Do Dogs Go Through Terrible Twos?

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Most humans know that their human toddlers go through such a phase, but what about our four-legged companions? Do dogs go through terrible twos too?

Yes, dogs can go through terrible twos too. But here’s the kicker: understanding this phenomenon is not just about labeling their behavior; it’s about recognizing the contributing factors and implementing effective strategies to navigate this challenging phase.

In this blog post, we’re going to delve deep into the canine psyche to explore the truth behind the so-called “terrible twos” in dogs. 

More importantly, we’ll uncover effective strategies to navigate this challenging phase and foster a bond that’s as strong as ever.

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What is Terrible Twos for Dogs?

What is Terrible Twos for Dogs

You know how teenagers and toddlers alike become rebellious at some point in their lives?

They’re more irritable, bolder, and tougher to deal with.

The same happens with dogs, and dog owners like you and I sometimes call it the “terrible twos” for dogs.

This is the time when your once-behaved puppy starts acting rather unruly. He starts breaking certain rules you’ve established, he’ll even try refusing the commands you taught him!

Oh, this is such a messy period of your pup’s life. Unknowing dog owners will just shake their heads and question where they went wrong.

But don’t worry!

It’s just your pup’s normal way of transitioning to adulthood. With proper guidance, I’m sure you can turn him back to his usual well-behaved self.

Although you’ll probably experience seeing your dog become more dominant toward you and other dogs around him.

He’ll bark, chew on non-food items, and even scratch home furniture as well.

Your dog will do all these to test your limit and see just how firm you are with the lines you’ve drawn for him.

At What Age Do Dogs Go Through the Terrible Twos Stage?

Dogs usually go through the terrible twos stage around 6 to 12 months old. But this really just depends on every dog.

Some dogs may start their terrible twos earlier or later than others, which can still be called normal.

Just know that when your dog starts his journey from being a puppy to adulthood, terrible twos will soon happen.

How Long Does the Terrible Twos Stage Last in Dogs?

The terrible twos stage usually lasts from 1 to 2 years in dogs.

During this stage, you’ll be taken aback by how changed your dog may behave.

You’ll probably be surprised how wild, energetic, and vocal your pup is. 

However, you have to put it in mind that dogs are different from one another. How long their terrible twos will last depends on many factors. 

For example, pups who are properly trained by their dog owners will probably get over their terrible twos faster and in a short time.

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Do All Dogs Go Through Terrible Twos?

All dogs go through terrible twos, they just have different ways of exhibiting their rebellious behavior.

Some may act calmer, others may manifest into a whole new different temperament. 

There are dogs going through terrible twos who only refuse to follow simple commands and become more excited over simple things.

But some dogs will bark their throats raw and chew on random things without bothering to hear what their dog owner has to say. 

These differences make some dog owners overlook terrible twos in their dogs because they think that their dog is only acting a bit differently, and not really as wild as terrible twos in dogs usually entail.

Is It Similar to Terrible Twos in Toddlers?

Yes and no.

The terrible twos in dogs are similar to the terrible twos in toddlers in a way that both young pups and humans try to test their boundaries by engaging in unusually challenging behavior.

However, toddlers should already be around 2 years old to go through terrible twos while dogs only need to be 6 to 12 months old.

And though both will have an unmatched energy and desire to do what they aren’t supposed to do, toddlers usually do this to express what they’re feeling.

Meanwhile, pups typically go through terrible twos to test the limits of their dog owner as to how far they can gain dominance.

What Happens During Terrible Twos in Dogs? (Signs)

More energetic

More energetic

He’ll be more energetic and playful, with a tendency to run around and ask you to play with him longer than usual.

Crossing lines

During terrible twos, your dog may start crossing lines you’ve drawn.

He’ll stop obeying your simple commands, and he’ll act more independently.

Your once obedient pup will seem to have lost his hearing because he’ll have a hard time listening to your commands.

Destructive behaviors

You’ve spent months training your dog to behave properly but terrible twos suddenly happen to him and almost all training went out of the window.

Yes, that’s a common scenario among households with dogs who are going through terrible twos.

These dogs will usually bark excessively, and forget to poop where they should chew on non-food items and such.

It’s like these dogs are indeed testing your limits!

