If you have a puppy, you might be wondering when they will grow up and become an adult dog. Well, just like humans, dogs go through puberty, a period of physical and behavioural changes that can be challenging for both you and your furry friend.

What is dog puberty?

Dog puberty is the time in which your dog reaches sexual maturity. It’s triggered by hormonal changes that influence their growth and behaviour. Their reproductive organs are fully developed and they’re capable of reproducing. During this time, your dog may display natural behaviours that are undesirable from a human perspective.

When do dogs reach sexual maturity?

Dog puberty can happen anytime between 6 months and 2 years of age, depending on the breed and the individual dog. Smaller breeds tend to mature faster than larger breeds.

You can ask your vet or your breeder to give you an estimate of when your dog will reach puberty, but keep in mind that every dog is different and there is no exact timeline.

How to tell if your dog is going through puberty

There are some physical and behavioural signs that can indicate that your dog is entering or going through puberty. Here are some of the most common ones:

Female dogs

For female dogs, the most obvious sign is their first heat cycle. This usually happens between 6 and 15 months of age and lasts for about three weeks.

During this time, you may notice a red, bloody to clear, mucous discharge and enlargement in the size of their vulva, increased licking and cleaning of their vulva, sometimes swelling of the breast area, and more attention from male dogs. You may also notice changes in their appetite, energy, and mood.

Male dogs

For male dogs, the most noticeable sign is the enlargement of their testicles, which usually happens between 7 and 10 months of age. This means that they can produce sperm and are able to get female dogs pregnant.

You may also notice some changes in their behaviour, such as marking their territory with urine; mounting and/or humping people, objects, or other dogs; and potentially becoming more aggressive or dominant towards other dogs.

How to cope with the changes that come with sexual maturity

This can be a difficult time for both you and your dog, but with some patience, understanding, and consistency, you can get through it and enjoy your dog’s adulthood. Here are some tips to help you cope with your dog’s puberty phase.

Consider desexing

Desexing is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, reduce the risk of some health problems, and avoid some of the behavioural issues associated with sexual maturity in dogs.

Talk to your local Greencross Vets about the best time to desex your dog, as there are some pros and cons to consider.


Keep your dog safe and supervised

As your dog reaches sexual maturity, they may be more prone to try to wander, escape, or get into trouble. Make sure your dog is always on a leash or in a fenced area when outside, and never leave them alone with other dogs or potential dangers.

You may want to invest in a crate or a playpen and crate training (if you haven’t already), and make sure your home fencing is appropriately secured, to keep your dog contained and comfortable when you are not around.

Reinforce your dog’s training

Puberty can lead to challenges with training but is not an excuse to let your dog get away with undesirable behaviour. They can be more inclined to try to push boundaries, struggle to focus and develop more of a sense of what they like and dislike as they mentally mature and continue developing their personalities, so keeping up with training is very important.

Positive based training is the recommended approach, so correcting and redirected undesirable behaviours, rewarding good behaviour, being consistent and clear with your expectations of them, providing ample physical and mental stimulation are all very helpful techniques in managing their behaviour and training during this time.

You may want to consider enrolling your dog in a training class. It is ideal to continue dog training classes past the initial puppy school classes and continue over the first year of life, and even beyond. It can be especially helpful during this puberty phase. You can work with a professional trainer to help address any specific issues or challenges and talk to your local vet if you are having any concerning behavioural changes.

Enrol your puppy in Petbarn's Puppy School

Provide your dog with enough exercise and mental stimulation

A bored or restless dog is more likely to act out or develop behavioural issues. Make sure your dog gets enough physical and mental stimulation every day, such as walks, training sessions, games, toys, puzzles, and socialisation. This will help your dog burn off energy, relieve stress, and satisfy their base needs.

Dog puberty is a natural and normal phase of your dog’s life, and it will pass. Don’t take your dog’s behaviour personally, and don’t punish them harshly or unfairly. Instead, provide them with love, structure, support, and guidance to help them through this phase into adulthood.

Remember that your dog is still your loyal and loving companion, and they will appreciate your help and care. By supporting and guiding them appropriately through this time, you will help them develop into the best version of themselves on their journey into adulthood, reduce the potential for anxiety and other behavioural issues developing and improve the bond you share with them.