The 7 Stages of Puppy Development
DISTINGUISH BETWEEN MISBEHAVIOR
AND AGE APPROPRIATE
Puppy doesn’t listen? Maybe it is developmental….
Here is a general timeline for development to maturation.
The Transitional Stage 2-3 Weeks
The Transitional stage generally lasts from age two to three weeks, and it is during this time that your puppy’s eyes will open, and he’ll slowly start to respond to light and movement and sounds around him. He’ll become a little more mobile during this period, trying to get his feet underneath him and crawling around in the box (or wherever home is.) He’ll start to recognize mom and his littermates, and objects.
The Almost Ready to Meet the World Stage 3-4 Weeks
Almost ready to meet the world stage lasts from 3 to about 4 weeks, and your puppy undergoes rapid sensory development during this time. Fully alert to his environment, he’ll begin to recognize people. It’s best to avoid loud noises or sudden changes during this period – negative events can have a serious impact on his personality and development in this time period. Puppies learn how to be a dog during this time, so it’s essential that they stay with mom and littermates.
The Overlap Stage 4-7 Weeks
From 3-4 weeks, your puppy begins the most critical social development period of his life – he learns social interaction with his littermates, learns how to play, and learns bite inhibition. He’ll also learn discipline at this point – Mom will begin weaning the pups around this time, and will start teaching them basic manners. You can begin to introduce food to the pups starting around the fourth week – transition gradually as Mom weans them. They are best conditioned and thrive with handling each day but not separated from either Mom or litter mates just yet.. Puppies that are removed from the nest too early frequently are nervous, more prone to anxiety, barking, biting, and have a more difficult time with socialization and training. Puppies need to be left with Mom and siblings until at least 7 weeks of age - and preferably a little longer (for most breeds of dogs 8 weeks is ideal for optimum social development. Experts say that the best time in a puppy’s life to learn social skills is between 3 and 16 weeks of age – that’s the window of opportunity you have to make sure your puppy grows up to be a well-adjusted dog. It’s extremely important to leave your puppy with Mom and his littermates during as much of this period as possible. Don’t discipline for play fighting, housebreaking mistakes, or mouthing – that’s all normal behavior for a puppy at this stage.
I am afraid of everything Stage 8wks-3mo
The “I’m Afraid of Everything” Stage lasts from about 8 weeks to 3 months and is characterized by rapid learning as well as a “fearful period” that usually pops up at around 8 to 10 weeks. Not all dogs experience this, but most do, and they’ll appear terrified over things that they had no response to before. This is what we call the Imprint period. Lasting effects can be permenent from loud voices or harsh discipline which will manifest as a traumatic event.
At this time, your puppy’s bladder and bowels are starting to come under much better control, and he’s capable of sleeping through the night. (Get some rest!) You can begin teaching simple commands like: come, sit, stay, down, etc. and leash training begins. It’s important not to isolate your puppy from human contact at this time, as he’ll continue to learn behaviors and manners that will affect him in later years.
The Juvenile Stage 3 - 4 months
The Juvenile Stage typically lasts from 3 to 4 months of age, and it’s during this time your puppy is most like a toddler. He’ll be a little more independent - he might start ignoring the commands he’s only recently learned – just like a child does when trying to exert his or her new-found independence, as in “I don’t have to listen to you!” Firm and gentle reinforcement of cues and continued regular training skills and drills are required here. Your dog might start biting you – play biting or even a real attempt to challenge you. I recommend “Bitter Yuck” online. This product can be sprayed on furniture, clothing, plants, etc. This product is mainly used on rungs, floorboards, chair legs, etc.
The Brat Stage 4 - 6 months
The Brat Stage starts at about 4 months and runs until about 6 months, and it’s during this time your puppy will demonstrate even more independence. You may see a decline in his urge to please you –He’ll be going through a teething cycle during this time, and will also be looking for things to chew on to relieve the pain and pressure. Frozen doggie bones, carrots and Kong’s can help soothe him during this period, to name a few. Continue his training in clear verbal and non-verbal cues. Use a 30 foot lead and don’t let him off his leash unless you’re in a confined area. Many times, pups at this age will ignore commands to return or come to their owners, which can be a dangerous breakdown in your dog’s response to you. If you turn him loose in a public place, and he bolts, the chances of injury are high. It is rewarding if he makes it to someone that gives him love or get's to interact with a friendly dog so not allowing those positive interactions when not listening will teach him to look to you for getting those things. He’ll now begin to go through the hormonal changes brought about by his growing sexual maturity and you may see signs of rebelliousness. (Think adolescent teen-age boy!) Here is a great article on Spay/Neuter Facts.
The Young Adult Stage Stage 6 - 18 months
The Young Adulthood stage lasts from 6 months to about 18 months, and is usually a great time in your dog’s life - he’s young, he’s exuberant, he’s full of beans – and yet he’s learning all the things he needs to become a full-fledged adult dog.
Be realistic in the expectations of your dog at this time – just because he’s approaching his full growth and may look like an adult, he’s not as seasoned and experienced as you might expect. Gradually increase the scope of activities for your dog, as well as the training. You can start more advanced training during this period, such as pet therapy or agility training if that’s something both of you are interested in. Otherwise, extend his activities to include more people and other animals – allow him to interact with non-threatening or non-aggressive dogs.