Kibble vs. raw pet food

Goodog owner Barbara Hodel spoke with the Sydney Morning Herald about kibble vs. raw pet food.

kibble vs. raw pet food

Sydney-based dog trainer Barbara Hodel has seen how confused new owners are by the plethora of options, all purporting to be the best.

“They get completely lost because they don’t know what to choose,” Hodel says. “I think it has gotten out of hand.

“[Business owners] are realising it’s a big market and that pet owners are willing to spend money, and lots of it.”

Continuing reading the full article on the SMH site here: Kibble vs. raw: Pet food has changed, but is there right and wrong?

Stubborn, emotional and loud teenage dogs

Goodog owner Barbara Hodel spoke with the Sydney Morning Herald about stubborn, emotional and loud teenage dogs.

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) contacted Barbara about the behaviour of Emily Hallam’s stubborn, emotional and loud teenage dogs Cooper.

Hallam and partner Loz Robinson adopted 14-month old boxer Cooper from RSPCA Victoria in July after instantly falling in love with his playful, friendly nature. But she jokes that he acts just like a teenager: he’s boisterous, stubborn, attention-seeking and easily distracted. And without routine, “he acts out”.

This, according to experienced dog trainer Barbara Hodel, is entirely normal, as dogs have a period of adolescence between puppyhood and adulthood.

And it’s a phase many so-called “COVID puppies” will be entering soon.

Hodel, who has a book called How to Love and Survive Your Teenage Dogsays common behaviours include barking or lunging at other people and dogs, pulling intensely on the lead, refusing to come when called, testing boundaries and digging in the yard.

“They don’t make good assessments of situations and that’s why they’re so emotional and act over the top,” she says.

“I think if people know it’s just a phase and there is a reason for it, they’re better able to manage.”

Hodel says the timing and duration of the teen phase depends on the dog breed and size, beginning as early as seven months old and reaching maturity as late as 24 months of age.

Continuing reading the full article on the SMH site here: Stubborn, emotional and loud: Welcome to the teenage dog phase

Decoding your canine summit Nov 2023

Hi Goodog clients,

If you want to your dog to live his or her best life, then reserve your spot in the Decoding Your Canine November 2023 Summit: Discover the secrets to having the perfect dog. The Masterclass Series covering training, health and well-being.

My friend Ness Jones has brought together 25+ top experts and influencers for this complimentary training series on all things dog.

Living with a dog should be fun and rewarding. But sometimes they can be challenging or their health deteriorates with age.

The top professionals on this summit help you with a range of different topics so you and your dog build a relationship that counts and a life that matters together.

It is free for the first 24 hours.

Here’s what to expect:

  • 25+ dog professionals, trainers & behaviour consultants
  • Reactivity
  • Raw Feeding
  • Wholistic Health
  • Resolving problematic behaviour
  • Breaking into Film & TV, Fear Free Handling
  • …and so much more.

And me, of course! I’ll be chatting about stroppy teenage dogs! My favourite topic and how to help them overcome the challenge of being not so polite on leash.

Reserve a spot now 👇🏽


There are two viewing options:

  • FREE: Watch the classes each day from the 2 week seminar free over a 24 hour period.  
  • $37 USD:Lifetime access to all classes for $37 USD.

Reserve a seat then pick from a number of online classes. A timetable of the series will be emailed after reservation. Only name and email address is required to register.

Barbara’s top 10 tips for your teenage dog!

Yes, teenage dogs are challenging but it does not have to all be drama. Here are Barbara’s top 10 tips for teenage dogs to keep you on track:

1 It is a phase

All living beings need to go through the teenage phase to reach maturity. Most dogs come out the other end just fine.

2 Keep it fun

Play, train and spend quality time with them.

3 It is a prime time for learning

Their brain is wired for learning – do not miss that opportunity! So, train and train and train some more.

4 Mental stimulation

Use enrichment in any form, such as a sniffari (let them sniff on walks), Kong, puzzles – positive things to keep their brain active.

5 Enough down time

It is a fine line between too much and not enough. But do not create an athlete you cannot get tired anymore.

Barbara with Shellbe

6 Let them play

Most young dogs love to play, with you, other family members and other dogs, so let them play. Consider training play.

