Humans aged about 9 to 12 are often called “tweens.” Not quite teenagers, they are also no longer little kids.
In puppies, this period seems to start at about 6 months. Orly is very definitely a tween.
She is impulsive, curious, and has no common sense. She can be very toddler-like, pouting when she doesn’t get what she wants — and sulking when pouting doesn’t produce results.
She also has little toddler tantrums, getting bursts of mischievous energy when she’s over-tired. During these phases, she’s most likely to needle Cali relentlessly, badgering her to play, tugging on ears, tail, collar until I intervene.
She’ll continue these outbursts, acting up and acting out, until she finally collapses and falls asleep. Often very sweetly snuggled partway onto my lap.
Then there’s the early adolescent behavior: She seems compelled to investigate everything, meet everyone. She pulls in every direction, following any sound or scent, chafing at the leash, wanting the freedom to explore.
She’s also started hanging out with the cute boy (dog) next door, mooning over him and chasing around the yard, whether ours or theirs. But she also barks grumpily at any other dog who comes near her fence or her yard.
Adolescence for golden retrievers (and many other dogs) means a dog with enormous energy and curiosity who still makes poor decisions. Unfortunately, it can last until age 3 … or beyond.
I’ve been working hard on her recall and make sure to have lots of treats with me whenever we’re outside. She’s still pretty good, but I know that adolescence often brings a temporary hearing loss and lack of comprehension of names, recall cues, and other requests and demands from nearby humans.
With all this in mind, I have started letting Orly go on “real” hikes, the kind where dogs get to be off leash sometimes.
Her first group hike (on leash) was a huge success: She got a good report from the hiking guide and came home tired and happy. Over the next few hikes, she’ll get to know her fellow hiker-dogs and begin to taste off-leash freedom with the group.
I’ve also started taking her to “safe” places to hike off-leash with Cali, me, and, sometimes a friend or two. Our first foray was hugely successful. She instantly came back every time I called her, didn’t dash off to say hi to any of the “new best friends” ahead of us on the hiking trail, and didn’t annoy Cali (much).
The hikes are fun for all of us, and a great way to burn off a tiny fraction of her excessive energy. I’m looking forward to a summer filled with on- and off-leash hikes. I hope that Orly remembers her name, the meaning of “Come here!” and the taste of top-quality treats throughout, so we can all safely enjoy the summer.