Q. I have a 1-year-old female Belgian Malinois mix. Her dad is a purebred Malinois and her mom is a German Shepherd and Golden Retriever mix. She’s a wonderful, intelligent girl who all of a sudden wants to play rough and nips at my arms when she thinks its time to play. Ouch! Is this temporary, as were other undesirable puppy behaviors that went away with time, or is this a sign of something bad to come?
A. At a year of age your dog is in the middle of adolescence, which is a period when many dogs seem to lose some of the polite habits they’d learned during puppyhood and revert to less desirable behavior. Just hoping this will go away on its own won’t make that happen.
Fortunately, there are some actions you can take to help your adolescent dog regain her good manners. When you play with her, keeping her mouth busy with a toy will make her less likely to grab your arms or clothing. Teach her tug games with cues to drop and take the toy when you direct her to do so. If, while you’re playing, she grabs your arm or clothing, immediately end the game.
And make sure no friends or family members are encouraging or rewarding your dog’s rowdy play style. She needs plenty of healthy exercise at this age, but needs to be reminded that humans must not be treated the same as doggie playmates.
This would also be a good time to enroll with your dog in a reward-based training class. If she’s already gone through a basic manners class, find a more challenging class for her. Try a class in rally, obedience, musical freestyle, agility, flyball or other dog sport that appeals to you.
By teaching your adolescent dog to play one or more of these organized dog sports, you’ll give her something constructive to do with her overflowing mental and physical energy and she’ll become a better, more enjoyable companion for life.