7 Pay attention

Pay attention to trigger stacking, fear phases, startle responses and behaviour chains (if it does not get better, you are probably teaching a behaviour chain.)

8 Keep yourself relevant

50 treats a day are a great start. Also check out Kathy Sdao’s book: Plenty in life is free.

9 Keep it positive

Positive reinforcement is by far the best way of training. There are reason for these challenging behaviours so address the underlying cause.

10 It is a phase!

Good luck!

Barbara Hodel

Want to know more? Check out my book on teenage dogs.

eBook & paperback order in Australia 🇦🇺

eBook order rest of world 🌏

eBook (AUD)

Paperback order rest of world 🌏

How to love and survive your teenage dog by Barbara Hodel
How to love and survive your teenage dog by Barbara Hodel

Teenage dogs are the P platers of the dog world

Barbara talks to Dogs NSW about how teenage dogs are the P platers of the dog world and her book How to love and survive your teenage dog.

By Barbara Hodel September 2020 – reposted from Dogs NSW
(all rights reserved)

How to love and survive your teenage dog – and keep your sanity!

The teenage phase is a challenging time for the humans, the breeders and the dogs.

Most new dog guardians find puppy hood challenging but they are getting the support of their breeder and are hopefully attending a good puppy preschool class. There is also a lot of good information available on how to deal with the puppy stage challenges, small dog, small problems. But once the cute pup turns into an adolescent delinquent, things can start to fall apart. Humans are often surprised at the change in their puppy, almost overnight they seem to turn into unruly teenagers. 

Humans are ill prepared for the challenges of a teenage dog: The emotional response and over the top reaction to some stimuli, forgotten training, increased exercise requirements, need for more mental stimulation and ongoing socialisation. 

Dogs enter the teenage phase around 7 to 12 months and reach social maturity between 24 and 36 months. Smaller breeds and working dogs become teenagers earlier and mature earlier, too. Larger breeds and specifically gundogs, enter the teenage phase later and mature later.

This is the time when breeders might get a phone call from their clients asking for help. It is important to give sound advice as this is the time when dogs might be returned, end up in pounds and shelters or spend their days lonely in the backyard.

It does not have to be like this! We need to understand that all beings, humans and animals, need to go through the teenage phase to reach the stability of adulthood. More and more research is available on the brain function of dogs and we can assume that like in humans, parts of the brain mature at different rates. The more basic functions at the back of the brain mature first, whereas the parts in the brain responsible for controlling impulse or planning mature later. Emotional responses, especially the urgency and intensity of the emotional reaction are affected during this time. We can see this when a teenage dog gets spooked by a man in a fluoro vest or a backpack on the ground, they just keep lunging and barking and seem unable assess the situation correctly or calmly. An older dog, once they realise it is a human or an inanimate object on the floor, will just walk off and calm down.

The teenage dogs do not do it on purpose but their brain, to put it casually, is still under construction. They are having a hard time to make good and calm decisions and need our help! Think of teenage dogs as the P platers of the dog world.

These young dogs now spend more and more time at home in the backyard because they are too boisterous to walk, they pull like freight trains, do not come back when called and jump on visitors and their humans. They have forgotten their training and have selective hearing. They also have gotten into a few run-ins with other dogs at the off-leash park. They now become unemployed and will soon be self-employed, meaning they dig up the backyard, eat the pool lights and bark at anything that moves. It is downhill from there and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Their social skills deteriorate further and their world becomes very small. They meet the same people and dogs. Because they have stopped interacting with new people or dogs, they ‘forget’ how to deal with new situations or might get scared. Scared dogs are dogs who react inappropriately or show aggression towards unknown dogs or people. 

This pattern can be fatal! Behavioural problems are one of the main reasons for euthanasia of young dogs and surrender to shelters.

But there are positive and effective ways of dealing with dogs during their teenage phase:

Keep socialising

  • While early socialisation is important it does not stop with a puppy preschool or at 16 weeks. Teenage dogs need to be socialised on an ongoing basis. They need to meet new people and dogs, go to new places and have new and positive experiences. Socialisation is not just exposure; it is creating positive associations!

