Movement Markers tm Monday Musings: 18 moa is a thing



Changes in behavior at 18 moa is a developmental thing in the dog world, and especially in the larger breeds.  Typically, more explicit in intact dogs, this developmental stage can also manifest in spayed/neutered dogs, and may be more or less overt depending on the age of spay/neuter.  This is a totally normal transitional period.  The larger breeds have come into the majority of their bone growth and are hitting their full genetic mass. They are moving out of the exploratory period into an adolescent testing period.  They are testing their muscles, testing the scope of their world, testing their boundaries, testing their limits, testing their drives, and exploring new proprioceptive balance points in their body and their brain.  Totally and completely normal. Not in and of itself a sign that training has “failed,” or that we have made some horrible mistake(s) in growing this puppy up.  We have a joke in the training world, using a mastiff for example, we tell clients that they will have a delightful cuddly pup until they hit 18 moa and then they will turn into a mastiff, and they will need to call us to schedule a tune-up so that the training we did generalizes to this new dog with a new body.  Totally and completely normal.  

            We just need to reteach what we taught as foundation to this “new” dog with his “new” body and revisit key concepts of attention, spatial yielding, handleability, and sequencing of basic commands.  I typically do a lot of precision focus in motion through all the basic turns on a short leash, long line work with some increased focus requirements vis a vis a recall, and checking where the handleability thresholds are at.  Normally doesn’t take long.  I typically do a reset over a weekend with 3 core 1.5 hour lessons and then guide clients through follow up typically ranging from 6 weeks to three months to accomplish a full reset.  My timelines are based on the fact that I am typically doing a reset on a dog I trained as a pup, so I have those foundations to lean on when the dogs hit certain developmental milestones.  

            Clients calling you to address changes of behavior in their 18 month old dog will self-blame — I didn’t do enough, I did too much, the family’s been busy, Joey got sick…a thousand reasons. Maybe some of that has a grain of truth.  But the truth also still is that regardless of whether they raised their dog with a perfection of training, or whether you trained the dog as a pup — some dogs, some breeds, still hit that 18 moa testing cusp as part of utterly normal development.  It really helps your client to understand that even perfection would not have changed normal development.  Cutting the ropes of shame or self-blame can also give you more buy-in for the follow up work your client will need to be doing after your train or tune-up.


Movement Markers tm  Training from the inside out.

Maryna Ozuna

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