Skip to main content

What you need to know about dog puberty before it happens

Although you probably remember your own puberty experience, dog puberty sounds like an entirely different thing. When a dog grows up, though, he goes through many of the same changes and hormonal fluctuations humans do. Each dog reacts to these transitions a little differently, but there are certainly a few things to know that will make the process so much easier. It never hurts to be prepared, right?

When do dogs go through puberty?

When looking into puberty for dogs, it’s important to remember how individual an experience it can be. Even though there are general guidelines as to when certain breeds begin puberty, it’s not unusual for dogs to fall slightly early or behind as well. And that’s OK!

Generally speaking, according to the Guide Dog Foundation, some dogs begin the transitional stage of puberty as early as 7 to 10 months of age, though others won’t get there until closer to 2 years old. When a dog reaches this developmental stage, hormones in their body begin to trigger sexual maturation, bringing about both physical and behavioral changes.

Dog trainer and behavioralist Carolyn Menteith describes canine puberty as a time when a dog’s “hormones are running ahead of their brains,” which can give you an idea of the kind of changes occurring. Just ask any human teenager: Puberty is a crazy time!

An English Cocker Spaniel rests in bed under the covers
alaa abdullah kamal/Shutterstock

How to know when your dog is hitting puberty

Male dogs

When hormones first start to fluctuate, your pup will get a big boost of testosterone — even more than most adult dogs have in their bodies (via Purina). At times, testosterone can even lead to fights between otherwise friendly dogs or other kinds of territorial behavior. “Marking” territory with a small amount of urination is not uncommon.

Hormonal changes may also manifest as one of pethood’s most embarrassing behaviors: mounting. As mortifying as it may be, your male “teenager” may feel the urge to mount people, objects, or other dogs. Luckily, you can help curb this unwanted behavior.

Because a male puppy’s testicles reach physical maturity shortly after birth, the rise in testosterone marks the true beginning of puberty. Although a male dog can breed at any time once mature, they are at their most fertile from 12 to 18 months of age, on average.

Female dogs

With female dogs, puberty is a bit more complicated. Not only do you have the hormonal and behavioral aspects to worry about, but you’ll experience your pup’s first heat cycle, too. This will start between 6 and 15 months of age, according to Purina, and repeat about every seven months afterward.

These are a few telltale signs that your pup is in season, courtesy of Guide Dog Foundation (another way of saying she’s “in heat”):

  • A red discharge from the vagina (this will last for just under a month and marks the time when your dog is the most fertile and willing to breed).
  • Licking and cleaning of the vulva.
  • Vulvar swelling.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Excessive coat shedding four to six weeks before heat.

You’re also likely to notice social and behavioral changes such as increased anxiety, playfulness, or possessiveness. No two dogs will react the same way to these hormonal changes, just like people.

Behavioral changes

With some pups, according to Menteith, their personality becomes amplified during puberty. Your playful puppy might grow into a furniture destroyer when their hormones are raging, while your timid dog may become suddenly more fearful. Other dogs, however, might undergo a more drastic behavioral shift as they experience life in a changing body and environment.

Interactions with other animals may be tenser, even with dogs your furry friend previously got along with. It’s nothing personal; your pup just needs to reevaluate their social environment as they “lose their puppy privilege,” according to Purina, and learn new ways to interact. Even human-dog relationships may experience some rocky moments as your buddy finds the balance between the neediness of a pup and the independence of an adult. They’ll figure it out!

A Pomeranian sleeps on the bed
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Tips to help your dog through puberty

Although there are many ways to manage the signs and symptoms of puberty, nothing will reduce health and behavior risk as well as spaying and neutering. If you choose not to take that route, you can keep your pet safe by following a few precautions during puberty and beyond.

For testosterone-surging male dogs, always supervise their interactions with other animals and new people. Sudden behavioral changes can occur, and your top priority is keeping everyone safe. Both adolescent male dogs and female dogs in heat should be separated from other dogs at the first sign of unwanted behavior. Pregnancy can occur anytime while a dog is in heat, and a surge of hormones for either gender can lead to sudden aggression.

To help your female dog through heat, you may need to invest in doggie diapers or other methods of protecting your furniture. Make sure your pup can access somewhere to potty on short notice, and always let your vet know if anything unexpected comes up.

Canine puberty might seem scary, but with some knowledge under your belt, you’ll be able to handle it like a pro. It may still drive you crazy when your pup is happy one moment and destructive the next, but with some patience and TLC, you both will settle into the changes quite nicely.

Editors' Recommendations

Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
Can you give a dog Benadryl? You’d better follow the correct dosage guide
Antihistamines can work wonders for pets with allergies
A golden retriever wearing a scarf and holding a handkerchief in his mouth

Just like us, dogs can suffer from allergies. While we can use a nasal spray or take an allergy medication, our dogs rely on us to treat their symptoms. Diphenhydramine, the generic name for the widely used name brand Benadryl, is commonly prescribed by veterinarians to treat seasonal allergies, anxiety, and even motion sickness. Have you ever wondered, "How much Benadryl can I give my dog?" We'll walk you through everything you need to know about giving dogs Benadryl, from the correct dosage to potential side effects.
Benadryl dosage for dogs 

Always speak to your vet before giving your dog any medication or supplements. Because your vet knows your pup's medical history, they can make the proper recommendations. Benadryl should not be used if your dog:

Read more
Can dogs eat avocados? What to know before snack time
Why you want to avoid giving dogs avocados as a treat
Corgi with an avocado

Avocados are a favored food for humans. Full of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fiber, and even protein, and they've risen to "superfood status." Avocado toast? That's a favorite brunch choice, apparently of Millennials (but really, of people of all ages). You may want your dog to enjoy the same benefits, including the creamy texture and so-good taste.

As humans, we often love sharing some of our beloved foods with our pets. Sometimes, these foods are just fine for a healthy dog to have in moderation. However, some foods are toxic to dogs. Where do avocados stand? Can dogs have avocados? Sadly, avocados are not a safe food for dogs. Here's why and what to do if your dog consumes a piece (or whole) of avocado.
Can dogs have avocados?

Read more
Do you know these 11 mastiff breeds?
Each mastiff dog has traits uniquely their own
A Boerboel dog sitting

While mastiff-type dogs are known for their gigantic size, protective nature, and fierce loyalty, they haven't made it to the top of the canine popularity list. And that's OK! Not every home and person can provide everything such a large working dog needs to thrive, which is why it's so important to do research before bringing home a mastiff.
You've most likely heard of several mastiff breeds, including the intimidatingly huge English mastiff, but only the most seasoned canine experts can name every mastiff-type dog out there. That's because many of them go by a slightly different name, and a few have yet to be recognized by the American Kennel Club.
All in all, these are the 13 mastiff breeds you should know about.

Boerboel (South African mastiff)

Read more