The Benefits of Adulthood

Silas is three years old now.

I’ve always been skeptical of the very precise timelines you see for dog development. “Adolescence ends exactly at this age” is just such a ridiculous concept.

Silas has, however, had some breakthroughs that neatly correspond to age markers.

Just before he turned eighteen months old, I snapped this picture on a walk:

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I was stunned that he could walk through the park without practically dragging me down the trail. It was like a switch flipped in his brain: “Oh, that’s what she wants. Okay.” And we had a whole walk without him pulling, for the first time ever.

Three seems to be another big milestone for us. We were able to take down the baby gate blocking the upstairs bathroom, without Silas running in to chew the rugs. I can leave the throw pillows on the sofa now, instead of only getting one out when I want to take a nap. He can walk past laundry on the floor without taking a piece for himself.

He’s even stopped a nagging behavior leftover from his puppyhood: he was an inveterate rock chewer as a baby (I assume this was a nutritional problem, given his food allergies). To keep him from eating the rocks and hurting himself, I traded rocks for cookies. This created a second problem. Namely, whenever he wanted a little snack, he would go out to the yard and dig up a rock. He still brings the odd stick or leaf in, hoping that I’ll let him chew it, but I haven’t seen a rock in a month.

We adhered to the management school of puppy training. Our motto was “don’t give him the chance to do it, and he’ll grow out of the urge.” Hence, baby gates, crate training, scrupulous housekeeping, and the Fort Knox of laundry hampers. It took a lot longer than I imagined, but we’re finally seeing some dividends.

Plus, Silas really loves those throw pillows.

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Have your dogs had particularly remarkable milestone ages? Did they match up with the suggested calendar?

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13 thoughts on “The Benefits of Adulthood

  1. My dogs and my children all had the “terrible twos” when they seemed to rebel at strange moments. I can remember the “trusting threes” as being a delightful portal.

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    1. Our trainer warned us grimly of the terrors of dog adolescence, but I really didn’t notice a big change between puppyhood and adolescence. This might be because Silas was a pretty naughty puppy.

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  2. Even dog-twin naughtiness in common! Ruby is a bathroom-rug chewer, too (and one corner of the living room rug that was next to toy jail but that was resolved by moving the toys). So far so good on the rocks – I didn’t feel comfortable with even organic/non-toxic mulch since I knew she would still be ingesting more than I’d like. Oh, the laundry-stealing. It is one of her greatest joys and makes laundry its own sport at my house. She’ll be two in November-ish…Silas gives us hope.

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    1. Silas was always extremely selective about the laundry; he only wanted socks and towels.

      We had misery about the rugs. He gradually started leaving them alone in various rooms, and the upstairs bathroom was unfortunately last. The door doesn’t close securely, so we were stuck with stepping over a baby gate for three years. Fortunately we were between living room rugs when we got Silas, and I just didn’t bother to replace it until earlier this year. Silas, of course, adores the living room rug now and makes me feel really bad that I waited so long to buy one.

      Our back yard is basically a wasteland, in part because I can’t pick a ground cover that I trust Silas with and that we can afford. (And in part because boy dog thinks a new plant=a new place to lift his leg.)

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  3. Since Blueberry joined me at a later age – we haven’t hit any of those milestones – just imagine plopping a dog into your home fully trained – it’s glorious! But I remember well, after 2 years old, wondering when my dog Shadow would outgrow some of her destructive tendencies. She finally did when she was much, much older than 3. I think that had a lot to do with my own lack of understanding of dog behavior and how to effectively train her. I just sort of gave up at some point and grew used to the chewed up items and did my best to “Shadow-proof” my house.

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  4. When Pallo hit four years old, it finally seemed to click that when we are in the house, it is time to just relax and take a nap or something, not play time. Play time happens outside. It was such a relief to not be pestered constantly about throwing a toy when trying to read or do computer stuff.

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    1. We don’t have the yard or the climate to really play much outside, so we still get some toy-poking in the evenings. It did help a lot when I stopped keeping so many toys out all the time, and more when we stopped inadvertently awarding the pestering.

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  5. I can’t think of any mile markers but I was pretty relieved when Kaya grew out of puppy-hood at about a year and a half. She was never destructive but her overwhelming excitedness was easy to say good bye to. She used to whine, yawn and yowl at the top of her lungs whenever people were over or when I’d walk her on leash and then she’d blow me off when I’d let her off leash. We were very disconnected unless we were cuddling at home.

    I am relieved that both of them have reached and passed 2 without any changes. When Zoey hit 2, she became very dog aggressive and stayed that way ’til around age 10:(

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    1. I remember being similarly relieved when Silas turned two, having read a lot of stories like Zoey’s.

      Which is actually the benefit of adulthood that I didn’t mention here: I can worry a lot less about one bad experience ruining things forever. Not that it couldn’t happen; terrible things do happen. I just don’t have to worry so much that I’ll never get him to the park again if a stranger scares him, or that he’ll become dog reactive if one dog barks at him.

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  6. We also noticed a big change in Moses when he turned 3.
    Alma is harder to say. She was ≈2 when we adopted her, so around 3 it’s hard to say without a lot of background if changes are attributed to training, routine, age, comfort level, or all of the above.

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