Like humans, dogs go through various development phases to transform from adorable little puppies into full-grown adult dogs.
As an existing or potential puppy owner, it is crucial to know how your pet’s lifecycle unfolds and the pertinent features of each stage of development.
Having a good knowledge of what your puppy would go through as they grow into adulthood will help you better care of them. Below are the five stages of puppy development.
Birth to 2 Weeks
When puppies are born, they utilize only two of their senses, which are the senses of smell and taste.
Their eyes and ears usually remain closed for the first two weeks, and they are incapable of standing and walking.
The puppy uses its sense of smell to identify the mother’s location and find her teat for feeding. In a litter with multiple babies, the puppies stay close together to keep warm. They get around by crawling and shuffling on their bellies.
3 Weeks to 8 Weeks
After the first two weeks, puppies open their eyes and ears and experience the outside world for the first time.
The babies can stand and begin to walk around the fourth week, a bit shaky at first but they become balanced quickly.
They begin to get weaned off their mother’s milk and can eat dog food. The mother’s milk production also reduces gradually until the eighth week when the pups get weaned off completely.
Between the fourth week to the eighth week, the puppies learn to play with each other, and they learn important cues that will aid their socialization with other dogs and humans.
At this point, the puppies can be separated from their mother and can be placed with their human families.
9 Weeks to 16 Weeks
This period in the puppy’s life is when they are most teachable as their brains are most receptive to learning new things.
It is, therefore, the best time to engage the dog in behavioural training. Potty, crate, and obedience training can be commenced with the use of positive reinforcement and clickers.
Adequate socialization should be ensured by introducing the puppy to new sights and sounds in the environment.
They should be allowed to meet other dogs in a controlled environment so they can learn dog hierarchy.
At their 10th to 11th week, puppies usually go through a phase characterized by elevated fear levels.
They quickly get scared of regular everyday occurrences and can be too anxious to participate in their normal activities.
This phase usually ends after the 11th week, and the puppies go back to their usual temperament.
4 Months to 1 Year
Like puberty in humans, the fourth month to one year of a dog’s life is when they begin to mature mentally, behaviourally, and sexually.
The puppy begins to assert his dominance and tries to challenge the status quo. There would be acts of aggression and disobedience to already established commands.
The fourth to sixth month is characterized by chewing as this is when their adult teeth come in. If the puppy has not been neutered or spayed, their sexual hormones become active, and they develop an interest in the opposite sex.
Female puppies can go into heat at least once during this period. The puppy may also experience a second extreme fear phase around the fourth to the fifth month, which would get resolved like the first phase.
1 Year to Adulthood
The time that a puppy becomes fully matured is mostly dependent on its size and breed. Smaller dogs usually reach adulthood much earlier than larger dogs.
As the puppy grows, they become more confident about their place in the family and usually shed most of their delinquent and aggressive behaviour.
Breeds with naturally dominant natures begin to assert their dominance as their confidence increases.
Most dogs retain their high energy levels and would still love playing and require adequate exercise.
Training and socialization should continue at this stage, and established commands should be regularly reinforced.