Puppy Development Stages



Both PHYSICALLY and MENTALLY, puppies are growing much faster than we realize and it is crucial to understand these growing blocks so that you can reap the BEHAVIORAL BENEFITS for years into the future. As dog owners, we normally receive our puppies at around 8-10 weeks.


7-14 Weeks

Critical Human Socialization Period

At the beginning of this phase, a puppy should be completely weaned from mother. This is the age when most rapid learning occurs. Their minds are more "sponge-like" and they are able to absorb vast amounts of information.


In this critical learning phase, experiences will have the greatest impact on future social behavior.


The window of opportunity is short. Although puppies will still benefit from continued socialization, it is never as effective after 14 weeks of age.


This is the ideal time to capitalize on educating your puppy. Take into account their physical limitations and short attention span by keeping training sessions short but frequent.


AND Fear Impact Period

The Fear Period is a totally normal phase that all dogs go through. It is when puppies start to learn from bad experiences (they remember the bad things that happen to them). Keep in mind that anything that frightens the puppy during this period could have a more lasting effect than if it occurred at any other time. This is also a time when puppies are particularly easily frightened.


To avoid stress at vet appointments, make sure to make it a positive experience. You can even take them to the vet for fun just to say hello and greet the staff.


Read my article on Actions To Avoid, it covers the most common mistakes dog owners make in raising their puppy during this period.


Avoid any potentially overwhelming experiences (many of which are obvious) such as dog parks, plane flights, concerts, etc.


4-8 Months

The Puppy Pre-Teen

This is the phase where dogs seems to make great strides in training. They are happy learning new skills and they do so without much practice. They are trying to understand their boundaries, so make sure you have them in place consistently.


Most of height growth occurs during this period and ends by puberty. Puppy begins to mature sexually: male begins to lift leg, and female has first heat period, usually between 6 to 12 months. Some dogs may be earlier, some later. Puppy coat being replaced by more distinctive adult coat. Timing depends on the breed. Puppy will begin teething. Common signs of teething are swollen red gums, do not panic if there is some bleeding.

Read my article on What To Do About My Teething Puppy.


Your puppy should be enrolled in some socialization class.


Talk to your vet about heartworm and flea/tick monthly medicines, as well as the rabies vaccine.


7-12 Months

Canine Adolescence


Just like teenagers, it will seem like all your initial hard work with training and parenting was for nothing, because your pup is all of a sudden misbehaving i.e. not coming when called, barking much more, etc.


Don't worry! Your work is not wasted. Your puppy is simply re-testing the boundaries to see if they are still the same. Are they? After a couple months of hyper-focusing on their puppy, dog owners tend to loosen up the boundaries because the puppy is now potty trained and has already done so well in training classes.


No. Your consistency and predictability are essential right now.


Your puppy is bigger and can now get into bigger problems. Try to be more PREVENTATIVE than CORRECTIVE, think ahead of what could possibly go wrong in the scenario and take action. Both you and your puppy will be happier this way. Their mistakes/disobedience only reinforces that behavior, so try to avoid it from being a possibility. For example, pick up your shoes so the dog doesn't chew them, put away the food and clean the counters so they don't learn that the counter is a gold mine, etc.


This is a common period where your dog gets into the bag of chips, digs holes in the backyard, and discovers the trash can.


Your dog will go through this period even if you've invested in the most elite of puppy schools - no owner is immune.


Read my articles on Chew This, Not That and Long Leash Training to help you address a dog that always needs to have something in its mouth and/or not coming when called.


AND A Second Fear Impact Period

Once again, you'll notice your puppy getting apprehensive around new situations (moreso situations rather than new people). At home, they seem bold and almost destructive, but the moment you take them to the dog park, it's tail-between-the-legs, "get me outta here!" attitude.


What is that?


Its believed to be tied to the dog's sexual maturity and growth spurts (so it would appear later in large breeds and sooner in small). In the wild, dogs at this age are starting to hunt, so they're learning the importance of sticking to the pack for safety AND the importance of fear as a survival mechanism.


For this reason, dogs will tend to flee from unfamiliar situations, and they have higher levels of reactivity, which can cause them to be defensive or territorial. As previously mentioned, your puppy is bigger and can now get into bigger problems. Their reactions will be bigger and will seem less manageable. Don't worry, ride it out with patience. This fear period lasts about three weeks.


Just like with fear period #1, take note to avoid overwhelming experiences.


1-4 Years

The Mature Doggo

Dogs will begin to settle into their homes and prefer the small pack that surrounds them. It may appear that they are less playful, or find puppies to be annoying. This is normal. Just like us humans, as we get older, we become a bit more picky about who we choose to spend our free time with, dogs adopt the same mindset.


You'll know when your dog is reliable to be on their own outside the crate.


Although puppies are amazing and adorable, you can do so many more things when your dog is an "adult." Enjoy it! Take trips, go see the beach, go hiking, the best years are yet to come.


Your dog may seem more self-sufficient, but they still need your attention DAILY. Get their energy out, teach them new tasks/tricks, maintain boundaries and a loose schedule.





Congratulations, you've made it!

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