Now your puppy is an adolescent, exuberant and full of life. While he may have developed into an adult-sized dog, , he is still a puppy and thus continues to need consistent guidance. I often see people, especially with larger breed puppies, seem to forget that their puppy is still a baby because it has gotten so big. Set your expectations appropriately or you will get very frustrated. During the adolescent stage, the puppy is like a teenager – trying to figure out where do I fit in the family, and what can I get away with.
To corral his energy and curiosity, consider expanding his activities. Long walks, games of fetch or Frisbee, agility or rally are all good activities to keep your puppy’s mind and body busy.
If you haven’t taught your dog to fetch, here’s a great method I use all the time: Use 2 Kong squeaky balls or 2 of some other exact same toys that squeak. Toss one of the toys and encourage your puppy to get it. Once he has it in his mouth, encourage him to come back to you and when he gets close, start squeaking the toy in your hand and say “drop it” over and over until your pup gets excited about the toy in your hand and drops the one in his mouth. Immediately throw the one in your hand, do not try to pick up the one on the ground until your puppy is chasing the one you just threw. This teaches the puppy fetch as well as “drop it” and he learns that if he drops the toy you will throw it again so eventually you only have to use one toy.
If you are considering taking your puppy to a dog park, I always recommend trying doggie daycare first. Dog parks can be very intimidating for a puppy, as often the group of dogs already in the park will rush up to check out the new guy. At a doggie daycare, they can introduce your puppy to the other dogs slowly and your puppy will get used to playing in a group environment. You also have the assurance that the dogs there are up to date on their vaccines and generally friendly and suited for group play. Note though, most doggie daycares will not accept a puppy older than six months unless they are spayed or neutered. Most dog parks also have this rule, but it is often disregarded by people that go there.
If you do want to take your puppy to a dog park, please read our Dog Park Safety Tips
Many people make a concerted effort to socialize their puppy when they first get them – they take their puppy everywhere and introduce them to new things. That should not stop now. Your puppy needs continued exposure to the outside world, otherwise it can become scary. And dogs grow INTO behavior, not out of them, so if you see behaviors in your puppy that you don’t like or are concerned about, then, of course, you should consult a professional dog trainer for help.
Your continued efforts with socialization and training, supported by lots of affection, will ensure your once tiny puppy matures into a loyal, loving companion for many happy years ahead.