E313: Julie Daniels and Sharon Carroll - "The Science & Strategy Behind Raising Adolescent Dogs"

What should you expect when that perfect puppy reaches adolescence? What's "normal" and what deserves another look and more consideration? Sharon and Julie join me to talk about all things adolescent in this episode.  


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive training methods. Today I have Julie Daniels and Sharon Carroll here with me to talk about adolescent canines, what you need to know to continue loving and living with your dog as they go through those terrible teens. Hi Julie. Hi Sharon. Welcome back to the podcast!

Sharon Carroll: Hi Melissa!

Julie Daniels: Hi.

Melissa Breua: Hi Julie.

Julie Daniles: Nice To be here.

Melissa Breau: I'm so excited to have you both. And just kinda to get us started, start us out. I'd love to have you just introduce yourselves a little bit, share a little bit about your current canine crew and what you're working on with them. Julie, you wanna start us off?

Julie Daniels: Sure. I'm Julie Daniels. I live in Deerfield, New Hampshire, very tiny little state with a very active dog population, and I live with a pack of four dogs. I have two Border Collies, the older one is 15. Don't say that out loud. He's doing well. And I have also the pleasure of living with an Australian Koolie who's three and a staffy mix, who is now 10.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Sharon?

Sharon Carroll: I'm Sharon Carroll. I'm one of the Fenzi instructors. I live in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Currently I share my life with three standard poodles and they've all just recently had birthdays in the past few weeks or month or so. So there's six year old Jericho, there's four year old Vincent and there's two year old Kane and we compete together in, I think it's five different sports at the moment. Yeah, so that's me and my dogs.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. So we're here today, to talk about adolescent stuff. So that's the topic of the day. I wanted to just maybe start us off by talking a bit about what it is, what and what kind of changes do you guys feel like are kind of typical to see at that phase of a dog's life? Sharon, you wanna?

Sharon Carroll: Yeah, Sure. So adolescence is the period between sexual maturity and social maturity. It's a tumultuous period typically for a lot of dogs. There's a lot of changes in the brain and the body during this period. And these influence the observable behaviors. So we'll often see lots of inconsistency, so good days, bad days, days when our dog can really focus and they seem to really have control of their emotions and their actions.

And then days where they seem to have absolutely no control over themselves at all. We'll often see regression of existing behaviors during adolescence. So recalls are a common one. They might be great in puppyhood and then they sort of disappear in adolescence. Things like jumping up on people, anything that requires the dog to inhibit their behaviors or to manage themselves. So they might have done really well at being trained not to, you know, to keep four feet on the floor in a greeting during puppyhood and then that might disappear temporarily during adolescence. And they'll have moments where they just can't manage themselves, they start jumping up again. Stays are another one. We often find some issues with them regressing during that period. And the reason is that during adolescence, the parts of the brain responsible for effortful sort of self-regulation.

So that's the deliberate control of behavior as opposed to just simply reacting to stimuli. Those areas that exert deliberate control of behavior, they're still undergoing maturation during adolescence. So in fact, behaviors are often more appropriate and proportionate in puppyhood than in adolescents because there's a lot of cohesion in the brain in puppyhood. So there's lots of immaturity, but it's immaturity in lots of regions.

Then we get this really disjointed period during adolescence where some areas are maturing and other areas are still in the early maturing phase. And then we get cocohesion again, sort of later on in a, in late adolescence and adulthood. So during adolescence, the areas associated with emotions, impulses, instinctive responses and aggressive responses develop ahead of the areas responsible for regulating responses and for fully considering consequences and outcomes of actions.

Plus overall, during adolescence, the brain is overly primed for action and less prime to inhibit action. So the ratio between the excitory neurons and the inhibitory neurons is out of balance compared to a mature brain. So if we look at the analogy of a car, it would be like the accelerator is highly effective and doesn't have take much of a touch to go from zero to a hundred, but the brakes are not so reliable. In some cases, sometimes we feel like the brake line has just been completely cut, our dog doesn't have any ability to inhibit their behavior. So they're really good at getting their behavior going, not so good at managing their behavior. And during adolescence the brain is very much under construction and this is what's influencing the behaviors we see.

So some… with some individual dogs, we don't like some individual dogs. We don't see a huge change in observable behaviors during adolescence and there's several reasons for that. But we'll probably discuss some of those reasons later on in our discussion. So rather than just continuing on, I'm gonna stop and let Julie jump in and give her thoughts about the questions.

Melissa Breau: All right, Julie, what you got? All right. I can work with that. I love Sharon's take on this and how she describes what the brain is going through and how, you know, under baked the dog's brain is at that age, in that age range where they're undergoing so much development. A lot is happening in the brain and a lot is happening to help the dogs make progress toward adulthood.

However, we often don't see that. And so I like to take advantage going to Sharon's point about how much I love this approach and it's how I emphasize in adolescence, motion is easier than sitting still. So the behaviors of holding back impulse control all this stuff about don't do this, don't do that tends to drive an adolescent crazy because movement is so much more natural and easy for them.

And so I'm really big on movement patterns even in puppyhood. But it's hugely important for adolescents that we don't overemphasize the "don't do this," don't do that aspect of unwanted behavior. We really can get a whole lot more done by emphasizing things. Simple things like personal play and movement patterns that help the adolescent brain calm down and feel like they know what they're doing.

Cuz so often it happens in adolescents that we think the puppy knows perfectly well what we want and knows that they're doing something wrong in capital letters and we think they know how to fix that. And that's so often not the case entirely. The dog, believe it or not, is not trying to ruin your day. The dog is just having a little bit of trouble coordinating in the brain, all the bombardment of stimuli that's coming in from the outside world. And so they themselves get a little bit confused and discombobulated. Multitasking is very, very, very difficult through adolescence. And so I like to emphasize games that gently build the ability to multitask. Something as simple as, for example, walking and chewing gum at the same time. Like cook, I call the game cookies in motion.

