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Dog talk with Uncle Matty: The Hollywood man-child and your dog’s maturation

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From page A10 | December 20, 2013 | 7 Comments

Let’s play a game. I’m thinking of a movie in which grown men act like little boys. Can you guess the movie?

What? You’re overwhelmed by the possibilities? “Old School,” “Failure To Launch,” “Stepbrothers,” “Anchorman,” “The Hangover,” “Grown Ups,” “Grown Ups 2″ or just about any other Adam Sandler vehicle. If you’ve seen any one of these movies, then you know that the state of being fully grown has absolutely nothing to do with maturity.

And the same is true of dogs.

Say you get a puppy — a real live 8-week-old as-young-as they-come pup. Say he’s a retriever — round and gold and puffy like a dandelion seed head perched on four awkward paws. Say a handful of months later your little fluffball can pull himself upright and tall and plant his snout directly onto your dinner plate.

Don’t be fooled when those oversized paws suddenly take on a sense of proportion. He may no longer be puppy-sized, but a puppy he remains.

All dogs go through the same basic stages of maturation: puppyhood, adolescence, adulthood and the senior years.

Puppyhood is full of energy and antics. Adolescence is less hyperkinetic but possibly more unpredictable, depending on the dog and his training. Adulthood is when things smooth out, and the senior years are when things slow down. Generally speaking.

While all healthy dogs go through these stages of development, size and breed have a say in the speed of maturation. Smaller dogs tend to mature faster and live longer. Large breeds mature later in life and typically experience shorter periods of adulthood and fewer senior years.

So if you’re crossing off the days to the time when you and your mischievous Maltese will wave goodbye to puppyhood and adolescence, plan on about 730 X’s: two full calendar years. For your beagle, two and half years. Your lab will need three-plus years. And give that Great Dane a good four years before you start sniffing for signs of adulthood.

This is one of the reasons why the common thinking that “one human year is the equivalent of seven dog years” fails.

It’s not about years, and it’s not about looks. It’s about maturation. In two short years, that Maltese will cover the 18 human years of infancy, childhood and adolescence — or in the case of the typical Sandler character, the 40 and counting human years. At the age of 5, that Great Dane will be the canine equivalent of a 40-year-old. Whether he’s a 40-year-old Charlie Sheen or a 40-year-old Matt Damon is up to you and fate.

Maturation is an important factor in your dog’s learning. I reject the cliched notion that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But it is easier to teach a young dog who hasn’t yet developed bad habits.

People often resign themselves to living in compromised circumstances because they hear: “You have to train them when they’re still a puppy, or it’s just impossible.” It’s never impossible to improve on a bad scene. But it’s also helpful to know what “when they’re still a puppy” means. Just because your dog doesn’t look the part of a pup anymore doesn’t mean he’s not a pup. For a human example of this phenomenon, I direct you to the latest Vince Vaughn vehicle, “Delivery Man,” in theaters now.

Woof!

Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to dearuncle.gazette@unclematty.com or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.

Copyright 2013 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Matthew Margolis

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 7 comments

  • cookie65December 20, 2013 - 7:31 am

    It is terribly important to understand the breed before you take on the responsibility of pet ownership. Do a little research and learn what the breed was bred for in order to find a dog who's tendencies and instincts match your lifestyle and abilities. My standard poodle was mature at 6 months while my chocolate lab never will be. Over time my lab has had lots of influence on my poodle and caused her to revert back to some adolescent behaviors. They couldn't be more opposite and the interactions between the two of them is highly entertaining. My 3 lbs. Chihuahua can't decide if she wants to be a proper poodle or a loonatic Labrador.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Phil VeerkampDecember 20, 2013 - 7:40 am

    . . . so . . . uh . . . me chocolate lab?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • cookie65December 20, 2013 - 8:22 am

    Absolutely Phil. Labradors know how to have a good time and they live in the moment more than any human. They can entertain themselves as easily as those of us who follow politics and have enjoyed the last 5 years of watching symbolism try and weasel its way out of utter incompetence. They are extremely jocular.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Dee#1December 20, 2013 - 8:10 am

    Phil, some of us prefer playful and silly as long as they behave.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Phil VeerkampDecember 20, 2013 - 8:16 am

    LINK - Illegal alien dolphins

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • cookie65December 20, 2013 - 8:25 am

    http://s823.photobucket.com/user/fwoppy/media/gary-larson-what-we-say-to-dogs-what-dogs-hear.jpg.html

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • cookie65December 20, 2013 - 8:27 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CliNcY0QTUQ

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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