Teenage dogs? Evidence for adolescent-phase conflict behaviour and an association between attachment to humans and pubertal timing in the domestic dog

Biol Lett. 2020 May;16(5):20200097. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2020.0097. Epub 2020 May 13.


The relationship between parent and child changes around adolescence, with children believed to have: (i) an earlier puberty if they have less secure attachments to their carer; (ii) a phase of increased conflict behaviour toward their carer; and (iii) heightened conflict behaviour when carer attachments are less secure. We find support for analogous associations in adolescent dogs based on behaviour and reproductive timing of potential guide dogs. Bitches with behaviour indicative of insecure attachments pre-adolescence became reproductively capable earlier. Providing the first empirical evidence to our knowledge in support of adolescent-phase behaviour in dogs, we found a passing phase of carer-specific conflict-like behaviour during adolescence (reduced trainability and responsiveness to commands), an effect that was more pronounced in dogs with behaviour indicative of less secure attachments. These results indicate a possibility for cross-species influence on reproductive development and highlight adolescence as a vulnerable time for dog-owner relationships.

Keywords: adolescence; attachment; dog; human–animal interaction; puberty; sensitive period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child
  • Dogs
  • Human-Animal Bond*
  • Humans

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4955564