Attend a teenage dog training class

  • Attending a well-run class for teenage dogs with a force free qualified trainer helps with ongoing socialisation, provides support and guardians may realise that they are not alone. 

Find a balance between mental and physical stimulation

  • Teaching them something new on an ongoing basis, such as tricks or a brush up on obedience sills is a good start. Using part of their food for enrichment in food dispensing toys, recycle plastic bottles, pizza boxes, paper rolls etc helps, too. Or if so inclined, why not take up a dog sport: Agility, Obedience, Rally O, Nose Work, Fly Ball or Nose Work. 

Keep an open line of communication. Dogs do not speak English but they communicate with the ones who listen, or more accurately, watch. They communicate with body language. While most of us will see when our dogs get really upset, we often miss the early signs of stress and discomfort. If we see these signs they do not need to lunge or bark. The early stress signs have different names. I like to call them displacement behaviours because it describes what we see: A normal behaviour displayed out of context. The main ones are lip licking, yawning, head turns, shake offs, intent sniffing. Dogs will lick their lips when we hold a treat in front of their nose, yawn when tired, turn their head when someone enters the room, shake off when wet and sniff if there is a new smell. However, if they do any of these when another dog or stranger approaches they might be stressed. We should try to help them by increasing distance and reinforce them for looking at us or moving away calmly.

Keep it positive. A classic is the couch. The dog is on the couch. The guardian first asks the dog to get off the couch, then ‘commands’ the dog to get off and then resorts to pulling the dog off, the dog growls or even snaps. Often this is the beginning of the end for a relationship. Firstly, the dog is not on the couch because they plan on taking over the household and then the world. The dog is on the couch because it is the most comfortable place and they have not been taught to go to their bed. If the dog is not allowed on your couch teaching a ‘go to bed cue’ is the first step. It is important that all family members are enforcing the same rules. Dogs to the wrong thing because they have not been trained properly or the wrong things are reinforced. The best way to address unwanted behaviours is to teach an alternate behaviour out of context, in this case, go to bed, and then gradually bring it back to the problematic situation. 

If necessary ‘interrupt’ (call their name) – ‘redirect’ (ask for an incompatible behaviour like sit instead of jumping) – ‘reinforce’ (treat, praise, toy, interaction). This should be our go-to approach if something goes really wrong.

Reward the effort. Despite all the bravado they are showing, young dogs are insecure. We need to acknowledge the effort and reinforce all the good things instead of focusing on the bad stuff. 

Let them make choices if safe and possible. A lot of dogs are not going to the off-leash park anymore because they got into altercations with another dog. If no one was hurt, the dog is not aggressive, they just need more socialisation. Teaching a reliable recall is the first step we need to take, then we need to manage the environment. This means going to the park when it is not too busy and match our dog with suitable play mates or organise play dates. Hopefully, the guardians have attended a good puppy preschool that allowed for off leash interaction and are able to read body language and good play. Good play ebbs and flows, roles are reversed, the activities shift, there are pauses and invitations to play are frequent (play bow, eye flashing, lifted paws etc). If it gets too rough, we call the dogs back to us, asked them to sit to calm things down and start again. If a dog shows aggression seek professional help.

The good thing about teenage dogs is that this phase does not go for years. With the right information, additional socialisation, training and a good sense of humour if may only last for a few months and our teenage dog has become a well adjusted and happy friend for life. Teenage dogs are the P platers of the dog world, but not for long.

About the book: How to love and survive your teenage dog is a complete to your teenage dog.

This book will help you to understand your teenage dog better and navigate the teenage months, by covering: an understanding of the unique challenges you and your teenage dog face, why and how your relationship matters in the training process, the role of anthropomorphism and consideration of dog emotions and minds, the benefits of positive reinforcement, the importance of lifelong socialisation, how to keep your and your dog’s sanity despite some common setbacks and promoting the value of calmness. You can – and should – enjoy your teenage dog despite the difficult behaviours they show. The reward is a happy and well-adjusted friend for life!

Order online here: How to love and survive your teenage dog

Barbara Hodel is the president of the Pet Professional Guild Australia, a qualified and accredited professional dog trainer and the author of: How to love and survive your teenage dog (published in 2020). Barbara is also the owner of Goodog and head trainer.

