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By Published On: April 1st, 2022

Adolescence is challenging

It’s routinely accepted that the adolescent period of a social animal’s life is challenging. This is especially true for those who engage socially with them. Having children is like choosing to buy a cardboard boat. You know that one day the ride is bound to get difficult. 

It’s common to refer to our adolescent dogs in derogatory, albeit loving ways. I prefer knucklehead. But they are not knuckleheads. They are having to acquire new skills at a pace that will not likely be repeated again in their lives. And if it does happen, their success will be due in part to what they learned during adolescence. 

Adolescence is exciting

Living with an adolescent of any species gives us the opportunity to vicariously enjoy an array of exciting new opportunities and experiences. And to  look forward to more around the corner. The willingness to rush headlong into the unknown, in pursuit of novelty, fun, and physical challenges becomes more remarkable the further we get from being adolescents ourselves. With some luck we won’t carry too many physical scars from when we didn’t get it right. 

If you were lucky enough to have a teacher who inspired you, you know how important that was. As individuals develop, their definition of inspirational is going to change. Certain things or activities might be added to the list of what they are willing to work to get, others will fall off, or move down the list. An obsession with Thomas the Train might pass when Star Wars is discovered. One day it might return in the form of buying a ticket for the Orient Express. You never know. 

Adolescence gives us the chance to improve our training skills

When teaching anyone, anything, we need to be prepared to recognize that what looks like disobedience or stubbornness, may be a change in preferences for what is reinforcing or rewarding. We need to change what we use for positive reinforcement, how much we use, or how often we use it. When I took my dogs to a horse stable for agility classes it was common knowledge that in order to keep our dogs with us, we needed to be more interesting than horse poop. It’s wasn’t always easy. 

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