So it's, we're actually literally teaching or reteaching, which would be necessary. Don't think that just cuz you had it in puppyhood that you have it throughout life. Everything that happens, everything, all that careful training you've put in during puppyhood is gonna be tested in adolescence. And I think that's appropriate. And it's actually perfectly analogous to how human adolescents behave seemingly willfully disobedient.

And that's, it's not that simple at all. So if we can just gently put in little training, little games based training that helps the adolescent learn to coordinate their prefrontal cortex with their limbic system, so to speak, so that they're walking, which is limbic and they're using their prefrontal cortex to actually, for example, nibble on a meatball. Something like that is very, very helpful to introduce during adolescence by way of helping the puppy, the, the youngster cooperate and at the same time helping the youngster's brain learn to coordinate itself with the different things that are happening in their world. Such a big answer. It's so like, you know what I mean? Like it's, it's, it's a lot of information. It's a lot to think about.

Melissa Breau: Right. And I think a lot of people don't necessarily think about how many changes they can actually see during those teen months. Right. I know like lots of the time we're told when you get a new puppy, like spend the first couple weeks like getting to know your new puppy and it sounds almost like we need to do that again when we have a teenager, right? Like get to know them again, get to know where they're at. So how do you kind of continue to ensure that you're training that dog in front of you during that adolescent phase? Julie?

Julie Daniels: Yeah, I think Sharon touched on that with things are changing and the brain is not operating in the same way that it used to. So I think Sharon and I were talking earlier and it'll be a big focus in our Adolescent Minds and Manners class that we use movement and we use play.

And by play I mean personal play. Yes you can play with toys and yes you can play with your food, but it's also really important and it helps develop and maintain and strengthen the bond if you learn how your dog responds to different aspects of play and you can meet that adolescent in front of you matching so to speak, matching their energy and matching their style of play in a cooperative way.

And it sort of really helps cement that bond, which is so important. And we do tend to pay attention to that during puppyhood and we, it's very easy to forget that you actually need to be strengthening and you might say rebuilding that relationship throughout adolescence. I'll let Sharon and take it from here.

Sharon Carroll: Yeah, look, I agree. Relationship, relationship, I mean that's what to me puppyhood is about and then adolescence is about, I mean it's certainly what hopefully our lives is about are about with our dogs all the time anyway. Even throughout, but you know, observing that dog in front of us, really noticing that not just that individual dog but that individual dog is changing through adolescence. So noticing what they're like today versus what they're like tomorrow.

Really being acutely aware of where they're at at any point in time and really meeting them where they're at rather than saying, well yesterday they were able to do a 30 second stay so I'm not very happy that they're only doing 10 seconds today. It's like, sorry that dog's brain might be quite different today to what it was yesterday. So we need to be aware that we are changing all the time with that dog.

So being really observant, focusing on the relationship, forming that two-way line of communication. It's normal about us telling the dog what we want. It's about listening to what the dog's telling us as well. We have to have that two-way line of communication going. Yeah, so, so to me it's, yeah, very much just about observation, relationship building and really looking at that dog on a day-to-day basis in that training session.

Julie Daniels: Right, for sure. Completely agree. And one of the things that I think gets in our way is that very often an adolescent looks like an adult.

Sharon Carroll: Yep, Yep. Definitely.

Julie Daniels: And they are not an adult on the inside and we, we've gotta like work with that and, and take the unexpected for granted that inconsistency is the hallmark of adolescence and should be expected rather than letting it be a surprise to you. Don't be surprised. You should be surprised if your dog sails through adolescence learning…even under the best of circumstances with adults. Learning doesn't happen in a straight line. Learning is an erratic process and even more erratic during adolescence for sure.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Are there any skills maybe that you tend to like focus on during this phase with your teenagers? Anything maybe that you intentionally hold off on Sharon?

Sharon Carroll: Definitely I focus on relationship building, which we've talked about. Yes, I'll build sports skills. Yes, we're building sports skills, we're building life skills, but I'm doing that on the good days and then on the other days we're just having fun. I'm not pushing to build skills on days when you know, dog's just coping just with in their own skin, you know, they're just, they're struggling to manage themselves. It's not the day to be taking on big training sessions. I'm cautious of being too rigid in my training plans or goal setting during adolescence. I want my dog to have lots of exposure to different stimuli and experiences and different challenges. However, I'm extremely cautious of over exposure and experiencing significantly stressful events is something I'll actively guard against during adolescence.

If we can get our dog through to adulthood with a great attitude about learning and training and without having experienced excess pressure or stress, then we are in a really good position to have a healthy, happy adult dog that has a high chance of being confident and resilient and able to be highly successful. And highly successful is whether we're talking pet dog or sport dog or a working sort of career dog.

I do know from experience and from a lot of anecdotal evidence that dogs that are pushed too hard during adolescence tend to show increased avoidance behaviors as adults. They're more likely to shut down or perform active avoidance or displacement behaviors or just show signs of not wanting to participate in training or competition. So pushing dogs during adolescence in tasks that require decision making is also another thing I'm cautious of.

It tends to create a dog that lacks confidence with decision making tasks when they're an adult. So either rushing decision making or not confident enough to make a correct decision. Things like the UD scent discrimination articles as an example, or nosework type skills. So my focus during adolescence is emphasising fun, building a great relationship as we also still build those sports specific skills and life skills. So I definitely don't shy away from training during adolescence, but I do emphasize fun and I remain super flexible throughout the training sessions.

