Advertisement

Turns Out Dogs Also Go Through A 'Rebellious Teenager' Phase

While it's no secret humans turn rebellious in their teenage years, a new study reckons our four-legged companions also go through a similar phase -- and yes, it means they become less obedient.

The research from the Newcastle and Nottingham universities in the UK has found that as dogs hit puberty, they are likely to become more rebellious and listen more to strangers, rather than their carers.

The study, which observed the behaviours of would-be guide dogs including German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers, also found that insecure relationship with their carers saw female dogs hit puberty early -- which, according to researchers, is a phenomenon also observed in humans.

But it's when the dogs' adolescence begins-- usually around eight months of age-- that signs of very human-like teenage rebellion also start to emerge.

Coronavirus

READ MORE

You Can Now Video Call A Vet From Your Couch

Aussie pet owners who can't travel to a vet clinic during the coronavirus pandemic can now receive expert advice via a video call from their home, despite vet clinics remaining open as "essential services".

Using the well-known command of "sit", researchers found that dogs in the adolescent stage of life were less likely to respond to it, but only when the command was given by their carer, not a stranger.

The study found the "odds of repeatedly not responding to the 'sit' command were higher at eight months compared with five months (pre-adolescence) for the carer".

"However, the response to the ‘sit’ command improved for the stranger between the five and eight-month tests," the authors wrote in the study published in 'Biology Letters' on Wednesday.

The study found dogs were less obedient to their owner during adolescence. Image: Getty

Less obedience to their carers and more "conflict behaviour" was also more pronounced where dogs had less attachment to their owners.

"Our results find an association between earlier puberty and an insecure attachment to a human carer," the authors wrote.

"This replicates correlational findings from human adolescents who enter puberty earlier if they do not have strong attachments to parental figures."

It also found dogs displaying behaviour that indicated they were stressed by separation from their main carer were also increasingly disobedient towards that same person.

"This finding emulates human research, where increases in conflict with parents during adolescence have been associated with insecure attachments," the study found.

The Project

READ MORE

How Will Your Pets Fare Once Coronavirus Restrictions Are Lifted?

The COVID-19 lock-downs have meant more quality time with pets, but what happens when the restrictions are lifted?

The authors also suggest that when dogs hit puberty, "competing motivations" begin to emerge -- between wanting to breed with a mate and wanting to live in the care of humans.

"Together this means adolescence could be a vulnerable time for owner-dog relationships," they said.

While it's believed the adolescent stage of a dog's development is only temporary, and much like with teenagers, the rebellion won't last, there's concern for ongoing impacts on the animal's welfare.

According to the researchers, adolescent-phase behaviour in dogs corresponds with the peak age that dogs are abandoned by their carers and left at shelters.

Nevertheless, the authors hope the similarities between humans and dogs in the adolescent phase of life could provide a new model to study puberty in humans.

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au