Nav: Home

Adolescence is ruff for dogs too

May 12, 2020

New research led by scientists from Newcastle University and the University of Nottingham has shown that typical teenage behaviour doesn't just occur in young humans - it happens in dogs too.

The study, headed by Dr Lucy Asher from Newcastle University, is the first to find evidence of adolescent behaviour in dogs.

The researchers found dogs were more likely to ignore commands given by their caregiver and were harder to train at the age of eight months, when they are going through puberty. This behaviour was more pronounced in dogs which had an insecure attachment to their owner.

But Dr Asher, a Senior Lecturer in Precision Animal Science, in the University's School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, warns adolescence can be a vulnerable time for dogs as many are taken to shelters for rehoming at this age.

"This is a very important time in a dog's life," she explains. "This is when dogs are often rehomed because they are no longer a cute little puppy and suddenly, their owners find they are more challenging and they can no longer control them or train them. But as with human teenage children, owners need to be aware that their dog is going through a phase and it will pass."

The team, which also included researchers from the University of Edinburgh, looked at a group of 69 dogs to investigate behaviour in adolescence. They monitored obedience in the Labradors, Golden Retrievers and cross breeds of the two, at the ages of five months - before adolescence - and eight months- during adolescence.

Dogs took longer to respond to the 'sit' command during adolescence, but only when the command was given by their caregiver, not a stranger. The odds of repeatedly not responding to the sit command from the caregiver were higher at eight months compared to five months. However, the response to the 'sit' command improved for a stranger between the five and eight month tests.

Further evidence was found when the team looked a larger group of 285 Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds and cross breeds of them. Owners and a trainer less familiar with each dog filled in a questionnaire looking at 'trainability'. It asked them to rate statements such as: 'Refuses to obey commands, which in the past it was proven it has learned' and 'Responds immediately to the recall command when off lead'

Caregivers gave lower scores of 'trainability' to dogs around adolescence, compared to when they were aged five months or 12 months. However, again trainers reported an increase in a trainability between the ages of five and eight months.

The experts also found that in common with humans, female dogs with insecure attachments to their caregivers (characterised by higher levels of attention seeking and anxiety when separated from them) were more likely to reach puberty early. This data provides the first evidence of cross-species impact of relationship quality on reproductive timing, highlighting another parallel with parent-child relationships.

Dr Naomi Harvey, co-author of the research from the University of Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science and the charity Dog's Trust, says that whilst the results of this study may not come as a surprise to many dog owners, it has important consequences.

"Many dog owners and professionals have long known or suspected that dog behaviour can become more difficult when they go through puberty" says Dr Harvey. "But until now there has been no empirical record of this. Our results show that the behaviour changes seen in dogs closely parallel that of parent-child relationships, as dog-owner conflict is specific to the dog's primary caregiver and just as with human teenagers, this is a passing phase."

"It's very important that owners don't punish their dogs for disobedience or start to pull away from them emotionally at this time" added Dr Asher. "This would be likely to make any problem behaviour worse, as it does in human teens".
-end-


Newcastle University

Related Puberty Articles:

Risk of self-harm increases for boys and girls who experience earlier puberty
Boys and girls who experience puberty earlier than their peers have an increased risk of self-harm in adolescence, a study funded by the National Institute for Health Research Bristol Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR Bristol BRC) and published in the journal Epidemiology & Psychiatric Sciences today [Tuesday 6 October] has found.
Study suggests men more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if they go through puberty early
Boys who enter puberty at an early age are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as adults than later developing boys, irrespective of their weight in childhood, according to an observational study following more than 30,600 Swedish men born between 1945 and 1961, published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes).
Differences in airway size develop during puberty, new study finds
Sex differences in airway size are not innate, but likely develop because of hormonal changes around puberty, reports a new study by the University of Waterloo.
First genomic study of puberty yields insights into development and cancer
In the first-ever genome-scale analysis of the puberty process in humans, researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah (U of U) outline distinct and critical changes to stem cells in males during adolescence.
Scientists identify new puberty-promoting genes
A team of neuroscientists led by Professor Christiana Ruhrberg (UCL, UK) and Professor Anna Cariboni (University of Milan, Italy) have found two molecules that work together to help set up the sense of smell and pave the way to puberty in mice.
Father's obesity in puberty doubles the risk of asthma in his future offspring
A Norwegian study shows that boys who are obese in pre-puberty have an over two times higher risk of having children with asthma than those who are not.
Research shows puberty changes the brains of boys and girls differently
Scientists have found that brain networks develop differently in males and females at puberty, with boys showing an increase in connectivity in certain brain areas, and girls showing a decrease in connectivity as puberty progresses.
Bone strength could be linked to when you reached puberty
A new study from the University of Bristol has linked bone strength to the timing of puberty.
Study illustrates gaps in knowledge and lack of support for girls during puberty
A study examined girls' transitions through puberty in Madagascar and ways in which menstruation influences their educational experiences and future sexual and reproductive health.
Obesity speeds up the start of puberty in boys, study finds
Girls are not the only ones who go through puberty early if they have obesity.
More Puberty News and Puberty Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.