Melissa Breau: Anything you wanna add, Julie?

Julie Daniels: Yeah, I completely agree. So I think it's important in training for sports during adolescence. I think it's important to realize that the complications of things like cue discrimination, the fine points that require the dog to breed in their thinking brain are going to be a little bit more difficult on some days than others.

And some days, you know, literally impossible, the dog can't even discriminate between sit and down for example. So elements of stimulus control are much, much harder to work on when the adolescent is not having one of those days where you know the prefrontal cortex is real active sometimes. Like you just gotta go with, okay, let's just get moving, shall we? And use a movement pattern to maybe help the dog like calm themselves, soothe themselves cuz they will need help from you doing that. So don't do complex things like Sharon was saying, pick your days, the dog will be so to speak, more engaged in difficult mental tasks on some days and other days and that should be expected and it's no big deal.

I think the most important, Sharon touched on is that the most important thing you can do during adolescence is maintain the dog's secure attachment to you so that all that bonding that you did during puppyhood is designed to teach the youngster that you have got their back. And so the bit about you being a calm and steady touchstone for them in the big wide world is huge.

And it in my view is probably the most important sports foundation you can give your adolescent way more important than skills which are easily taught later, provided that the dog has that happy confidence if you lose that happy confidence. This is, Sharon was just alluding to this, if you lose that happy confidence element that will haunt you throughout the adult life of the dog and exactly when you need them to step up to the plate and do what they know how to do, they won't be able to do that if they don't have that secure attachment base with you as the navigator, you know, the leader so to speak, if, if you really want a team sport and life is a team sport with your dog if you ask me. But if you really want, for example, a sports foundation, the best foundation you can give them is that you are a reliable and safe touch stone for them in life.

Melissa Breau: So we've talked a little bit about the training aspect, right? And a little bit about the relationship building aspect. Where does management come in? I guess for an adolescent, how much does surviving adolescence with your dog kind of involve reenacting, maybe some of that management from puppyhood and how much of it, it's just like typical training, kind of what people think about? Julie, do you wanna start us off on this one?

Julie Daniels: Oh boy do I ever, I love this question because management is huge. Like I'm sure all the listeners said at once, oh boy, you better believe it. Management is important during adolescence. Yeah, it sure is, but what is, what do we actually mean by management? Management doesn't just mean how, how you can get what you want. Management is always paying attention to the emotional, the current emotional state of the young dog and arranging antecedents to allow that dog to make choices which will be agreeable to all parties. Does that make sense? So yeah, you can throw your dog in a crate, but if your adolescent is in the crate shredding and it's scraping at the bars and the crate is rocking back and forth and the dog is drooling and you know, visibly upset, like you're not really managing the emotional state of that dog, you're actually creating a heightened anxiety and a heightened state of arousal that is gonna be detrimental in the future. So good management of an adolescent involves attention to their emotional state and actually arranging environmental conditions to favor the overall emotional state that you're looking for, rather than just, you know, preventing behaviors you don't want. It's much, much more than that. Thoughtful management takes a plan, it takes some experimentation and it takes practice. And of course we all know but we don't do it. The best time to practice is not when you have an issue. The best time to practice is, well let's build this crating skill or gating skill, whatever you decide is better for you, let's build it as a fun game when company is not here. That kind of thing. So training should involve preparing for antecedent arrangement that allows for calm, mental state in your dog. Very, very important in adolescence. We start that in puppyhood, but remember it's all gonna be tested in adolescence so you better do it again.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, absolutely. Sharon, anything you add?

Sharon Carroll: Yeah, look, I agree with everything Julie said. I mean the, I mean management is, is a big component during adolescence. It's important for creating beneficial habits, but it's also important for obviously not rehearsing the undesirable behaviors that we don't want. And as Julie alluded to, effective management is my thing that I talk about all the time, not just management, effective management. So anyone who was listening to my webinar last week would know it, it's a big part, not just going, oh well I've managed the situation by removing the dog from the space. Yeah. But did you also make sure that that dog has some, some help to lower arousal? Did you also make sure the dog's now not just practicing a different undesirable behavior?

So you know, yes we've got guests over, yes, we've put the dog behind the, the safety barrier behind the baby gate. So now the dog's not jumping up all over our guests that's sort of in manages, they're not practicing jumping up on the guests, but if they're just jumping up and down screaming and, and barking and spinning in circles, then we haven't really done effective management. So I'm big on exactly what Julie said, effective management. I mean, I would add probably that ideally we don't micromanage every aspect of our dog's life through adolescence. I sometimes see this where people just go, okay, and they literally manage the whole of adolescence and the dog never gets any sort of freedom at all.

Nothing. We have to be really careful of that too because I mean sometimes, and this, this is a time when we often hear people say, oh, I dunno what everyone's carrying on about with adolescents. Like it just isn't a problem. Often we'll hear that said from a home where there's a lot of it's management heavy, there's a lot of micromanagement because one of the, the hallmarks essentially of, of adolescence is that inability to self-manage. Well if you are just doing all the managing all the time, you won't even notice that your dog doesn't have self-management skills. So we need to make sure that we are the, we are allowing them to build those self-management skills, those self-regulation skills they have to be built during adolescence. So it's not that we want to manage to the extent that they just don't get any opportunity to ever perform a behavior.

We have to be really, really aware that there's a lot of learning that actually needs to be done during adolescence. So we want to give them opportunities to, to make choices and to have freedom. We just want to make sure that we manage the situation in a way that they're choices then they can't make a bad choice. And I'm sort of putting air quotes here for everyone on the podcast.

