Cookie use on MRCVSonline
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.
If you would like to forward this story on to a friend, simply fill in the form below and click send.

Your friend's email:
Your email:
Your name:
Send Cancel

Adolescent dogs 'more likely to ignore commands'
"Many dog owners and professionals have long known or suspected that dog behaviour can become more difficult when they go through puberty".

Researchers investigate the behaviour of dogs during puberty.
A new study has revealed for the first time that dogs go through a difficult 'teenage' phase, in a similar way to humans.

The research led by Newcastle University suggests that adolescent dogs are more likely to ignore commands from their owner, and are harder to train at the age of eight months when they are going through puberty.

Such behaviour was particularly noticeable in dogs that had insecure attachments to their caregivers, the researchers said. The findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

“Many dog owners and professionals have long known or suspected that dog behaviour can become more difficult when they go through puberty,” explains co-author Dr Harvey from the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Until now there has been no empirical record of this. Our results show that the behaviour changes seen in dogs closely parallel that of parent-child relationships, as dog-owner conflict is specific to the dog’s primary caregiver and just as with human teenagers, this is a passing phase.”

In the study, researchers observed a group of 69 dogs to investigate behaviour in adolescence. The group consisted of Labradors, golden retrievers, and cross-breeds of the two at five months (before adolescence) and eight months (during adolescence).

They found that during adolescence, dogs took longer to respond to the 'sit' command. Interestingly this was only when the command was given by their owner and not a stranger.

Likewise, a questionnaire of 285 dog owners revealed that dogs were harder to train around adolescence, compared to when they were five months or 12 months old.

The experts also found that female dogs with insecure attachments to their caregivers were more likely to reach puberty early.

Lead author Dr Lucy Asher from Newcastle University warns adolescence can be a vulnerable time for dogs as many are taken to shelters for re-homing at this age.

“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.”

Dr Asher adds: “It’s very important that owners don’t punish their dogs for disobedience or start to pull away from them emotionally at this time. This would be likely to make any problem behaviour worse, as it does in human teens”. 

Become a member or log in to add this story to your CPD history

MSD Animal Health announces three new research bursaries

News Story 1
 MSD Animal Health has announced three new research bursaries for veterinary surgeons in the areas of swine, poultry and aquaculture. The bursaries, worth up to £4,000, add to MSD's existing bursaries in ruminant and companion animal research.

Projects are expected to be completed within one to two years, and the proposals will be judged by university academics to ensure that assessment remains independent. Full project design and application guidelines, including the specific disease/subject areas, can be found on MSD Animal Health's website

Click here for more...
News Shorts
VMD and VPS announce joint open information day

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and the Veterinary Products Committee (VPC) have announced a joint open information day covering topics such as veterinary medicines regulations, antimicrobial resistance, scientific advice and novel therapies.

Taking place on Wednesday 18 November, the virtual event will take the form of a series of pre-recorded webinars and a 'Slido' Q&A session. Links to the webinars and full instructions on how to use Slido will be available on on 18 November. To join the mailing list for the event, email