PPGA is a chapter of the Pet Professional Guild and a science-based force free professional body for the pet care industry; including veterinary behaviourists, dog, cat, horse and bird trainers, dog groomers and walkers as well as day care centres. The PPGA offers free membership for pet dog owners.

GeekWeek a five-day virtual pet training conference will be held online from 11 to 15 November 2020.


Teenage dogs at the vet and how to help them cope!

Goodog owner Barbara Hodel addresses – Teenage dogs at the vet and how to help them cope – for Pet Insurance Australia in an excerpt from Barbara’s new book – How to love and survive your teenage dog.

By Barbara Hodel September 2020 – reposted from Pet Insurance Australia
(all rights reserved)

How To Help Your Teenage Dog And Keep Your Sanity

Teenage dogs at the vet and how you can help them cope can be challenging at the best of times and vet visits can be daunting.

Dogs enter the teenage phase around 7 to 12 months and reach social maturity between 24 and 36 months. Smaller breeds and working dogs become teenagers earlier and mature earlier, too. Larger breeds and specifically gundogs, enter the teenage phase later and mature later.

The main thing we need to understand is that teenage dogs are not ‘difficult’ on purpose. Their brains are under construction and because the front part of the brain that is responsible for controlling emotions matures last, we see them reacting in seemingly irrational ways. This brain development is also responsible for their selective hearing, ‘forgotten’ training and getting spooked by random people and things during fear phases. This is normal and has physiological reasons. Knowing the physiological reason behind these challenges should make it easier for us to be patient and understanding of the hard time our teenage dogs are going through.

Vet visits are difficult part of life for most dogs and even more so for bouncy teenage dogs. But all dogs need to go to the vet when they are sick or injured and when they need their annual check-up or vaccination. It is extremely stressful for our dog (and us) if our dog is overly scared and becomes a shivering mess at the vet. It is normal for dogs to be a little stressed or apprehensive at the vet given the strange sights, smells and sounds – but if they are petrified on arrival it is heartbreaking to watch and it can be difficult for the vet to diagnose or provide treatment.

Luckily, we can do something about this with a lot of social visits when our dogs are puppies and teenagers. We need to take our young dogs to the vet regularly and start social vet visits early to prevent them from becoming fearful in this environment. I recommend social vet visits on a weekly basis for puppies and teenage dogs.

We start with just walking into the clinic, giving our dog a few treats and leaving again. We repeat this a few times until they appear to be enjoying going in. We then ask the nurses or receptionist to give them treats. If our dog has experience with getting on objects, we can ask them to get on the scale and give them a treat for doing so. Once they are relaxed, we can start going into the treatment rooms and meet the vet.

We need to make the vet visit as pleasant as possible by being generous with our treats and choosing procedures that are less invasive. There are more-and-more vets who offer a version of ‘fear free pets’ vet visits (check for these vets in your area). Additionally, a well-run puppy class at the vet of your choice can help to create a positive association, too.

There is also a ‘phenomenon’ that works in our favour, called latent inhibition. This means if our dog has had a lot of good experiences at the vet, one bad experience will not completely ruin it. They most likely will maintain a positive attitude despite the aversive procedure. But, we also need to be aware that there is ‘one event learning’ or ‘flashbulb memories’ and that despite all our best efforts one negative experience can ruin all of our hard work in creating positive associations. These ‘one event learning’ events are extremely difficult to overcome. So if we can we should try to avoid them and teaching the ‘head-rest’ as explained below can help with that.

Handy tips for the vet


Teaching our dogs to step onto the scales at the vet starts with a plank at home. This is the first step towards teaching them to step onto unusual things. We can use luring for this: hold a treat in front of their face and guide them onto the plank. If they are not comfortable with this, we might only ask for the front feet to begin with and then gradually ask them to put their hind feet on. The hand signal is pointing to the plank/scales, similar to go-to-mat. If they have a go-to-mat cue, putting a mat on the plank/scales to start with can help. Once they are comfortable stepping onto things, we can add a verbal cue with it, like step-on. We can also practice this on our walks by asking our dogs to step-on to different surfaces and mark and reinforce when they do. Once our dog understands the step-on cue at home and is comfortable at the vet, we can ask them to step-on to the vet scale. Keep it short in the beginning: we should lure them into stepping onto it, then allow them to step off. Then we can ask for them to stay there for a few seconds and gradually we can ask them to spend more time on the scale.