You can't see my fingers. We, we don't want 'em to make a bad choice what we would consider to be a bad choice. So we set the situation up so that they just can't get themselves into situations that are beyond their skillset and they can't make what we would deem to be bad choices. But we still do have to allow them the opportunity to have freedom and to make choices.

We don't want to over-manage, we under manage, that's a problem cuz they're gonna rehearse behaviors we don't want, but we are over-manage and we are robbing them of that opportunity to build their own self-regulation skills.

Julie Daniels: Yeah, I love that. Let me jump off from that cuz I think that's such an important point that is often missed as you say. I think it's like super, super important that we build our skillsets that we're working on in adolescents with a dog's choice training approach. So that, that's huge In all the games that I'll be covering in this class, we will take a dog's choice TA training approach and like Sharon was saying, of course we're gonna arrange the environment so that the, the choices that are acceptable are easy for the dog to do, but, but it's not just, there's only one right answer. We'll be playing a lot of games where we're actually working on initiative empowerment, resilience, we're building important life skills and emotions that help our dog feel capable in the novelty of the big wide world. And I think it's important to remember that environmental conditions are ever changing in the big wide world.

So it's gonna be an important part of our training at home that we have very little variables so that even within the context, the familiar context of working on a skill or a behavior at home, we still are adding elements of novelty. I'm really big on that, that we tend to ritualize behaviors that we wanna see and it's much better and adolescence is the time to do it, that we expand the variable so that we're actually building a concept rather than a ritual. And the dog is able to think and able to use their brain in a cooperative way. And so that's really tricky. That's much harder than just, oh, he's trained to do this, he's trained to do that. Really, does it look the same every time?

Because then you're not gonna be able to take that into the real world. You're just gonna have to be varying the variables. So the challenge is with an adolescent especially, is to be able, and this is my job, is to help you figure this out, to be able to vary many small variables without always making things harder and harder and harder and harder.

That is so difficult to control with my clients because we think that the only way to progress is to make things harder. And that's really a mistaken viewpoint in adolescence. You actually wanna make the thing look fluent, you wanna make the variables that the dog will meet around this behavior all feel fine even though each one creates a novel situation.

If that makes sense. Yeah, yeah, I think that makes sense. Okay, so you guys have alluded to this a couple of times and so I wanna come out and talk about it often kind of by that teen phase. We've done some training with our dog, right, as they were a puppy and as they were kind of growing up. But what are kind of the skills that you try really hard to teach the dog before they hit adolescents so that you have those skills then to lean on during this teenage phase? Sharon, you wanna start us off?

Sharon Carroll: Relationship. Have I said that already today? Relationship maybe once relationship, I'm, I'm gonna try and build relationship in the puppy stage and I'm gonna carry that through the adolescent stage and hopefully well beyond that as well. But relationship, that's one of the big ones. I focus on creating a secure attachment during puppyhood. My dogs need to know that I'll protect them from situations that are not safe or beneficial for them and that they can always look to me for support or help whenever they feel they need to.

And that I will reliably respond by helping them to find the relief they are looking for at that time in that situation, they need to know that I'm a reliable and consistent person and that I can provide them with guidance at times when they're uncertain. So I need to manage myself and the environment so I can best provide that for them, provide the stability that they're looking for.

And this needs to be, the weight is right from puppyhood so that even as they start to become more independent in adolescence, they still know that I'm there if and when they need me. And from a practical perspective, during puppyhood, I'll have rehearsed lots of strategies that I may later need such as distraction techniques and management tools. And I'll start this super early, but that the, I want the cues to look familiar and I want the dog's response to be conditioned by the time I need to utilize those strategies in adolescence. And Julie alluded to that before when she, well she said straight out how important. It's that we build that skillset long before we need it. We don't wanna build the dog's ability to perform certain behaviors while the guests are there.

We want to be able to put that management in place and have them practice it and, and you know, our distraction techniques and our management tools, we want them heavily practiced before we actually put them in the situation where they're required. So obviously in puppyhood that's the time to start making those, those distraction techniques and management tools are very familiar to them.

I'll also have undertaken a lot of exposure during the early socialization phase and the juvenile phase, but my goal is neutrality, neutrality to dogs, people, other environmental stimuli. Anything I can do to not have my dogs become highly emotional will help because a dog that has limited impulse control and is experiencing intense emotions is very different to a dog that has limited impulse control due to adolescence but not experiencing the intense emotions.

So it's not as hard for them to control the behavior. So my youngest, for example, came, he's a big feelings dog now it is. So it was so important that he started to get a handle on and on neutrality and habituating to things during his puppyhood time because I needed him. He's already a dog that if he experiences intense emotions, he's not gonna be able to manage himself.

And then you've got adolescents and, and you know, there's no inhibition of, of his, you know, responses. That's a problem. So we need to have worked really hard to have things not trigger that big emotional response. And we need to have started that off during puppyhood. And even though I compete heavily with my dogs in a variety of sports, to me chipping away at those sports skills from puppyhood through adolescence and into adulthood just happens along the way. But those sports skills take a backseat to the relationship building and the life skills. And honestly, I find the sports skills are easy. Like they're the easy part and we could even just tackle those in adulthood if we wanted to. It really is the relationship building and the life skills and the self-regulation that we want to be introducing up to that point.

And like I said, the sports skills, they're just gonna happen. They're gonna happen along the way. That's, yeah, that answers the question I guess as to what, what I'm working on and what I carry through from puppyhood.

Melissa Breau: Sounds good, Julie?

Julie Daniels: Yeah, for sure. There's completely agree. There's nothing more important than secure attachment as a foundation.

In fact, I would say the loftier your goals are for sports in the future, the more important that your foundation is exactly that secure attachment. So Sharon touched on all the social stuff and we'll be working with mat work and a settled behavior and then gradually increasing the stimuli around the dog. So that's pretty predictable that we would cover that.

