Has Your Dog Ever Had a Justin Bieber Meltdown?

Adolescent Honey has a goofy look.

You aren’t going to spill all my adolescent secrets, are you? Everyone thinks I’m so good.

Adolescence Brings Out The Worst

Although I hate celebrity gossip, I can’t avoid news about the latest Miley Cyprus scandal or Justin Bieber meltdown.

It gets me thinking about the dumb things I did around the same age. Like the time I raced my friend eight miles to a bowling alley. He drove a Pontiac Firebird and I drove a Chevy Chevette. Which means I didn’t catch sight of him again until we got into heavy traffic near the finish line.

Sure his car was faster. But he cared what happened to it. I didn’t care about mine. So when I saw him up ahead, I did a u-turn over a grassy median strip to beat him into the parking lot by seconds, winning the race. While losing my muffler and flattening two tires. And I was sober!

See? Dumb.

Adolescence brings out the worst in us. Even our dogs.

Dog Adolescence

I didn’t know Shadow, my last dog, as an adolescent. We adopted her when she was 8 or 9 years old and past teenage mischief.

Shadow was long past adolescence when we adopted her.

Shadow, long past her troublemaking adolescence.

My first dogs, Agatha and Christie, had a memorable adolescence. It included destroying a kitchen floor, eating a shelf of cookbooks, devouring two expensive couches, and drag races down the hall ending with a hard slide into the walls on my antique oriental rug.

If I weren’t such a masochist, consuming the first $60 cookbook would probably have earned them a return trip to the shelter. Luckily for them, and me, I love pain.

Honey is a puppy rebel.

I’m a puppy rebel. Now hand me another beer, woman.

Honey was most challenging pre-adolescence. She was a defiant little puppy. I’ll never forget the just-you-try-to-stop-me look in her eyes when she swallowed a pigeon as big as her head at three months old. And the repeat performance when she swallowed the squeaker out of a cheap toy she stole from her puppy play class.

But I think that squeaker saved Honey from having a full Justin Bieber adolescent meltdown.

Surviving Honey’s Adolescence

We spent a week watching Honey carefully, expecting the squeaker to reappear. It never did.

She was happy and healthy. So we assumed it must have passed through her system some time when we weren’t looking.

But three months later, Honey started getting sick. She’d experience vomiting and diarrhea and then she’d recover and be fine. This happened over and over. The vet suggested we get an x-ray. And suddenly, we found the squeaker.

Yep, she had carried it around inside her for three months. And finally it had worked its way into her intestines and gotten stuck. A short surgery later, we had the squeaker back. And Honey was on the road to recovery.

Honey shows off her stitches after her squeakyectomy.

Enjoy this pretty pink belly. ‘Cuz once my fur grows back, you’ll never see it again.

What this means, though, is that Honey spent the start of her adolescence recovering from surgery. And gaining weight. And being fussed over.

A trainer told me to expect Honey’s brain to fall out when she turned about six months. It never happened. And I can’t help but wonder if her experience with being sick short circuited her adolescence and kept her from going nuts.

Adolescent Shelter Dogs

I see lots of young dogs when I look at shelter listings. A study undertaken by a humane society in Indiana found that 54% of dogs surrendered to their shelter were younger than three years old.

The reasons dogs end up in shelters are complex and include underestimating the care a dog needs, economic reasons, and lack of proper socialization and training. But I wonder how many adolescent dogs end up rehomed because they were acting like normal adolescents and their families just couldn’t cope?

I’d be willing to bet that the Bieb’s parents would be considering dropping him off at a shelter about now if it were an option.

Honey the golden retriever winks.

I wonder how long it would take Justin Bieber to be adopted from a shelter?

Things to Remember About Adolescence

If you’re suffering through puppy (or human) adolescence, don’t forget:

  • it’s only temporary
  • it’s not you, it’s them
  • and it lasts longer than you expect

In humans, the brain doesn’t fully mature until we hit 25 years old. I haven’t yet seen research that tells us exactly when the canine brain matures. But it’s a good bet that it happens later than you think. And that a dog of 1-2 years old is probably still adolescent, even if they look like an adult.

Honey the golden retriever puppy bites the hand that feeds her.

I wonder why everyone keeps saying they wish I was a vegetarian? Well, don’t worry. I’ll be a grown up in just a few years.

So the next time you read a news story about a teenage celebrity getting in trouble, take pity on them. Like golden retrievers, at some point their brains just fall out.

And if you make it through your dog’s adolescence without him having a Justin Bieber meltdown, count yourself lucky.

Your Turn: Have you faced challenging adolescences with any of your dogs? How did their growing pains compare to your own?

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  1. Callie and Shadow were both fairly easy to handle during their adolescence. They were hyperactive, but other than digging holes all over the yard, and destroying our adolescent dogwood tree, they were good girls. We consider ourselves lucky. They stayed in the chewing-on-everything stage until they were between 5 & 6 years old, but that’s the risks you take when you get a Golden or Lab. And despite our best efforts, some of our furniture shows the results. Ducky seems to prefer cloth to furniture, though she has been leaving Callie’s bed cover alone lately. She still loves ripping her Wubbas to shreds though. And she likes Sam’s knit shirts when she is in his lap…but she stops when he tells her to. She’s napping right now, but usually she has the Nylabone barbell in her mouth.

