Knowing at what age a Labrador is a teenager is important so that you know when to expect changes in your sweet Labrador puppy.
Without knowing about this vital information, your Labrador's teenager phase will sweep through your life like a tornado, finding you puzzled and unprepared.
Not surprisingly, this is the stage that most Labrador owners struggle with.
Right when your sweet Labrador puppy got potty trained and was starting to become responsive to you, comes the critical adolescent stage with its turbulent heap of challenges.
Introducing The Teenager Stage in Labradors
Do you remember when you were a teenager? Or perhaps if you have grown-up kids, do you remember their adolescence?
Most likely, you'll recall this as an awkward stage where there are rapid changes occurring to the brain and body and often at different rates.
Perhaps, you'll even recall a quest for more independence and even moments of rebellion-well, something very similar happens to Labradors (and all dogs in general) too!
The adolescent stage in dogs is therefore a time of rapid growth with frisky pups stuck in clumsy bodies.
It's also a time of challenges, such as moments of regression, increased independence and hyper behaviors all packed up in a stage. You'll also be likely to stumble on bouts of chewing and the lovely onset of urine marking.
At What Age is a Labrador a Teenager?
As with other large breed dogs, Labradors tend to reach the adolescent stage later than a smaller breed puppy.
However, just as it happens with humans, there is no clear cut age when Labradors become officially teenagers. Instead, there are some general ranges for this time of transition. This is because this is more of a phase rather than a fixed time period.
So at what age is a Labrador a teenager? The change from puppy to teenager doesn't happen overnight.
Generally speaking though, expect Labradors to become adolescents between the ages of 7 to 8 months of age.
When is a Labrador's Teenager Stage Over?
Just like there are no general rules of thumb on what age Labradors become teenagers, there are no general rules on when this phase is over.
In general though, the majority of Labs should begin to show signs of adulthood by around two to four years of age.
So expect the teenager stage to generally last anywhere between 7 and 24 months.
What Happens During the Labrador's Teenager Stage?
During the teenager stage, you will witness a variety of physical and behavioral changes. As the saying goes, "forewarned is forearmed" meaning that if you're mentally prepared for them, you will be better equipped to deal with them.
Following are certain changes that you may witness in teenager Lab.
An Increase in Independence
Gone are the days when your Labrador puppy was faithfully following you from place to place as your little shadow.
This is a time of change, where your pup becomes more and more independent, wanting to explore outside of their previous comfort zones and starting to become reluctant to come when called.
Make sure you keep on working on polishing those recalls. Praise and generously reward when your Lab puppy comes when called (I am talking about giving several treats in a row).
Never call your Labrador to punish him, when you are angry or frustrated or to do something he doesn't like.
Moments of Regression
Right when you thought you had your Labrador retriever's training pat down, it may feel like, at some point you hit a road block. Actually, things may seem to be regressing, rather than getting better! What's going on?
Perhaps your Labrador will look at you with a blank stare when you ask him to perform a well-trained behavior, or worse, he just blows you off, ignoring you as if your cues were just background noise like the birds chirping on the trees. What gives?
Moments of regression are rather normal during this stage. Just make sure to keep training your Labrador in areas with little distractions and then gradually increase distractions. Praise and reward every little sign of cooperation.
Avoid scolding your pup or getting frustrated, this will only put a dent in your training causing him to dread being trained, when instead, he should look forward to it.
Moments of Rebellion
You know how teenagers often are closed in their rooms, listening to music and have moments of rebellion, challenging your requests to follow rules like coming back home at a certain time? The same can happen with your maturing Labrador.
Juvenile dogs go through similar mood swings and they may just ignore you or decide to break established rules. Maybe you'll even catch them "talking back" to you with a little growl when asked to get off the couch.
Keep training your Labrador and make sure to remain very consistent. Help your Labrador make good choices and prevent him from making bad ones by setting him up for success (e.g. keep the trashcan out of the way, keep him on leash or a long line if he doesn't come when called).
Onset of Hormonally-Driven Behaviors
During adolescence, your Labrador's hormone levels will rise dramatically. During this time, your Lab will therefore begin to exhibit some hormonally-driven behaviors.