So what other skillsets, I think it's important in puppyhood, and this is gonna sound way too obvious, but potty, potty is a skill set. And so if I, I know lots of adult sports dogs who can't pee right before they're gonna go in the ring, just can't pee, okay? So being able to potty on leash, off leash at home, away from home, and also important and easy to teach during adolescence on cue to be able to potty on cue, there's a skillset for you and that's a really good one for us to be working on in adolescence. It's easy and fun and, and very easy to vary the variables around that in our daily life with our adolescent. So another skillset that I think is super important that we wanna start in puppyhood and then continue to develop throughout adolescence is a reinforcement skillset.

So including food and including toys. I want both. And I meet many, many adolescent dogs who can only play with toys or can only train with food. And I don't think that's necessary. It's a good time. Adolescence is a super good time if you haven't started in puppyhood to expand the dog's reinforcement skillset to include both food and toys and personal play as we've already talked about, also super important. But anyway, expand that reinforcement skillset. And the other couple of things I think is important to start during puppyhood and maintain and develop during adolescents include, I call it a restraint skillset. So that would include more than hands, although I think that's very important that your dog trusts your hands on them and don't, you know, take offense, I have, I've had more than one border collie in my time who, whose skin would crawl when you just touch the middle of the back out of context, right? So it's a surprise sensation in the entire back, the skin just crawls in response to that. They're so touch averse when they're doing something else, for example, and you can fix that.

It started in puppyhood that they trust your touch and that you have a relationship built on you being able to touch, for example, touch the top of the head. And it is, it feels like a calming influence for that youngster. I think that's like super important. I think the also very important to start during puppyhood, but we should expect that it's gonna be challenged throughout adolescence is the recall skillset.

So I start that in babyhood, we teach it in Baby Genius as Name Game and Name Game is not a recall name. Game is classical conditioning value for name, the sound of the dog's name should be a happy and automatic attraction response. And you will have to redevelop that and strengthen that throughout adolescence. So it's not just about recall, we'll be doing, we'll be starting with Name Game and very quickly developing that into a whiplash turn and developing that into a recall and then sort of upping the stimulation around it so that we keep, we maintain and we even strengthen the dog's recall during adolescence. It doesn't, it, it's very natural for it to fall apart, but if you're paying attention and working on it,

it doesn't have to fall apart. You can actually strengthen them. So those are the things that come to mind immediately as skillsets that we wanna start in puppyhood and then reteach and redevelop and maintain and strengthen during adolescence. Super important.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. So my, my next question for you both goes back a little bit in our conversation here, but I know we talked earlier just about the fact that behavior change can sometimes be significant in adolescence. So I'd love to just talk about for a minute, how much do you worry about undesired behaviors that pop up at this phase and kind of intentionally create training plans to like work on those things, right? Versus like what, if anything, would you just expect to maybe revert back to the way the puppy was as a puppy versus whatever you're seeing in adolescence, you know, as the dog continues to grow up a little bit, mature, a little bit, kind of grow into themselves. Does that make sense, Julie?

Julie Daniels: Yeah, sure, it absolutely makes sense. So I think that's actually a really good topic for discussion because Sharon and I were actually talking about various aspects that we wanted to make sure to include in the class and how to smoothly transition from her work to my work in order to get all these good games in.

So we'll be teaching things like start button behaviors and how to use, for example, a mat, a station, how to generalize mat work to stationing and then allow stationing to become a start button, so to speak, a choice and consent tool that the dog learns to use to get what he wants in the environment. So for example, it's real common for adolescent dogs to have very poor manners around food and if instead imagine that.

So if instead the adolescent is taught that all, all you have to do is offer, I'm not gonna tell you to do it, but I have placed this comfy bolster dog bed near my chair and if instead of trying to be in my lap while I'm meeting you just mosey over to that station, you know, a piece of chicken is gonna hit the mat, that would be my thing. So you're actually, without having a conversation, without telling the dog what to do, you're showing your adolescent that, that they do have personal power and they can use tools in the environment to be noticed to get the attention that they want to get things that they value. So that kind of thing I think is super important in adolescence and that's the time to develop that sort of cooperative choice making.

There's a lot more that can be said about that, but yeah, I'm all on board and we will be covering start buttons. We will be covering using stations for example, as tools by the dog's own choice without directives from the person. Like Sharon was talking earlier about how people tend to either under manage or over-manage adolescence and this is how we get to that happy medium where the dog learns to make choices that are actually cooperative choices.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Sharon?

Sharon Carroll: Can you refresh me on the question please?

Melissa Breau: Yeah, yeah. I was just deep in thought about all these things that Jill was saying and now I've actually forgotten the question. Yeah, no worries. So we were talking earlier, but just about how significant behavior change can be in adolescence and I was curious, I, you know, how much you kind of worry about undesired behaviors that pop up in this phase and then kind of intentionally create a plan to like work on those things versus like just expecting as the dog matures that some of those things will be less of an issue. Does that make sense?

Sharon Carroll: Yeah, yeah, sure. Okay. Okay. So look, we can expect some regression, and I think I talked about that earlier is there's certain things especially that we can expect to see some regression and providing, we don't inadvertently create issues by fixating on fixing behaviors that aren't truly broken. They're mostly the behaviors will actually become reliable again in later adolescence and adulthood. And these are gonna include things like anything that requires significant impulse control. So working in distracting environments, resisting just reacting to stimuli. If we're seeing behaviors occur because of those things, then it's because of the adolescent phase. And, and as they mature and as the brain matures, you will see them revert back to having good control in those sort of situations. Same with anything that requires prolonged focus. Adolescents experience mental fatigue faster than adult dogs and they find it challenging to sustain focus.