Changes in hormone levels

If dogs are still not neutered or spayed when they go through terrible twos, the change in hormone levels may trigger them to act more aggressively.

They’ll be more possessive and territorial, especially the male dogs. Some of them would even develop the desire to mount or mate with other dogs.

How to Deal With Dog Terrible Twos?

Follow a routine

No matter how disobedient or rebellious your pup becomes when going through terrible twos, follow a routine.

Make him eat during the scheduled time. Don’t let him decide as to when and where he can eat.

Stick to the time he is supposed to play. Don’t let him extend his playtime, otherwise, he’ll think that he can get anything he wants.

Following a routine is your best way of making it clear that you’re the one who is in control and your dog should follow your command.

Reward good and calm behaviors

Terrible twos mean a lot of unruly behavior and messy encounters. Hence, on the rare occasion your dog behaves, reward him quickly!

Positive reinforcement like this will encourage your pup to show more of those good behaviors.

Increase exercise time

Since terrible twos increase your dog’s level of energy, you also need to increase his exercise time.

When your dog gets enough exercise in a day, he’ll be tired enough to finally just sit or lie down calmly in his spot.

Offer mental stimulation as well

Offer mental stimulation as well

You have to offer mental stimulation or brain games to your dog when he is going through terrible twos.

If your dog doesn’t get enough mental stimulation, he can become stressed or frustrated. And that’s the perfect ingredient for developing unwanted habits and aggression.

Counterconditioning and desensitization

Counterconditioning and desensitization are helpful if your dog is becoming socially challenged due to terrible twos.

With these, you’ll have to expose your dog to things that trigger their unwanted behavior. You’ll consequently have to reward him if he doesn’t show any negative reaction.

For example, your dog has become anxious around new people. Let him gradually meet a new face then reward him if he did well.

Provide appropriate chew toys

Your dog’s destructive behavior during terrible twos will be worse so give him appropriate chew toys.

Make sure you give him a durable and dog-friendly chew toy to avoid choking!

A good chew toy will surely keep your dog off your poor shoes!

Teach proper leash manners

Dogs going through terrible twos will resist all your attempts to keep them under. If you leash a dog during terrible twos, he wouldn’t like it. 

He’ll probably try to tug on the leash and walk you away from where you want to go, or even refuse to be leashed.

To keep this case under control, teach your dog proper leash manners.

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Keep a close eye on safe play

If your dog is playing with another dog or a person is interacting with him, make sure you’re close enough to intercept if your dog starts behaving badly.

Don’t reward undesirable behavior

Don’t let your soft heart get in the middle of getting your dog back to his best behavior.

Stop giving him any unworthy reward if you know that he just did something bad!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How should you socialize a puppy during terrible twos?

Don’t force your puppy to socialize during terrible twos. Let him gradually meet new people or animals, and use positive reinforcement each time he shows interest in socializing.

Are there any supplements that can help with hyperactive dogs?

Many supplements can help with hyperactive dogs, some of them even come in the form of treats. These supplements can calm your over-excitable or anxious pup without risking their health.

Do puppies chew more during terrible twos?

During terrible twos, the old teeth of puppies are starting to be replaced with new ones. Coupled with their boosted destructive behaviors, puppies will naturally chew more during terrible twos.

Do older dogs go through terrible twos?

Most dogs go through terrible twos around 6 to 12 months. But there are dog owners who report that their adult dogs of 2 years old still show signs of terrible twos.

Is it safe to take your dog to doggy daycare during terrible twos?

When a dog goes through terrible twos, it means that he is still in the middle of socially maturing. At this stage, he will tend to be picky with other dogs he wants to be friends with. He can be a bit aggressive to dogs he doesn’t particularly like. Hence, it’s best to keep your dog away from doggy daycare during terrible twos.

In Conclusion: Do Dogs Go Through Terrible Twos

To me, I feell that the key takeaway is this: by empathizing with our dogs, embracing positive training methods, and maintaining patience and consistency, we can weather the storms of the “terrible twos” or any other phase our dogs may go through. 

Ultimately, it’s about forging a partnership built on trust, communication, and mutual respect, don’t you think!

Hey! If you found this post useful, check out these dog care tips too:

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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