We teach our dog to rest their head in our hand or on a chair as a way to teach accepting touch from the vet or other health professional; it is their way of expressing consent. Throughout teaching head-rest, we must always be vigilant of our dog’s comfort, and respect that they can say ‘no’ and withdraw consent to be touched. This means they have more control over what happens to them. If they leave their head in our hand or on the chair, they are saying it is ok for the vet to proceed. If they take their head away, it means no and the vet needs to stop what they are doing. Using a chair or the hand is a personal preference, as both work the same. If using a chair, I recommend putting a towel on the chair so we can take the towel to the vet and they still understand the behaviour in a different context.

Unfortunately, sometimes there is an emergency and things need to be done before we can obtain our dog’s consent and condition the vet to be a non-scary place. There are different ways of dealing with this. If we are doing routine things like injections that are not very time-sensitive, I would stick to the training plan and just defer for a few days or a week and do a lot more training to get them ready. In an emergency situation there are medications that can help or sedation. Talk to your vet about what is appropriate to prevent a negative association between them and your dog.

To teach head-rest we use shaping, by breaking the behaviour down into small steps. The first step is look-at-hand/chair, which we mark and reinforceMark and reinforce means we either use a marker word like ‘yes’ (or clicker) to tell our dog they have done the right thing and then follow up with a treat (the reinforcer). Then we move on to approach-hand/chair (mark and reinforce), touch-hand/chair (mark and reinforce) and finally leave-chin-in-hand/chair (mark and reinforce). Once they understand that we want their head to rest in our hand or on the chair we add the verbal cue head-rest. Check our youtube channel for a step-by-step video on teaching head-rest.

Muzzle training

Dogs, contrary to humans, do not have a negative preconception with the muzzle (although they can develop one with negative experiences). For them it is just another piece of equipment if introduced carefully. It is well worth training our dog on a muzzle because, in the case of an injury, it will make a vet visit much less stressful. If our dog is injured and in pain, even the most placid dog might bite and make treatment difficult or impossible. In these cases, the vet will use a muzzle to protect themselves. If our dog is used to the muzzle then we have one less stressor. If they are not, then the muzzle will make an already-stressful situation worse.

Muzzle training requires desensitising and counter-conditioning. We start by showing them the muzzle (mark and reinforce). We bring the muzzle a bit closer, they might look at it (mark and reinforce) or sniff it (mark and reinforce). Then we put a few treats in the muzzle and let them eat the treats. Eventually they will put their nose in it (mark and reinforce) and keep it there for longer (mark and reinforce). We then bring the strap behind their head (mark and reinforce), close the strap (mark and reinforce), and gradually build up the duration of it staying on. Every step is repeated and reinforced as many times as necessary so they don’t get stressed and it is a positive experience. For more information on muzzle training check out the Muzzle Up Project.

With early and ongoing social visits to the vet, teaching them the basics such as stepping onto a scale and a head rest to accept handling from the vet, visits should become less stressful for all, the humans, dogs and the vet. Muzzle training has many advantages and should be part of every dog’s training. If done properly it can be invaluable in medial and other emergencies. Most of all keep things positive and don’t rush it.

– edited extract of How to love and survive your teenage dog – Barbara Hodel

Barbara on ABC Radio: Focus with Josh Szeps

Friday 14th August, 2020

Barbara chats with ABC Radio’s Josh Szeps, answers caller questions and provides tips. Barbara is the President of the Pet Professional Guild Australia and is the owner and operator of Goodog.

The audio has expired: ABC Radio Sydney – Focus with Josh Szeps

Barbara with Shellbe

In 2015 Barbara completed her Diploma in Canine Behaviour Science and Technology at the Companion Animal Sciences Institute in Canada.

Barbara has been involved in dog training for the last 20 years and has completed her Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services with the Delta Society in 2007 and is a professional member of the Delta Institute.

