During the 18 to 24 month period, your puppy will have reached physical maturity as its bone structure will be fully developed. At a mental level, your dog will be highly attuned and alert to what is going on around him or her. By the age of two most breeds will also be at reproductive age. Instinctively, a dog will be facing challenging times as it tries to assert his or her position in the pack and face the world. During this time there can be sufficient challenges facing the owner.
The Challenges of Dog Behaviour
During this period of development, a dog will be mischievous and some bad behaviours may become apparent much in the same way as a child of this age can be testing for parents. A dog is preparing for adulthood and wants to make his or her mark. In terms of pack membership, it is around this time that a dog would go from being a dependent to being a pack hunter. In the home, it is around this time that your dog will want to establish his or her own leadership by defying you and challenging most things you do.
Dog Challenges the Leader
Like any leadership contest, a dog will seek out any weaknesses in the current structure and play them to his or her strengths. There are a few main areas that your dog will be keen to establish including walk times and mealtimes.
Dog Challenges at Walk Times
Even the best trained puppy will begin to challenge its owner when out for a walk. Your dog may become more excited and keen to go out. To counter this behaviour, you need to wait and maintain the focus that as leader you will determine as and when a walk will take place. The dog may race you to the gate or the front door. In these situations you need to get your dog to sit and wait. If the behaviour starts up again, then keep postponing the walk until your dog gets the message that the behaviour is not being rewarded.
For many owners, dogs are more likely to begin pulling on the lead around this age. Do not get into a pulling contest as you will never be defeated. Get your pet to return to heel, rewarding with a treat as a reminder to him or her that you are the main provider. If your pet does not return to heel, then you will need to bring the walk to an end.
Even if you master the walk, another challenge will present itself when your dog gets off the lead. Often a dog will be less reluctant to come back when called. If this happens, then you will need to return the dog to the lead and head home. After a few days, go out with your dog on a longer lead or rope so that you can maintain control. If the behaviour does not change, return home. If the dog behaves, then reward positive behaviour. You want your dog to work with the rope being slack but know that you are in charge. Afterwards, position yourself so that you are near the gate and that your dog knows it is time to go back home. Do not drag your dog home, just wait and call him or her and reward once he or she comes back.
Dog Challenges To Food Supply
Who has the food has the power. A dog may jump up at your or against wherever you are preparing food as if to get you to hurry up. You might think that your dog is hungry but he or she is beginning to assert authority. If your dog is not keen on you removing the bowl, then it is important to remember that you control when food is provided and removed, not your dog. Remember that your dog should eat last, so prepare some snacks for you and your family and eat these slowly in full view of your dog until he or she calms down.
Prepare a couple of bowls of food and place one down in another part of the room once he or she has calmed down. Then place the other in another part of the room, removing the previous bowl. You should always remove all food after mealtimes otherwise your pet will believe it has a constant supply and will want to guard and control access to it. Food needs to be earned. Prepare food at a height away from your dog and get him or her to sit and wait before serving. Remove the bowl when your dog walks away from the bowl.
Winning The War With Your Dog
This period in your dog’s development is particularly challenging and it is important that you seek to win every battle to win the war. If behaviour does not correct itself, then the final sanction is to remove your pet from the pack. In the wild, a dog would be ostracized from the pack, be left out of the hunting and left to scavenge for food. Only after the behaviour improved would the dog be allowed back into the pack. How to replicate this at home by separating your dog from the rest of its pack.
To a dog, the most important thing for survival is to be part of a pack. This is a natural instinct that remains with domestic dogs from their wild ancestry. To be effective the separation would last a day. During this time food and water must be provided and mealtimes should be carried out as previously outlined, you and your family eat with the dog watching before he or she gets to eat. You should not acknowledge or give your pet any attention. In extreme cases, this can be carried out for a few days. This approach is not harmful to your pet.
Other Dog Behaviour Challenges
Some dogs will display other forms of behaviour that are unacceptable. Aggression in any form is a severe reaction to a perceived threat, as it believes this is the way to react as the leader of the pack. Aggression can be difficult to deal with, so it is best to seek some professional help from a trained dog behaviourist. Excluding your dog from the pack as soon as it displays any form of aggression can be effective. Act firmly but do not engage with him or her in any other way other than to remove him or her from the situation. Once your dog has calmed down, reunite with him or her and provide a treat. This is a critical moment where you are rewarding positive behaviour. If aggression starts up again, exclude him or her and repeat the process. It will take time, so patience and dedication are the key to success.