    • So Callie and Shadow went through a 6 year adolescence, were hyper, dug holes, killed a tree, but were very easy dogs? It sounds like the eyes of love to me. :)

  2. Dear America:
    Please stop with your petition to send Bieber back. We don’t want him. You break it, you bought it.

    That aside…
    We missed most of Alma’s adolescence, but I bet she had a great one! She’s too smart for her own good and I can imagine puppy Alma keeping people on their toes. However, this is also quite possibly what landed her in the rescue system. Ah well – works out better for everyone in the end, if you ask me.

    Moses’ adolescent peak was 9-12 months, when he figured out just how big he was, and if he really didn’t want to do something, he’d just not move. Or if he really did want to do something, he’d just go for it, regardless of the human on the other end of the leash. It was kind of like his brain fell out temporarily – all the training we’d worked on so hard prior to then suddenly seemed forgotten. But we kept with it, and he eventually grew out of it.

    • Hear hear Jen!

      Kolchak’s “adolescence” lasted until he was almost 6 and then all at once, it was like his craziness turned off. One day he woke up and was like “I better change my ways”. By then I had genuinely lost hope he was ever going to grow up. It was very bittersweet. On one hand, I do love the lack of terrorizing and mischief, on the other hand, he really was quite the adorable little scamp…

      • I often wonder if the folks whose dogs drive them nuts will feel a huge loss when those dogs age and become more serene. You’re right that growing up is bittersweet.

  3. Cooper’s adolescence was (is??) eventful. Likening him to Justin Bieber is strangely appropriate. Well, we don’t call it “meltdowns” we call it “black outs.” And he totally has the adrenaline crash after where he looks at us like, “Woah. What just happened??” He’s been getting better, but I just signed him up for a Reactive Rover class, even though he isn’t dog reactive but just to work on those self-control skills in a managed environment.

    • Actually, Cooper even looks a little like the Biebs. :)

      I could see those adrenaline crashes being something to look forward to on a crazy day.

  4. Torrey just turned 3 in November, so we are thankfully out of the teenage years. Although, she wants so badly to go visit our friends next door in the morning. She will whine at the door, and eventually throw herself on the floor with a heavy sigh when I don’t let her out. Just like a teenager saying, ” You don’t love me anymore, all I want is to visit my friends!”

  5. I can’t help but think the reasons so many kids who ‘make it’ have breakdowns is because they appear to have very few rules and regulations? As far as I am aware the adults spend the child life telling them they can do what they want, reach the stars, etc then suddenly they want to control them? It’s like having a dog, you can’t have no rules for three years and then suddenly they can’t sleep on the bed, or get on the couch…

    • Maybe so. But we all know great parents who do everything right and then their kids go nuts anyway.

      Are there actually people who ban their dogs from the couch and the bed? Who would be so cruel? :)

  6. My very first dog/puppy was as a first time on my own as a VERY grown up adult (age 18). Ha!
    I was clueless to training, crates, etc. I would double gate him in the kitchen with water and toys. Learned to remove the trash can.Was only gone for short (four hours or so) length of time for school or work. Until my beloved puppy ate/clawed/chewed his way through a door.
    Petrified my landlord would find out I called my grandfather. Although he was the one most upset by my living on my own (nice girls did not leave home) he was the best. Came over and taught me how to hang a door. He never did tell my parents. He also bought me a book on dog training and a crate.

    • Sounds like you have a great grandfather. He probably really liked being able to do something for you.

      And yes, I also discovered the problems with not using crates. Boy was I stupid.

  7. I was an adolescent when Jen found me. She said my behavior led to my being named Rumpy. Personally, I don’t get it.

  8. Bailie is just starting to get to that stage…a bit defiant, destructive, just testing the waters behavior.We know it will pass, but until then we are all in for the ride.

    • And when Baillie’s behavior changes, I wonder what effect that will have on Emma. Perhaps the recent bed stealing activity is a response to Baillie growing up a bit?

  9. Oh boy, you’ve reminded me of what we have to look forward to with Luke! LOL. I don’t remember a lot about the adolescence of our current dogs, but perhaps I just blocked it out? I do remember thinking they would never grow up, however. Our golden Moses destroyed everything…..he got better but never outgrew being a kleptomaniac! We had to keep our bathroom doors closed when not home right up until he passed away.

    • Maybe raising dogs is similar to childbirth. If you remembered the worst of it, you’d never repeat it.

      Luke may be the exception who proves the rule–a dog who drifts through adolescence with no issues at all. After all, Honey was a horrible puppy but an awesome teenager.

