Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Brat Zone

Have you ever noticed all of the dogs offered on yard sale sites or sitting in shelters that are around 6 months of age? There is a reason for this. That cute puppy that followed you around and did everything and anything you wanted suddenly seems to have gone deaf and is destroying your home and sanity. It is similar to dealing with a human teenager, right down to the hormone shifts and maybe even acne. (If you are planning to spay or neuter, this is the ideal time for it.)

We call this the Brat Zone and it starts around 4 months of age and usually lasts until they are 6 months old, but can go longer. Just like we mature at different rates, dogs do, too. During the Brat Zone your puppy will try to establish his position in your pack and show what appears to be downright defiance. He will test you to see what type of behavior you will or will not allow. He will also be working on getting his adult teeth in and losing his baby teeth, so he will want things to chew on to relieve that pressure.
Lots of Nylabone or Kong style chew toys will give him the relief that he is looking for and distract him from chewing on your shoes or furniture. There are also bitter sprays to deter him as well. If you don’t crate train you should at least consider limiting how much freedom he has to roam when unsupervised by using strategically placed baby gates.

The recall command will often be ignored and at this point he might even be looking for ways out of the yard, either by digging under a fence or jumping over. You’ll need to keep a close eye to prevent that behavior. Make sure your fenced yard is secured. Keep him on a leash if your yard is not secure. Don’t forget to continue practicing his recall command inside with a game of hide and seek.

Keep up with his training but don’t get frustrated if he is distracted. End with a command you know he will do, usually a sit, and call it good. Start over when you are both in a better mood. Remember, this phase will pass. With a firm resolve and lots of patience your puppy will mature and you will go on to build a terrific relationship with your dog.