She competes in the dog sport of Agility and Rally O and Shellbe (a German short-haired pointer) competes on Master level in Agility and Rally O. Chillax, one of Shellbe’s puppies, competes in Rally O and got his Rally Novice title in October 2019. He is just starting out in Agility. 

Barbara is the President of the Pet Professional Guild Australia. The Guild promotes force free and humane training for all pets. View Barbara’s and all our trainers full profiles in About Us.

You can contact Barbara on

How to help your teenage dog and keep your sanity!

Want to know how to help your teenage dog and keep your sanity? Goodog owner Barbara Hodel answered this question for Australian Dog Lover.

By Barbara Hodel July 2020 – reposted from Australian Dog Lover
(all rights reserved)

Is your dog jumping on you and your visitors, pulling like a freight train and does not come when called? Does she have selective hearing and forgotten all her training? Or does he dig up the yard, barks at every noise and anything that moves, or now struggles with being home along? Then you probably have a teenage dog! I call the barking and digging dogs the unemployed teenage dogs, who have now become self-employed in the security or excavation industry. Read more about teenage dogs below and book into a Goodog Teenage Course if you need some help with your dog.

When do dogs become teenagers?

Dogs enter the teenage phase around seven to eleven months and reach adulthood around 18 to 24 months. Smaller dogs become teenagers earlier than larger dogs and mature earlier, too. Some breeds mature late, for example the large gun dogs, while working dogs like Kelpies or Border Collies mature earlier, but there are always individual differences.

Is there really such a thing as a teenage dog? Science says so.

Until recently we did not talk about teenage dogs and there was limited science around that topic. However, it seems that what trainers have been saying for years is now being confirmed by solid science! 

Indi after digging
📷 Grazia Pecorara

A recent research article: “Teenage dogs? Evidence for adolescent-phase conflict behaviour and an association between attachment to humans and pubertal timing in the domestic dog [1], indicates that owners are not just imagining that their dog has become an erratic teenager but that dog teenagehood is real and so are its challenges

While we need science to confirm our own anecdotal evidence, for parents of human teenagers the parallels are clear! It looks too similar: the emotional response and over the top reactions to some stimuli, screaming for no obvious reason, trying to be independent and at the same time a strong need for being loved.

While there are countless articles and books on puppies, good information on teenage dogs is difficult to find. But all dogs (and humans) need to go through teenage phase to reach the stability of adulthood and often it is not pretty!

It is a difficult time because teenage dogs need a lot of mental and physical stimulation. But at the same time, they become easily scared because they are going through secondary fear phases. They also become more selective who they consider friends and who they will play with. 

Taking a young dog out for daily exercise when they startle at the sight of a man wearing a fluoro vest, do not come when called, and start fighting at the dog park is challenging.

More obedience training or a ‘tougher’ approach will not solve the problem. Obedience training is great to address the problems like pulling on the leash and ignoring the calls to come back, but to be successful we need to have some foundations in place BEFORE we start training the mentioned obedience behaviours.

The first thing we need to remind ourselves is that they are not being ‘difficult’ on purpose or stubborn, defiant or stupid. The different parts of their brain are developing at a different pace and are not communicating properly with each other. 

Because of this, they are having difficulties making good and calm decisions.

Prerequisites for successful training are a good relationship, an open line of communication and trust! 

Another prerequisite for success is that we have catered to their physical, mental and social needs. I see too many humans and their teenage dogs who are frustrate because they try to train without these foundations and it is all downhill from there.

The relationship matters!

Notorious the Staffy benefited from recall and loose leash training 📷 Kristie Steggles

We all know that good relationships are no coincidence and we also know that good relationships are a lot of work. 

Traditionally, our relationship with dogs was defined by control, dominance and coercion. We used commands and choice was an unknown concept. For humans, an unhealthy relationship is defined as one that is based on power and control and not equality and respect. I think it is time to treat and respect our dogs as friends!

A good relationship means we need time (and a lot of it) to spend together. Humans are often surprised when I say that we need two to three hours of quality time with our teenage dogs daily. That is not counting the time they spend with us on the couch in front of the TV. But the time on the couch is also important because being together allows for bonding. This is one of the reasons dogs need to have access to our living areas and not spend their time outside in the backyard.