So again, you, you are going to find that maybe you'll get some regression in that ability for prolonged focus during adolescence and then even if just kind of left alone, those things will reappear and be reliable and solid again in adulthood. And that's, you know, we are gonna see things like in, in puppyhood the focus is on the handler, it's, it's the handler over the environment, whereas in adolescents we get a shift to the environment. That's that's what's meant to happen. They're meant to go from being quite handler focused to suddenly they realize the environment is very, very stimulating and so they lose some of the handler focus and then in adulthood the, the focus will shift back to the handler providing we've been successful at maintaining that great relationship and providing we've not applied too much pressure, so we will get some of this return to the sort of thing we want even without doing anything. So we can ignore a lot of the inconsistencies and errors that occur during adolescents because we understand why they're happening. But I think sometimes people misinterpret the word ignore. So we don't ignore the dog, we ignore the behavior. Now that's a big one because a lot of people will just say, oh, ignore that, meaning ignore the behavior and they're just like, ignore the dog and now you've got an emotional dog that's becoming more emotional because they're also getting ignored by the handler and their arousal's going up and there's more emotionality. And so it's like, ignore the behavior, you know, maybe do something, some distraction, whatever we need to revert to change the behavior to something more desirable.

But don't ignore the dog, ignore the behavior. Also might mean don't attempt to actively train an alternative, but we, we'd still use management, it doesn't mean ignore the behavior and just let the behavior keep going. We might want to use some management at that time rather than really targeting the behavior. So we definitely don't want to just ignore undesirable behaviors during adolescents because then we will be allowing rehearsal of these behaviors and then we're gonna create non-beneficial habits.

But we may choose management rather than training. In some cases during adolescence, we might be able to ignore some simple inconsistencies and and errors. And in fact in some cases adolescence, it isn't the time to tackle substantial behavior modifying training purely because of the lack of maturity in the brain. So anyone who's worked with a behavior consultant or behavior vet and they've suggested essentially using a lot of management and, and just helping the dog as best as possible until we get towards the end of adolescence and them putting a big behavior modification program in place. That's why it's to allow the brain to mature first before we get in and tackle it with a big behavior modification training program.

Melissa Breau: I've got a question in here just because I personally find it kinda interesting and I think that often people kind of worry about whether or not they're doing it right, right? So if you each kind of think back to your most recent teenager, what does maybe a day in the life kind of look like for that dog? What's typical? And people worry they're doing too much or they're not doing enough or, you know, they have all these anxieties about their life with their next potential support partners. So I just kinda wanna hear how you each approach that, Sharon?

Sharon Carroll: Sure. Well, my youngest dog is still in the adolescent phase. And in fact, soon as I have a two-year-old, four-year-old, six-year-old, and I've had them all since our puppies, you can work out that I've actually had an adolescent dog for the last, or at least one adolescent dog in the home for the last five and a half years.

So they've been very different though they have been very different because my youngest is, and has intense emotions about things. My middle dog didn't have that sort of thing. So even though they both went through a phase where in their brain they would've been lacking impulse control, it's not as noticeable when the, the big emotions aren't there. And so they were both quite different.

But this younger one, he, he's wild, he experiences a world with lots of big feelings and lots of big behaviors to go with it. There's lots of inconsistency. There's days when I go, wow, we are maturing and everything's going so well. And like, look at him focusing and working really well in a really distracting place and then the next day I go, okay, well he doesn't even have a clue what I'm talking about today. And he has no ability to do anything that I'm asking for. So there's lots of that as he's maturing and, and working his way through, obviously we're starting to see more good days than bad as we are progressing through. I think that in this podcast I've probably sounded like I'm just casually not planning his sporting future and that I'm like blissfully toasting through adolescents without any real goals for him, but that would be inaccurate. I'm personally like a very driven person and I'm a very competitive person by nature. So not rushing does not come naturally to me, even though I might sound like I'm like, let's just take our time with the adolescent dog. It doesn't come naturally to me at all that, however, with each successive dog, I am getting better and, and I'm starting to see the long-term benefits and that's what's making me get better. I personally have previously pushed adolescent dogs either because I had personal goals in some cases years ago or because there was a time years ago when I thought it was important to get the sports behaviors trained and to get the dog out trialing early so they would just get used to the whole competition experience.

But experience and more knowledge has taught me to stop myself and to recognize that these are baby dogs in adult shape bodies and we just have to be acutely aware of that every time we look at them. On the good days, I train sports specific behaviors on the good days we go out to practice being relaxed out in the world. Then on the other days when he is finding it really challenging to manage his emotions and behaviors, I reduce my expectations a lot. And I'm saying a lot in giant capitals, a lot like the, the, the reducing expectations is really, really important. Otherwise you will become frustrated, you will become disappointed. So I think for us humans, I think enjoying our dog's adolescence phase has a lot to do with having very realistic expectations. Julie, what about you?

Julie Daniels: Day in the life of kinda? Perfect, that's, yeah, she kind of drove all the points home. I agree with everything you said Sharon. So it happens to me in my household that we have a mixed, a mixed pack. In other words, I didn't, I've, I've been with all these dogs for quite a few years now, but some are my housemates and some are mine, right? So we have a blended family you might say. And so it's always tricky like, is tonight a good night for everybody to hang out together in the living room? Or is tonight maybe not the night where we need to hang out so we'll just make decisions. And it's pretty casual in the moment, but we're always sensitive to how the interplays are going. Remember I have a 15 year old, like him, he doesn't deserve to be knocked around, right? Because two others are playing and they're oblivious to him. And so we're always, always looking at what, what the day calls for, what the circumstances call for in terms of, you know, physical management of the activity levels. I have a general rule, and we haven't kind of touched on this, but this is a perfect thing to consider for yourself during adolescence. And it might depend on any number of things, so I'm not judging, but I'm just asking the question, how much roughhousing do you want to have happen in your house?

