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Adolescent Gundog-breed Training

(Inc. mixed breeds)


One of the most common struggles that dog owners mention in social media platforms is the trouble that seems to start suddenly with a young dog and distractions - listening, a once perfected recall going to pot, the new independence the dog has found, all at around the onset of adolescence...


Undoubtedly, the dog has had too much freedom too soon, not always damaging, if there are rules, control, boundaries and structure applied, but that's not often the case.


.. 'Stable door and horse already bolted' comes to mind - so how can it be rectified? or are you in time to learn how to prevent some of the damage from occurring?

Many responses suggest "find yourself a gundog trainer - they understand the breeds"

So that's no doubt why you are here.


Come along and join us for private Adolescent Gundog breeds Training Sessions..

What is involved?


A session that establishes how to retrain lost skills (or place the skills beforehand) and how to use different training in various environments to the benefit of the dog.


A session focussing on distractions,

Much of today's companion-dog training asks the dog to choose between you and the environment when he's distracted .. we can show you how you can become part of his environment, because if you make him choose a dog with blood lines and genetics that are all about vigilance to the environment.. you will lose.


Addressing whether your dog struggles with the reinforcement of his skills when distracted or if he struggles to disengage when aroused.

How life at home and indoor training can reinforce your relationship, strengthening the outdoor behaviours.


Adolescence can start at around 6 months and usually comes to an end by 18mths.

Take as many or as few sessions as you need .. allow anything from 1 to 2 hours.


Held in Law Village, Carluke



Special Offer 



As with everything, there are always exceptions to the rules.. and your dog leaving puppyhood behind as he moves along the road to maturity can go barely unnoticed or it can be a trying time.

It's a fantastic time for training ..motivate an adolescent and they'll give you 100% and more.. (unfortunately the environment around you is also incredibly motivational)


You may notice the

- Increase in independence,

- The decrease in responsiveness - especially to previous training,

- Increased impulsivity

- & Increases in energy levels

- There may be a worsening of existing patterns (Destruction, reactivity, fear based behaviours, excessive barking, compulsive/obsessive behaviours etc)

The brain structure is continuing to develop and change during adolescence.

New neural pathways are made, and others become dormant, even ones used regularly.

He may become more reactive, due to a few reasons, one of which being the inhibitory neurons of the amygdala, which don’t fully mature until the end of adolescence, (it's these that help to dampen down emotional responses)


Your young adult dog may become more sensitive to things, and be more pessimistic or cautious - this is because the extinction memory is impaired during this period, (which means your dog is more likely to create fear memories due to a perceived or real negative experience)


Your training may at times feel like one step forward & two back, due to a decrease in the communication between the frontal cortex and amygdala, (a key component for skills training)

Hormones also play a part in the development and sexual maturity of a dog. For females this may be a season and potential subsequent phantom pregnancy, split seasons.. silent seasons.. these can result in behavioural changes.

Males have the highest level of testosterone in their body than at any other time in their life and you may find your adolescent male starts to become more aggressive particularly towards other entire male dogs. 



The Adolescent Brain

(applies to all breeds)

(Why training adolescents is so frustrating and behaviour modification will be slow or not work as expected)


The adolescent dog brain changes at around 6 months of age, the dog pushes limits, the dog becomes defiant, stubborn, reactive and unpredictable - they simply don't care about consequences - good or bad, having fun in the moment outweighs any consequences & taking risks adds to the fun factor.


It's easy to blame an incident that happened or a previous home, or upbringing, the dogs genetics etc. for his anxiety and reactivity increases.. (Some of which may certainly factor into the dogs responses, but changes would still occur without any of those too) 


Survival depends upon a dog learning the consequences to his actions, how to navigate dangers & learning the skills of his trade ..if he's always set up to succeed ..he simply won't learn enough, learning from mistakes (while always kept safe) is beneficial to the adolescent dog.


Adolescent changes that occur in the still developing brain - the neuro-genesis, lead to the inability to cope ..sending a message of threat to the hippocampus which gets the message that it's important to be hyper-aware of danger ..and thus triggers the amygdala which reacts to the threat, yet the dog has no skills formed to manage stress - the reaction is overriding the ability to manage stress factors.


Inhibitory neurons (which allow for thinking before reacting, or as I will have said to many of you - "brains before speed - instead of speed before brains") develop at 2-3 years of age in dogs.


And this is why your adolescent dogs' reactivity doesn't respond well to Counter Conditioning methods ..and why such techniques take so long  ..Counter Conditioning despite being a splendid way of changing perception ad subsequence responses, is a lot less successful and can be pretty inefficient in adolescents compare to adult dogs.

Counter Conditioning uses positive reinforcement to associate a pleasant consequence/object/treat associated with the presence of the threat.. used along with desensitisation ..the repetition of this at the same time as changing the boundaries of the threat (to generalise)

...the hippocampus must find this information important enough to both store it and send it to the amygdala & it doesn't - so your adolescent may be ok with one thing through using CC/DS but will not generalise it to the same thing another time or in another situation ..the rewards are overuled... (and you will report back thatit only works sometimes)


Using Impulse Control to combat reactivity or anxiety with an adolescent works ok in a controlled situation but is less effective in highly stimulating situations ..the dog simply doesn't care about risks involved with doing the wrong behaviour.


Using enrichment doesn't change perception ..but it does create bonds and can aid in decision making.


Exciteable neurons don't care about reinforcement or being distracted in the short term .. long term, however, we can harness skills that the breed of dog is destined to play out instinctively.. now that's the fun factor that will capture his interest.

Exercise (combined with engaging in breed related skills) will provide new neurons that will equate to new neuro-genesis..


Overall however.. the answer to modifying the anxiety or fearful based behaviour of your adolescent dog is simply by having patience as you work through the methods and/or program that your behaviour professional places ..those inhibitory neurons will develop later.. and once they do, if you have worked and been consistent, he'll go from strength to strength.



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