Quality time should consist of leisurely outings, play, going to the coffee shop, a run at the park, games, teaching tricks or a bush walk. Things both humans and dogs enjoy. 

Giving them a bit more choice like different sleeping places, occasionally letting them decide which way we walk (as long as it is safe) or let them choose between chicken or beef for dinner is beneficial for their mental wellbeing and good for the relationship.

Communication is the key – Do not wait until they scream!

Dogs do not speak our language but they are experts in body language. It is therefore important that we understand what they are saying. Most humans will realise when our dog gets really upset and scared. Dog aggression is often caused by fear. But if we listen (or more accurately watch carefully) they do not need to scream and shout or lash out! We need to watch for early stress signs of stress to avoid full blown outbursts. 

The early stress signs have a lot of different names but I like calling them displacement behaviours because that describes what we see; normal behaviours displayed out of context. The most common ones are:

✔️ Lip licking
✔️ Yawning
✔️ Head turns
✔️ Shake offs
✔️ Intent sniffing

Dogs will lick their lips when we hold a treat in front of their nose, yawn when tired, shake off when wet, turn their head if someone enters the room and sniff if there is an interesting smell. But if they do any of these when on a walk and a dog or a child on a scooter approaches, then it pays to pay attention and increase distance.

Maddie, a rescue is learning to communicate with Barry Young, using ‘hand touch’

We need to help them to cope in a situation they find challenging. Asking them to sit will either not work because they are too stressed to do it or they simply cannot hear us because they are focused on the other dog or the child. 

Giving them more space will set them up for success. It will also increase trust in us because we have helped them to cope with this situation. 

Teaching them the basics such as ‘look at me’, hand touch and a few simple tricks with positive reinforcement methods will help with our relationship and mutual understanding.

Keeping them busy with daily enrichment will calm things down.

Catering to their needs means that, in addition to the ‘traditional’ walk and a good run, we should take them out for ‘sniffaris’ where they can sniff and explore at their leisure.

We should also provide daily enrichment [2]. This includes:

✔️  social enrichment (contact with others)
✔️  occupation (giving them a job such as a dog sport)
✔️  sensory (sights, music, scents e.g. canine sensory garden)
✔️  nutritional (such as foraging) 
✔️  physical enrichment (toys, physical features in the yard). 

This will help addressing the barking and digging! 

We have given our unemployed teenage dog a proper job and they are not bored out of their minds. This will help them to be calm when home alone, but also improve focus when training and they will be more relaxed when out and about. 

Once we understand and trust each other and we have catered to their needs, training will be much easier!

My favourite ‘obedience’ behaviour for teenage dogs: Doggy-Zen:

Doggy-Zen it is more than just an obedience behaviour. This is not a cued behaviour, but rather a relaxation exercise. Like us, our teenage dogs need to learn to de-stress and calm their mind. Anyone who has done yoga or meditation knows that calming the mind is not easy and dogs are no different. Once they are stressed or just excited it is difficult to calm down. 

I have found Doggy-Zen to be a good way of slowing things down for our dogs. For the Doggy-Zen exercise, we show our calm dog the treat (in our hand) and then extend our arm out fully to the right of our head (at eye level). We then wait until our dog takes their eyes off the treat and gives us eye contact. 

We must not say anything. Once we get eye contact, we mark and reinforce (meaning either click or say yes and deliver a treat). In the beginning we mark and reinforce for every glance! But as our dogs improve, we wait longer and will reinforce only for extended eye contact. We aim for five to ten seconds.

Teenage dog Chillax is cool, calm & collected
📷 Barbara Hodel

Because this exercise is not cued our dog needs to figure out what gets them the treat. An excited dog has a hard time taking their eyes off the treat because the shortest way to the treat is looking at the hand with the treat. 

However, in this case, that is not working. To get the treat they need to take their eyes off the treat and look at us. 

When they are excited their brain is not processing information properly and they have poor impulse control which makes it difficult for them to figure it out. A typical teenage problem! But, once they calm down, they are able to take their eyes off the treat and look at us. We can literally watch them relax and often, they will take a deep breath, too.