So what I've decided for our blended family is next to none. So we don't, and so therefore the dogs during adolescence really work out a play style, an interactive style that is relatively polite and benign. So it, it, it, it has happened, it has developed organically for example, that if the 10 year old wants to play with the three-year-old and he does, the 10 year old will come over close to where the three-year-old is sacked out, roll over on his back underneath her and start the gaping open mouth. You know, I'm so gonna kill you without making a sound and without any roughness because rough play is interrupted gently but firmly and you know, no running in the halls. And, and of course having a female Border Collie who's just out of adolescence herself, she's perfectly happy to be the fun police like, hey, no running in the halls, right? So, so I have, if I don't want Kool-Aid to take over and tell them not to play, then they have to develop a style of play which feels cooperative in our household. And the dogs will do that and they will do it during adolescence.

They'll figure out how much is allowed, what kinds of things are allowed before they're interrupted. And so it's, it's developed organically that two of my dogs who wanna play have the cutest, quietest, most polite and self restrained and it is self restrained. They were not taught by me to do this. They just were interrupted if they were too rough, cuz I didn't, I don't want the running in the halls. And so you know, you, these are parameters, they're not really limits, but they're parameters that you develop for yourself in your own household. If there are certain active games that you like to play, but only with you, not with the dogs, without you, then you start setting those up in adolescence and think about how to, how to cue the, the availability of those games if that makes sense. That this means game on for nosework, this means game on for a puzzle toy or this means game on for tag around the house. You know, some people have the, the houses that can go around the circle. I used to live in a house where the dogs could go around and around, okay, do you want that or do you not want that? Well if you have little, maybe you want the two of them to chase each other around in a circle. It's very fun. I was doing board and train with two very small dogs for a while and it took me a while to realize that when those dogs went outdoors for their walks and their plays and their adventures, they were very, they were relatively subdued. In other words, they were calm and happy and sniffing and all the good things that we like to see outside, but they didn't play together outside. And then the instant they came inside, woo, they, the leashes came off and the dogs were just like nuts tearing around the house. Well I decided, okay, that's clearly that's how they do it at home and so that's fine here. And the rest of my dogs would be like, you know, you can't, you can't just be running in the halls you guys. And so they had to be managed to allow this to happen with those two dogs. So it's very personal, it's very individual, it's whatever you want it to be, but make a plan. You need to decide how you want it to be in your household. And adolescence is the time to be, you know, shaping behaviors and guiding behaviors toward the sort of home environment that you wanna live in for the rest of your dog's life. That's kind of been, you know, a very important factor for me with my adolescence.

There's a whole lot more I can say and a whole lot more things that sort of come up as issues that should be looked at. But that's the general gist of it is decide what you want daily life to look like and and guide that sort of interaction. We tend to use in this household we tend to use gates. We don't very often crate dogs,

but we do gate so that a couple are on this side and a couple are on that side and since there were two of us humans, you know, everybody's got a people so it's not, it's not a fomo situation but, but our dogs learn to engage in certain behaviors in order to show that they would like to join the other party so to speak.

I, it's hard to describe that but stationing is a big one around here for a dog to like go to a station near a gate and you know, the most beautiful and attentive sit you ever saw with the calmest sort of expression on the face actually means may I please come to the other side of the gate? And, and of course they may because a calm a dog who has their emotions under control.

Like Sharon was talking about, if, if we can keep the emotions calm then behaviors emerge, which are very cooperative and there's no reason not to, to give privilege. So dogs earning, you know, these are environmental reinforcers. It's not about food, it's not about toys, it's about privilege and access and adolescent dogs. That's a good timeframe in which to start teaching the dog.

How to earn access through calm and polite behavior. So that's a big one in my house cuz we, if we were to leave it to its own devices, we would not have calm and polite behavior much at all. So instead it's trained.

Melissa Breau: Fair enough. So before we go, I just wanted to kind of talk about the class a little bit. So do you each wanna just share a little bit on what you are talking about during the class that you're co-teaching in June? And maybe a little on who might wanna take it? Julie, you wanna start us off on this one?

Julie Daniels: Well I always think everybody should take my classes so everybody should take it. But with with Puppyhood you're getting ready for what's coming next and with adult dogs I always believe that, let's say you've adopted an adult dog that you don't know very well, it's perfect to start at the beginning. In fact, I think many things you, you can't skip steps just cuz your dog is older. So beginning at the beginning is the way to go anyway. And much of this adolescent class will be developing skills that maybe you'll wanna teach to an older dog, just cuz they're not adolescent doesn't mean you can skip the steps. So it's perfectly fine to take this class with an older dog, but I think Sharon and I decided on the gold spots would be Sharon, correct me like between six months and 18 months did we say for the gold? I think it's spots only, I think it's six months and two years for the gold spots.

Two years. Okay. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's six months and two years, which is sort of, yeah common bracket for you know, if we wanna put, we'll be a label on it. Yeah, right. And we'll be taking 12 gold spots so we should have a nice smattering of examples for people to be looking at. And part of Sharon she'll say more about this, but part of Sharon's work will be sort of handler's choice amongst those goal students who have specific issues that everybody will want to follow. It's always fascinating to follow the journey of an adolescent dog because even though that's not exactly your dog there absolutely gonna have some of the same issues that your dog has. So it's, there's a whole lot of generalization that goes on from the gold students.