From periodic episodes of mounting and urine marking, to roaming and fence jumping, intact male teenager dogs express their "maleness" in a plethora of creative ways.
Just like a testosterone-packed teenagers, intact male dogs exhibit many undesirable behaviors.
"All in all, parenting a dog that is going through its adolescence years is not a walk in a park. You will be challenged on a daily basis and faced with many unwanted behaviors.
Some of those behaviors are funny, some are embarrassing, and some have the potential to become dangerous," points out veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec.
Female dogs host their array of hormonally-driven behaviors too. They'll go in to heat at any time after the age of six months, and this can trigger roaming and urine marking to communicate her availability.
The Second Fear Period
In the midst of the adolescent stage, there is also a second fear period (the first one took place between 8 and 11 weeks), generally taking place between the age of 6 to 14 months.
This is a time when your Labrador may suddenly begin to be suspicious of things. For instance, he may bark at the mailman or a man wearing a hat. He may become startled upon seeing a flag moving with the wind or a large tree in the dark.
During this time, any frightening experience will make an even bigger impression on your dog. You should continue to socialize and train your dog during this period, however, you should be extra cautious to never put your Lab into overwhelming situations.
The best way to deal with these frightening moments is to treat them with patience. Do not force your dog to face his fear, or scold him if he acts out in an inappropriate manner.
High Energy Behaviors
Labradors retrievers are normally energetic dogs. After all, they were used for retrieving downed ducks over large open fields. This required a good amount of energy and stamina.
As the Labrador adolescent stage begins, your Lab's energy levels will likely reach their peak. They'll be jumping, running around and exploring when they have the opportunity, and possibly, digging, barking and chewing when they're bored.
Training and mental stimulation are two of the most effective methods to channel your dog's energy, but they may not be enough.
Labradors need walks, socialization and playtime to release their energy. Some thrive on being given a "job" or being enrolled in a doggy sport.
Labradors are naturally water-loving dogs. Exercise in the water will burn more calories than running or walking. If you don't have a pool or access to a beach, your Lab may love the sport of dock diving.
Consult with a vet before enrolling your Lab in any sports or allowing any high-impact exercise considering the risk to your dog's growth plates.
If you're ultimately able to give your Labrador both the necessary exercise and mental stimulation, your Lab will be less likely to be destructive.
Did you know? The amount of exercise a Labrador needs can vary based on its genetic make-up. Labs from working bloodlines tend to require more exercise than Labs bred to be pets.
Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure!
Adolescence is an important phase of your Labrador's development and will help your puppy become a well-rounded adult dog.
While your Labrador's adolescent stage can be hard on you, keep reminding yourself that it's just a temporary phase. As long as you're prepared for the inevitable, the teen years will pass with little fuss.
If you have been diligent enough to start training your Labrador puppy since he was a pup, you've laid a solid foundation for this stage that can help you a whole lot and will pay off in the long run.
Folks, who have bypassed puppy training by remarking "he's just a puppy!" have missed out laying such foundation and will face more challenges once adolescence is around the corner.
Remember though that during the early stages of puppyhood, your pup's attention span is relatively short, so it's best to avoid long and tedious training sessions.
If doggy parents have also failed to provide consistent rules (followed by all members of the family), by the time the pup becomes adolescent, they'll be more difficult to establish.
All in all, the adolescent period is moment of challenges, but it's also true that it's a transitory stage. You'll eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel.
When you feel defeated, simply think about your Labrador as a human teenager. He just needs your gentle guidance and consistency in his life. Be patient.
Keep holding refresher training sessions. Keep on working on better impulse control. Here are some great exercises: 10 impulse control games for dogs.
And don't forget about keeping that brain busy! Provide loads of mental stimulation, brain games, food puzzles, safe chew toys, start clicker training, enroll him in a canine sport and take him on sniffing adventures.
However, don't forget to teach him how to chill too. Training your Labrador to lie on a mat can turn helpful.
The more you keep that big Labrador brain busy in positive ways, the greater the chances you'll help your developing pup grow into a wonderful adult companion. Happy training!