It is always sad on one hand to see a service dog I have been working with leave for a new home. On the other hand I am so thrilled to be able to send them off knowing all the good they will do for the new family they will be with the rest of their lives. Mr. Bailey left last week, headed for California with his new person. His will be a role that I am not sure has been attempted by a dog before; he will be a diabetes alert dog for a Type 1 person and he will also be in a breeding program for an organization that produces Labradors bred specifically for diabetes alert service work. That will be a challenge as all service dogs are normally neutered or spayed, but I feel confident Mr. Bailey will be up to the task of keeping track of his person as well as taking care of breedings as that occurs.
There has been much written and discussed about the pros and cons of neutering or spaying dogs particularly as it relates to when is the best time to perform the surgery. In the recently released best seller, Pukka’s Promise by Ted Kerasote, the author devotes a whole chapter to the subject, citing many of the significant studies on the health effects of altering a dog at too early and age. One thing I have always done as a breeder is encourage my puppy buyers to hold off as long as possible before doing the surgery as there appears from the literature to be a strong connection between all the hormones in the dog’s system and overall good health of the immune system in addition to longevity. This often leads however, to people dealing with teenage hormones in their dog, which for most people is a very trying time at best. I can usually predict when the phone will start ringing with questions about how to handle this time span from frustrated owners. Is it worth putting up with all the nonsense to extend their lives? I think so. But you have to answer that question for yourself.
So how do you deal with dogs going through a phase of development where they become rebellious, forget all the training you have done up to that point, and torment you with seemingly unending rowdiness? For one, keep on going to obedience classes. You may not feel like you are getting anywhere at times but it is important to not give up. I will share my sanity tips for those of you who want to survive your dog’s teenage years. These are in no particular order and I must stress that if you try one approach and it does not work don’t keep doing what doesn’t work, try something else please.. This is not too detailed since this is a blog but here are some of the top complaints I get and what I suggest.
- Dog jumps on you. What do I in this situation is command “sit” before he has a chance to jump.
- Dog bites your hand and it is getting worse as they get older. What I do if this is happening when I first see the dog after being away is offer a different behavior. I have a Manners Minder treat dispensing device and will use this redirect the dog. I will say “go touch” and direct the dog toward the ball on the stick that comes with the device. When the dog touches the ball on the stick I push the remote and there is a sound and a treat dispensed. It distracts the dog and the biting will eventually stop.
- Rowdy around the house and won’t settle down. What I do is manage this situation. I will work the dog with more exercises on the Kuranda bed such as “place” and “settle”. If need be, I will tether the dog to something sturdy and only when the dog settles will I release him and quietly pet him or brush him if that is something he enjoys.
- Your dog is wild around the house when released. What I do for this is manage the behavior with puzzles and mind games. When the dog is focused on solving a problem he will immediately be less wild. This takes a few times until they learn what “Want to play puzzle?” means but it really works.
My approach is simple, I either train an alternate behavior to what the dog is offering that I don’t like, or I try to manage the issue. I hope this gives you some ideas. Remember to look also at the amount of exercise your dog is getting. I don’t mean guesstimating either, be real here, it does matter. So often I can turn around a “bad” dog just by giving that dog more exercise time. Growing dogs need more exercise, for Labs swimming is ideal. 30 minutes 4 times a week will do wonders also. You’ll begin to see a pattern as your dog continues to mature and you are sticking to the training with some of these extra things thrown in there to get you through the teen months. Bailey is a pretty calm and easy going fella, but at 11 months he is already starting to realize he is stud dog material; I am sure there will be days his mind will not be on his training. The only way to get through this is to keep on training, never lose your cool and be sure to keep the dog’s mind engaged. The training sessions may be shorter, that is OK, but keep on training none the less. They do outgrow it and they do settle down to being the wonderful companions they were before the hormone surge hit.