I think that's really useful when you do handler's choice like Sharon's gonna do. And in my case I've got a list of games a mile long. My approach is games-based and as I said earlier, I take a dog's choice teaching approach to the dog's view of a lesson. So I'm not, I'm not as much in adolescence about telling the dog what to do.

I am not a micromanager. I really try to develop the dog's cooperative choice making a skillset. So it's a very wide ranging and hopefully useful set of games that we'll be incorporating. And I think following along at any level with the games, I'll be teaching them in a certain order and releasing lectures just about every day. I just like to do it that way.

Each lecture is short and to the point and contains video examples of what I'm trying to talk about. And then I'll be guiding through individual differences and variations from that standard. So I don't think there will be a single game that I'll choose to cover that you won't want to either review cuz you've already taught it or think about a little bit differently cuz you know the game, but you've never seen it taught this way and why am I doing things this way? So there'll be a lot of discussions about what I'm doing and why I'm really big on knowing what you're doing and why and so then you get the most out of it for your own adolescent.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Sharon, you wanna talk a little bit about it? Sure, yeah.

Sharon Carroll: So I'm doing the introduction week, so I'm doing week one and then Julie's doing week two and three, then I come back for week four and five and then Julie's doing week six. Julie's doing lots and lots of games and all the practical skills and the fun stuff and skill building for empowerment and resilience, all sorts of different games and, and activities.

I'm doing a lot of theory, there's, it's mine's sort of theory heavy and so during my weeks we'll be covering all sorts of topics. So right from, you know, the adolescent brain and motivation and competing motivators and looking at reactivity, looking at behavior around unfamiliar people during adolescence, behavior around other dogs, during adolescence fear responses, a transient fear that might occur or if we see a progression to more fear responses.

We're looking at aggression and aggressive responses. We are talking about self-management versus handler management. The role of habituation effective management. I'm just glancing through the list here. Look, there's, I think there's about 24 or 25 theory topics, exercise and enrichment, the influence of sex hormones. So we're covering basically everything to do with adolescents, any, everything basically anyone could think of theory wise to do with adolescents.

And that's my role is to present lots and lots of theory. Now on my practical, as far as the practical goes, as Julie said, I'm doing a handler choice. So I'm going to essentially put, you know, six to eight common issues because obviously it's no use someone having a very, very specific thing that I think not many other people will really get enough benefit out of.

So I'm certainly open to talking about things that are not on the list, but, but you know, they've got to be something that we think is going to be a, you know, achievable, something's gonna be achieved in the three weeks that I'll, that I'll be working with people, but also that it's going to be of interest to people that are following along.

Although for me, I find all behavior interesting, but hopefully it's gonna be a behavior that's, that most people can relate to during adolescence. So my week one introduction theory wise, and then introducing the behavior mod topic with that person discussing about discussing with that gold student, about their specific dog and working on exactly, starting working on some foundations of what we want to do.

Jumping over to Julie doing week two and week three with lots of games for everybody and some theory to go with that, obviously, so people understand why. And then coming back to me for week four and five to really keep working on the behavior modification we've worked on and to introduce a lot more theory topics. And then back to Julie to round off so that Julie can revisit all the skills that people have been working on from her week two and three. And also to add in some new games and new skills for people in that week six.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. All right. So I'd just like to end off with kind of giving everybody a chance, share any final thoughts or any kind of things you wanna leave listeners with on adolescents. Sharon, you wanna…

Sharon Carroll: This is that, that summary thing where you like it done in one sentence or something, and I'm not very good at one sentence answers, but I'm gonna really try again. So be flexible. Be flexible in your day-to-day training. Be flexible with your bigger training goals. Make allowances for the inconsistencies, and enjoy your adolescent dog. It's not all doom and gloom, it's not all hard work, it's not all challenges. There's so much fun in our adolescent dog, so enjoy them. You know, enjoy your adolescent dog and enjoy their journey through to adulthood.

Melissa Breau: Julie?

Julie Daniels: Yeah, perfect that. The ability to play with and enjoy your adolescent dog, I think is just absolutely the glue that holds it all together. And sometimes just laughing is the best answer to a situation or, you know, oh, well, you know, that didn't work. That'll happen. So, yeah, flexible is a perfect word for it. You just wanna be open to who your dog is on any given day and you wanna be able to learn more and more about the dog as, as you go forward, the things that come up in adolescence, the, the kinds of inconsistencies and the kinds of difficulties that your dog has as they develop their brains and bodies tells you a lot about who they are as an individual.

And so it would help you to be mindful of that, those personality traits, even as they get older. But yeah, I don't think that those problems are forever. Don't think that perfect behavior is forever and above all. Don't assume that problems can't be solved. The important thing to keep at the very top of your mind would be, don't cause a long-term problem out of something that, you know, is probably going to be a short term problem on its own. We can create, for example, issues of biting and jumping up on people. You can actually create a lifelong problem of that if you give it too much attention. And whereas, you know, you'd be better off just offering the dog a toy to bite while you snap the leash on himself and you just, you know, use management and don't have to deal with it, don't have to frustrate all parties and it goes away all by itself. So I, I think the sense of humor, the sense of play, the sense of relationship being more important than anything else, secure attachment, and you being calm yourself just will go a long way to see you through adolescence as a fun time in your dog's life.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. All right. I feel like that's a good note for us to kind of end on here. Thank you both so much for coming on the podcast.

Julie Daniels: That's been great. Thank you, Melissa.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, and thanks to all of our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week with Dr. Amy Cook to talk about sound sensitivity and maybe a little bit about management for Reactive Dogs.

If you haven't already, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to our next episode. Automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast, music provided royalty free by ben sounds.com. The track featured here is called Buddy Audio Editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in. Happy training.


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

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