Another significant factor is, here, in the city, vets do not give a dog all of its shots until it is about four months old. Since the dog has not been able to build its natural defenses with nursing on its mother, it does not have all that it needs to survive. Without those shots to fill in those gaps on disease prevention, as well as the shots to ward off parasites, the dog should not be taken outside during this time. Some people will want to take their dogs outside anyway and avoid paper training. If this is the case, please keep the dog off any dirt and/or poop. These materials are how the dog will get infested with parasites, such as worms.
Looking at the dog’s biological restraints, as well as the societal and medical ones, the dog has very limited access to the world. Appropriately, the dog will have limited interaction with the things that catch his interest. You will find that he stops and stares at things now, rather than putting his mouth on them to explore. Of course, he will explore with his mouth and nose somewhat, but nothing like he will in the next stage. Understanding all of this will make it easier to understand the real goal of this stage of life. This is the age that the dog is trying to understand his body. He will notice the immediate environment but the rest of the world is secondary to this dog.
The final piece of the puzzle will be that the puppy will receive his final vaccinations that allow him to leave the home and gain full access to the outside world. He is, basically, prepared for whatever comes.
Now that he is properly equipped to handle the world that is out there, he will begin to search it out. Everything will be new and will require this exploration. Sometimes that is a good thing. He will be exploring the park and learning about the leash. He will also go explore all the things that make parents crazy, like the computer cables, trash cans, and underwear.
This is the most important stage for the parents. This is when the puppy is trying to understand the rules of the world so this is when training should happen. A dog can be trained after this time, but it will never be as easy as it is now. Consistent boundaries will be a human’s best friend here. He wants to understand his role in the family and will never again be so open to the role that he is assigned.
The dog will also try to understand the dog world during this time and socialization will be most effective now. This is when a dog can learn from the other dogs what is and is not allowed in dog society. The adult dogs will show far more patience with a dog this age that is trying to learn than they will with an older dog. Every chance your dog can interact with others will be a new lesson or a reinforcement of an old lesson. This is very important to remember and encourage.
This is the prime time for dogs to be spayed or neutered. Having these procedures done now will actually have a wonderful effect on your dog. The other dogs will show increased aggression towards dogs that are non-fixed. This can actually teach the unfixed dog that an aggressive stance is the proper one to take with other dogs, leading to a dog that is unfriendly. There are also studies that show that dogs that have been fixed have lower cancer rates. Finally, if you have never been through a dog in heat, it is a miserable, messy, loud period of time that has absolutely nothing good to add to your life. Having to place a feminine napkin on a dog is an experience that no one will enjoy.
At this stage, the dog takes the critical goals from Passive Exploration and Active Exploration and places them together. The dog is going to try to find out his place in the world and how much effect he can have on it. The primary way of being able to do this is by assert himself against the environment. This will be usually accomplished by working contrary to others; in short, saying “No” to the parents and other dogs. If you want to go north, the dog may choose to go east or not at all. This is a way of testing you. If you want to leash him up in the dog run, he will refuse to come over or even run away. You may find the dog up on the kitchen counter at this stage. He will basically say, “Hey, thanks for teaching me the rules of the world. I appreciate it and love you. But, let’s see if you are really serious about it.”
With the other dogs, you may see a couple of variations, depending on the psychology of the dog, but they should all revolve around increased confidence. A dog that is already firmly in the dominant category may root himself solidly there or can move into the aggressive category. Puppies that were appropriately submissive can move into a dominant classification, often in ways that will really benefit their lives. Dogs that are severely submissive or even fear based may remain there. You may find them more willing to stand up for themselves when they are placed in a position that triggers any irritation or fear. With some experience and a lot of attention to earlier stages, this personality shift should be reasonably predictable.
Making it through these teenage months can be difficult for the parents. With all the testing that needs to be done to learn the dog’s place, the primary target for the testing will be the humans. This interaction cannot be prevented or avoided if you will spend any time with the dog. Do not expect that the dog will be an angel in this period and you will not be disappointed. The only thing that you can do to help yourself in this time is to minimize the time. Firm and consistent boundaries throughout testing lead to a clear place in the world for the dog. If one person allows a behavior and another doesn’t, it is confusing for the dog to understand what is and is not OK. Because of this, the testing period will last longer if there are flexible or inconsistent boundaries.
There are two things that are important to remember, aside from boundaries. The first is that this is not a personal affront against you. This is the dog trying to learn and you are the best place for him to learn. The second is that it gets better. This is when we want to ship our puppies to Mongolia because they are so frustrating. Once they have figured this all out, they will go back to operating within the rules they understand.
There will be some changes that are distinct. These tend to happen around two years old. Some dogs will become less interested in playing with dogs that they don’t know. Some dogs will lock onto one type of play and no longer show interest in other types. Some will gain a little weight at this point, but as far as growing goes, they have been done with that for over a year. They will also be less interested in changes in routine or environment than they were as puppies. This doesn’t mean that they won’t like to go on a different route on a walk, necessarily, but they may be confused and a little resistant in some cases. They have their routine and likes and dislikes. Keep an eye on them but let them be who and what they are. They have worked hard to achieve the dog they have become; let them enjoy the fruits of their labors. If this presents any difficulties, then we can find a way to prevent or avoid that problem. They can be trained somewhat at this time, but it is far more difficult, when compared to active exploration.