I've read that six months begins the adolescent phase. I've read that we'll behaved dogs can suddenly seem to ignore commands, and I've also read that there is another fear imprint period around now I think.
Bama seems to be showing some teenage behavior. She seems to bark more...and it's not that it is random barking, but if she decides she needs or wants something she will continue to notify me.
Today she was barking at the shelf and I couldn't figure out what it was she wanted, or whether she thought something was there. Earlier in the week a cricket or something had gotten in the house and she discovered it and was barking a bit in the corner and sniffing a lot. I went to check it out and encouraged her to show me what was going on. I praised her for using her nose to find something. So I worry that she thinks she is supposed to notify me now of every unusual thing she smells.
She doesn't seem to want to follow commands anymore. This is probably my fault for not practicing with her regularly. The other day we were outside (fenced in area) and I wanted to go back in and she would not come and when I said stop and/or stay she would just give me a play bow and run. What finally worked---I took something out of my pocket and threw it and she grabbed it and brought it back. It's mostly during playtime that I notice this.
Is some of the acting out at this stage normal? Or have i just not done a good job reinforcing commands and good behaviors?
It is DEFINITELY a developmental stage. But just as with teenage children, that doesn't mean it will just "go away" completely on it's own. You need to work even harder through this period on her basic obedience, really strongly reinforcing good behavior with extra-yummy treats (or play if that is extremely motivating for her) while ignoring unwanted behaviors.
The demand barking is a hard one, and one that took us a LONG time to get under control with Kodi. The trouble is that it tends to come on at a time that our small breed pups are still not ENTIRELY reliable and/or independent in terms of pottying. So WE are on high alert for signs that they need to potty, and likely to respond to their every noise. You certainly want to make sure that your pup's needs are met, but you also want to ignore unnecessary demand barking. The problem is that intermittent reinforcement is the strongest type. So by only SOMETIMES (from their perspective) responding to their demands, we make it more likely that they will keep it up.
That's what I know from our experience with Kodi, and what I've learned about dog behavior in general. How to prevent the sort of "feedback loop", I'm not sure, unless you are very, VERY experienced with reading dog behavior. We ended up needing to check to see WHAT Kodi was barking about (i.e. responding to it) before making a decision whether it was something we could ignore or not. So he barked. A LOT!!!
Over time, we became more aware of what he was likely to bark about, the tone of the barking, and when we should respond/ignore. We know that a very deep "woof" near a door is a clear sign that he needs to potty. Barking AT us, either for food or attention is always ignored. Barking at the table where the cat's bowl is is also ignored. (DH started THAT problem by giving him pieces of cat food every time he filled the cat's bowl!
At "school", for a long time, he would bark incessantly AT me, when it wasn't his turn, because he HATED waiting. I could keep him from barking, but only by continuously keeping his attention on an activity like "puppy push-ups" or "hand touches". I couldn't concentrate on what the teacher was saying, because all my concentration was on managing him. He couldn't just "wait".
The typical advice of stepping on the leash and ignoring him by turning away didn't work at all in his case, and although everyone in the class was very nice about it, I knew he was very disruptive. _I_ couldn't hear over him either, and I'm sure my tension/anxiety over the whole situation just added to the problem. It took a long time, but we managed to get the attention-demand barking under control too. We manage it to a large extent by letting him rest in his crate (which he LOVES) between turns, and he is always quiet in the crate. I also, for a while, switched from group lessons, with more waiting, to private lessons, where he was actually working most of the time. We taught him that barking DOESN'T get him what he wants, by immediately marching him out of the ring (or if necessary, out of the building) for a few seconds the minute he started barking. Eventually, we got to the point that he can be in a class and behave himself.
He's still a bit mouthy... he has something to say about a lot of things. But he doesn't yap for no reason, and has learned that demand barking doesn't get him far. I have to keep a close eye on it, though, because the tendency is for it to creep back in, due to DH. (like the cat food thing) DH will do something like, if Kodi is whining because he has been harnessed in the back seat (if he's with just one of us, he rides in front... both cars have cut-offs for the front seat air bags) DH will want to talk sympathetically to him, or WORSE... actually give him a cookie! I have to continually remind him NOT to reinforce behavior that we want to stop. If we ignore the whining, he will stop in just a few seconds, and fall asleep. But he keeps trying, because "daddy is a push-over!"
So, yes, it's a phase, but consistency (from ALL family members) THROUGH this phase will get you out the other side MUCh sooner, and with better results!