Teenage rebellion is an indisputable phenomenon among humans and scientists have now found it happens in dogs, who become less obedient when they hit puberty.

Researchers from Newcastle and Nottingham universities 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 in a controlled setting.

As predicted, adolescent dogs responded less when told to sit – but only when the command was given by their carer, not a stranger.

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.

Looking at “trainability”, 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).

Conversely, the trainers reported an increase in “trainability” when adolescent.


“In humans, the conflict between parents and adolescents is proposed to function to test and potentially re-establish secure attachments,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in Biology Letters.

“A lack of secure attachments during childhood and adolescence is associated with earlier reproduction.

“In dogs, it is possible that the attachment to a carer acts as a cue of environmental quality, where the carer is the main source of survival.

“In this case, the attachment could have an evolutionary function to mediate between life-history strategies that favour roaming and early reproduction, versus continued human care and delayed reproduction.”

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.


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