  10. I never would have thought Honey could have done something so naughty. She is such a good girl now, one would never guess. Maya is six and still has adolescent moments when she’s excited. As a Lab, she likes to put things in her mouth. Once is was a broken glass bottle. Luckily the cut on her tongue was small. Sephi tore up all seven of my bibles when she was about 1.5. Pierson chewed up a book called Wolves of the Southwest. And he broke out of his kennel, giving himself a bloody nose and costing me big bucks.

    • I have trouble believing Honey is the same defiant puppy myself. I assume she was just possessed.

      Sounds like your pups have done their best to share the challenges of adolescence with you.

  11. Knowing that Honey is the adorable dog she is now gives me so much hope for Mackenzie 😉 I have never had such a strong willed little puppy. Luckily, the “aw, look how cute she is” is outweighing the “what the hell were we thinking?”. We know it’s all going to be worth it!!

    • Yes, hang in there. It will get better.

      And if you can raise Mackenzie to adulthood with out a $3600 sqeakyectomy, you’ll have really accomplished something. :)

  12. My mom always says “its a wonder any of us make it to middle age.” I totally agree with her. The dogs I have now are pretty mild, but when I was in college I came home to my apartment and my teenage dog had turned on all 4 burners on my gas stove. Thankfully I hadn’t left anything on the stove. I solved that problem by taking the knobs off. Despite her agile nature and curiosity, she somehow managed to avoid all but the most routine vet visits until she was a senior.

  13. Oh I love this post! I read Ian Dunbar/Jean Donaldson/Karen Pryor/Sarah Whitehead before we adopted our dog at 4 months old, and we attended positive training classes, so we braced ourselves for a hellish doggy adolescence. That seemed to soften the blow somehow! I think we were quite lucky – she devoured a couple of my ex-partner’s £50 baker boy hats, and a 32GB memory card of mine, but the furniture and fittings survived intact. I despaired over many things, and then suddenly, it all seemed to be over.

    The next time I ever hear anyone despairing over their adolescent pup, I will forward them a link to this post! It’s so important to keep a sense of humour I think. And our trainer gave us such good advice: set them up to succeed. I reminded my ex of this when he mourned for his expensive hats…..if they’d been out of puppy range, it would never have happened :)

  14. Sometimes I think it has to be said that you never stop training your dog…just like you never stop parenting your kids. A couple of classes in puppy-hood doesn’t make a well trained dog…I have wild ones…my dogs are now 3 1/2 and 3….they haven’t begun to settle yet…our first brittany was about 13 or 14 when she finally started to settle down. I just have t o keep my eye on the ball at all times and make sure they have something constructive to do…or it will go the other way fast!

  15. I was a puppy rebel. I let them think they had a model puppy until I was about 10 weeks old, then I became very headstrong and quite challenging! My adolescence was relatively painless after that!

  16. Coal’s adolescence was similar to Honey’s. He too ate a part of a toy (actually some string from a rope tug) and we found ourselves in the ER one night. Thankfully he didn’t have to have surgery! He also devoured books, and magazines. Dio ate the arm off of our chair when he was about 5 months old. We adopted Beatrix long after her adolescent period, but she is still a pain sometimes!

    I agree that many dogs end up in the shelter because of this phase. I’m certain (well, as certain as one can be about a shelter dog) that is why Beatrix was taken to the shelter. Even at two years old, when we adopted her, she was rambunctious, chewed up stuff, and was a general mischief maker.

  17. YES on your last bullet.

    The behaviorist felt like a lot of Silas’s problems were the tail-end of adolescence, and he was over two years old. I thought it was supposed to be over at 18 months. There *was* a dramatic improvement about then, but it was only part of the story.

  18. I tried to knock on some wood when my husband said the other day, “Beamer hasn’t had an accident in the house for a couple months.” Despite my trying to reverse the spell with burning sage and voodoo, Beamer peed the next day after the afternoon dog-sitter check (she’s says he won’t pee outside sometimes). I swear he saved it all day. Did it two weekdays. Thank God we have tile.

    I’m grateful Beamer’s puppy teeth are gone because he is using his mouth again to grab my wrist and hands.

    He refuses to come to the truck if he feels his walk in the desert was not long enough. “An hour is merely a warm-up; what’s wrong with you people?”

    I hope the report that this could last till he’s 3 is not true, yet I’m sure I will miss some of the qualities of his puppy energy.

  19. Such a funny post! And, oh, so true! My sister’s dog is eight, but a perpetual adolescent, unfortunately. His given name is Darby, but we call him Dammit Darby. That about sums it up.

  20. I only truly experienced puppy adolescence with my girl. For the most part, she was an easy puppy. At about 6-7 months, she magically forgot everything she had ever learned. Fortunately, she magically remembered it a few months later. It was fun, and I can laugh about it now. She ate two recliners, the base of a coat tree, and destroyed any paper product left within reach. She still falls victim to the temptation of paper on occasion.

  21. My dog is still an adolescent, quite truthfully I’m feeling at a loss as to how to help her.


  1. […] Adolescence Brings Out The Worst Although I hate celebrity gossip, I can’t avoid news about the latest Miley Cyprus scandal or Justin Bieber meltdown. It gets me thinking about the dumb things I did around the same age.  […]