangers and other dogs. This fear may manifest and dogs may freak out with an outburst in a seemingly calm situation.
Fortunately, there are a number of steps that you can take to limit the discomfort and angst both you and your mutt go through during this phase.
The Solutions: How to Correct Bad Behaviors
Although the number of things that can go wrong with your dog’s training is endless, you can equip yourself with the tools necessary to limit these issues and teach your dog extensively. It is vital to catch these problems before they escalate. The longer they go unfixed, the harder it is for your dog to drop its habits.
Reward Calm Behavior: First and foremost, if your pup is bouncing off the walls with energy, be sure to reward them during the times that they are calm. With a little luck and a lot of consistency, this will help them to associate chilling out with treats and things it likes. When you train your dog in this way, you are also helping them improve their impulse control, which is usually not very developed in their first few months of life.
When your dog is acting rambunctious, it is a great opportunity to teach them how to calm down. One way you can do this is by asking them to sit down, which will probably require a lot of your patience. When it sits down or calm down, pet them and give them a treat or something else they like. Be careful not to force your dog to do anything or you could scar your relationship with your pup.
Another tip to improve your dog’s self-control and calmness is to exercise it regularly, especially when it is in the “terrible twos” age range. A little puppy socialization and playing go a long way in using up your puppy’s energy and tiring them out. Another benefit of this method of teaching is that once tired, your dog is more likely to sit down so you can continue your teaching, as mentioned above.
There are also a number of dog games for excitable dogs that train them to restrain their energy, such as hide-and-seek using treats or other games involving finding a reward. When you use these games properly, your dog is more likely to keep calm.
Use Positive Reinforcement: Just as with Pavlov’s dogs, if you can teach your dog to expect a tasty treat after they do something correctly, you can tame or at least limit their hyper behavior. Another less popular form of positive reinforcement is associating your dog’s fear with something positive, such as a treat. Instead of punishing these behaviors, namely displays of fear, you can remove your dog and calm them down.
When you use positive reinforcement, be careful not to over-reward certain behaviors, especially play-biting or energetic actions. If you reward the wrong things, you may end up confusing your pup into thinking the wrong things are what you want them to do. This step is especially important when your dog is young, as habits can develop and become increasingly difficult to un-teach.
Teach Your Dog Consistently: If you want your rough experiences and investment of time into teaching your dog how to overcome the “terrible twos,” you have to stay both consistent and patient in your teaching. A couple of training sessions might seem to have some imprint on your pup, although these effects will fade over time if you do not keep up the teaching.
Establishing routines with your dog is another way to enforce their good behavior, as it will often begin to expect the things you do during the day. Again, starting earlier rather than later will help you get through the bad phases of your dog’s maturing process. Your dog is only a puppy once, and teaching them how to act is a worthy time investment for both the short and long term.
The Future: Moving Forward After the Terrible Twos
The darker parts of your puppy’s development process do not last forever, and puppies usually outgrow their behavior phases after around five or six months, although some breeds can last for longer. Another factor that affects the length of your mutt’s phase is how you handle it.
There are some key points to keep in mind while going through this difficult process with your puppy, the first of which is understanding why your puppy is acting in this strange way. Puppies develop bad behavior when their hormone levels increase, although their teeth coming in also plays a role in their naughty behavior.
When your pup starts misbehaving, there are a few ways to correct their behavior, most importantly by rewarding good behavior. Positive reinforcement in general is a great idea, as is being consistent in your teaching.
Once you and your dog move past the “terrible twos” stage, it does not mean that your issues are over but that you have successfully hopped over the first hurdle. In your years with your dog, there will be more obstacles, although you will be more than ready to handle them.