The Puppy Diaries – The Fifth Month
This is the fifth instalment of our puppy diary, featuring Murdock the lurcher puppy, with candid insights and practical tips on welcoming a dog into your home.
Murdock will be seven months old in a few days’ time and this means that he is hitting the peak of adolescence. Described as the “teenage phase” puppy adolescence is characterised by increased assertiveness, rebelliousness, and momentary lapses in judgment. Murdock will be pushing his boundaries at this time as he starts to learn what is expected of him and what he can and can’t get away with!
Measuring Dog Years
But how can he be a teenager if he is only 7 months old? Based on average lifespans we tend to assume that a dog ages 7 years for each single human year. So a 1-year-old puppy is like a 7-year-old child and a 14-year-old dog is akin to a 98-year-old pensioner. By this reckoning Murdock would be about 4 years old. But from observing dog behaviour we know this isn’t true.
As we explained in a previous blog article, last year scientists in California debunked the dog-year theory with new evidence that dogs age at different speeds throughout their lives. They found that by the age of 2, a dog’s DNA was equivalent to a human in their early 40s - rather than a 14-year-old human, which the traditional ‘multiply by 7’ formula would imply - but they do not continue to age at this speed and mature more slowly in later life. By these calculations, Murdock is about 11 and a half and heading into his teens - and based on his behaviour – this new theory seems far more accurate than the simple ‘multiply by 7’ rule.
Teenage Kicks – Coping with Puppy Adolescence
So how do you cope with your pup’s teenage rebellion? Right now Murdock’s worst traits are destroying property, stealing food and not always coming back when he is called.
The main thing to remember (as with teenage children) is that this is a phase, and we will come out the other side of this with a mature, well-rounded, loving and well-behaved dog. It is important to make sure that we don’t accidentally create any bad habits or patterns of behaviour at this time which may encourage misconduct in the future. So, how do we cope with it?
Destruction of Property
Murdock loves looking to see what we are up to and his extra-long nose tends to arrive at the scene a few second before his face does as he pokes around to see what we’re doing. Although he has stopped teething, he still loves to chew and he likes certain textures. He particularly enjoys ripping up paper and fishing bit of rubbish out of the recycling and chewing them – items such as plastic drinks bottles and cardboard toilet roll middles are particularly appealing. He also loves to steal socks and shoes which can be quite infuriating when you are getting everyone ready for school in the morning and their clothes disappear before your very eyes and then reappear in Murdock’s bed. The key to dealing with this kind of behaviour is to keep calm and be patient (sometimes easier said than done). There is no point in shouting and sometimes if we chase him to try and retrieve something it can turn into an exasperating game. Prevention is better than cure, so we try to make sure that the recycling bin is firmly closed, socks and shoes are put away and there are no tempting chewable objects available for Murdock to pilfer. We also ensure that he has plenty of his own dog toys and treats to chew and make sure that he gets lots of exercise to burn off most of that mischievous energy.
Like most teenagers, Murdock seems to be permanently hungry, despite the fact that he is getting a balanced nutritional diet. He does tend to show some restraint when we are eating but if there is no one around – and he thinks he can get away with it – he will jump up onto the dining table to see what he can find. Again, prevention is better than cure so we are careful not to feed him from the table so that he does not develop a scrounging habit and we clear the table straight after each meal so there is no temptation for him to jump up and lick the plates clean when we are out of the room.
Not coming back
This has been tricky as he does come back most of the time and it’s not always possible to predict when he is going to play up. One thing is clear though. For Murdock, this behaviour is just a massive game! So, it is best not take the bait, stay calm and ignore him until he calms down. He doesn’t disappear completely - he likes to run around in big circles and come close but not close enough to catch - but he always comes back eventually. Although it is tempting to tell him off when he does this, this is not going to achieve anything and will make him less likely to come back in the future. The best thing is to praise him when he does come back first time – and keep a bag of treats handy so that he associates being good with good things. Rather than constantly telling him off.
Murdock has a bit of a punk rock attitude and during his adolescent stage he is going to be asserting his independence more as he finds his feet. It is not uncommon for dogs to become forgetful during this stage too so this is a good time for us to review some of his puppy training and make sure he can still follow the commands we learned during our puppy training classes during the summer.
That’s it for this month – and it feels like we’ve been a bit negative about Murdock and his behaviour, but it really isn’t all bad at all and we know that whatever mischief he is up to at the moment, this too will pass. Murdock is shaping up to be a lovely family pet, he is very affectionate towards all of us, he loves cuddles and just hanging out and doing what we’re doing. He is also getting on much better with both of our cats, who are starting to accept him as part of our pack.
Want to read more about Murdock and his progress? You can find all of our puppy diaries here. Is your puppy going through adolescence too - how are you coping? Let us know in the comments section below.