We should practice this ‘meditation’ initially when they are calm, as this will help create a pathway in the brain that promotes relaxation. Once our dog understands this exercise, we can start practising in more ‘exciting’ environments. Because we have practised this relaxation exercise and have create new pathways in the brain, they can now do it even when they are excited.

The many benefits of Trick Training

📷 Fabian Gieske Unsplash

Every dog should learn a few tricks: it is fun, improves our relationship with them and is a great way to keep our teenage dog’s brain busy. Another main reason for trick-training is that it improves our training technique. 

We are often tense when we try to teach our dogs basic things like Sit or Lie-down. But, as soon as we teach tricks – for example Shake-paw, Spin, Weave-through-my-legs or Sit-pretty – we all lighten up, have fun andengage on a different level with our dogs

Because us humans have changed our mind set – we are more engaging and start to have fun – the dogs pick up on this and become more engaged and are keener to work and play with their humans. 

It also seems that when we realise that our own attitude and behaviour influences our dogs, we are more likely to have a positive attitude with the ‘boring’ but necessary obedience behaviours. 

Like in any other relationship, as soon as we relax and have fun, everything works better! One of the easier tricks is Weave-through-my-legs. Our dog stands facing us. We reach through our legs and lure them between and around our left leg and then the right leg in a figure-eight. 

Some dogs might find this a bit a scary and it helps if we teach them to go through our legs first by throwing a treat through our legs, behind us. 

The only thing they need to do in the beginning is to run through our legs to get the treat. Most dogs will feel comfortable with this quickly. 

Having a treat in each hand will help with the flow and our co-ordination. Once they have learnt the trick, it is often enough for us to stand with our legs apart and give the verbal cue weave and they will happily do it.

For more tricks and information on teenage dogs and how to understand and teach them check out the new “How to love and survive your teenage dog” book (publishing August 2020) – Print $29 plus postage and E-book $24, available for pre-order at 

If you want to know more about how to help your teenage dog and keep your sanity, grab a copy of Goodog owner Barbara Hodel’s book: How to love and survive your teenage dog

About the Writer

In 2015 Barbara Hodel, the author of How to love and survive your teenage dog (published in 2020), completed her Diploma in Canine Behaviour Science and Technology at the Companion Animal Sciences Institute in Canada (

Barbara has been running her dog training business Goodog ( on the Northern Beaches Sydney for over 14 years specialising in teenage dogs, offering classes and in home consultations for young dogs as well as workshops for typical teenage challenges such as recall and loose leash walking.

She has been involved in dog training for the last 20 years and has completed her Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services with the Delta Society in 2007 and is a professional member of the Delta Institute.

Barbara competes in the dog sport of Agility and Rally O with Shellbe (a German short-haired pointer) on Master level. Chillax, one of Shellbe’s puppies, competes in Rally O and got his Rally Novice title in October 2019. He is just starting out in Agility.

Barbara is the President of the Pet Professional Guild Australia. The Guild promotes force free and humane training for all pets 

She is also a registered breeder with Dogs NSW.

Barbara holds a Master’s Degree in Modern European History and Economics from the University of Berne (Switzerland) and a MBA (Master of Business Administration) from Southern Cross University Australia. In addition, Barbara has in-depth experience in adult education and training, having taught high school and university students in Berne, college students in Sydney, as well as middle and top management employees of a large public corporation in Switzerland.

Teenage Courses:

  • Balgowlah: Monday’s 11:15am
  • Seaforth: Monday’s 6pm
  • Terrey Hills: Wednesday’s 7:10pm
  • Collaroy: Thursday’s 5:45pm
  • Full listing: Our Next Classes

Teenage class info: Goodog Teenage Class
Bookings: Our Next Classes


[1] Asher, L., England, G., Sommerville, R. & Harvey, N. (2020). Teenage dogs? Evidence for adolescent-phase conflict behaviour and an association between attachment to humans and pubertal timing in the domestic dog, The Royal Society, Vol. 16, Issue. 5, pp. 1–5.

[2] Garvey, M., Stella, J. & Croney, C. (2016). Implementing environmental enrichment for dogs, Center For Animal Welfare Science, Purdue Extension.