A new study has demonstrated that like humans, dogs also experience a form of teenage rebellion, becoming less obedient when going through puberty. During this period dogs are less likely to follow their caretakers’ instructions, though they will listen and follow what a stranger tells them to do.
In a controlled setting, scientists observed and scored responses by Golden Retriever and Labrador breeds and cross breeds to an established command given by their primary carer and a stranger.
Among the experiments the team looked at how obedient dogs of both sexes were to commands such as “sit” at different ages.
The researchers collected data on a larger cohort of canines, adding German Shepherds to the mix, and found carers assigned lower scores to dogs around adolescence (eight months), than pre-adolescence (five months) and post-adolescence (12 months).
The results from 82 dogs aged five months, and 80 dogs aged eight months revealed that adolescents were less obedient than young pups to commands from their carers.
Adolescent dogs responded less when told to sit – but only when the command was given by their carer, not a stranger. In fact, the researchers found that dogs are nearly twice as likely to ignore the ‘sit’ command from their caregivers when they are eight months as compared to when they are five months. The reduction in obedience to the carer was more pronounced in dogs with a less secure attachment to their owner. For female dogs, an insecure relationship saw them hit puberty early, which has also been observed in humans.
Implications for Dogs Surrendered to Shelters
The researchers found that for most dogs, adolescent naughtiness was a passing phase, but the consequences could be lasting as many were rehomed to shelters around that age. Animal welfare professionals should consider including communicating the findings about adolescent acting out in dogs being a temporary phase to all humans adopting puppies and younger dogs.
Journal Reference: Biology Letters