Puppy Developmental Stages

From infancy to maturity, all puppies go through the same development process. The importance of knowing these developmental stages cannot be understated. Knowing the developmental stages allows you to make decisions that can help your puppy grow into a great dog.

The speeds at which puppies develop vary slightly between breeds. Generally, smaller dogs will develop faster than big breed dogs, the former usually reaching maturity at 12 months, while larger breed dogs can take up to 18 months to fully develop.

New Born, 0 – 2 weeks

Puppies can’t do much at this stage. Limited to only crawling, they will need extra care when being handled. The mother is needed to stimulate defecation and urination, as well as feeding, though, if for some reason the mother rejects the puppies, or can’t produce enough milk to feed them, they can be feed using canine milk substitute with a bottle or syringe.

Transition, 2 – 3 weeks

A puppy is able to walk and consume liquids, as well as defecate and urinate without the help of its mother. Baby teeth start to show and the ears begin to open up.

Socialization – 3 – 12 weeks

This is a critical development stage in your puppy’s life. He should be introduced to different people, other dogs and new environments as much as possible. He should also be vaccinated by the end of this period. This period can be divided up into 3 different sections.

First section, 3 – 5 weeks

A lot of development happens at this stage. A puppy’s sense of hearing, smell and sight improve significantly. He can now play-bite with his litter-mates, eat solid foods, wag his tail and carry objects around in his mouth.

Second section, 5 – 8 weeks

Puppies fully utilize their eyes and ears and become more coordinated. Group activates are seen; games are played between litter-mates. The end of this stage is the perfect time for a puppy to go to a new home.

Third Section, 8 – 12 weeks

The puppy will wander off away from his nest to explore on his own, but won’t go too far from the people he feels attached to. Puppies have a desire to please their owner and need as much contact with people and other dogs as possible. After this stage, puppies will become more afraid of new things, but will still remain curious.

Juvenile, 3 – 6 months

Puppies are usually very eager to please their owner at this stage, and will do whatever they believe their owner wants them to do. They will explore further, but still remain close to their owner and familiar territory. It is at this stage that many people get frustrated due to their puppy wanting to chew on everything it can get its teeth into. Make sure you have some chew toys for him to chew on in place of furniture etc. Use this stage to develop good manners and to optimize training methods, before your puppy gains more independence and it becomes harder to train.

Adolescence, 6 months/1 year – 18 months

Independence, Sexual maturity and hormonal imbalance, this is the stage that tests all dog owners. The majority of dogs given up for re-homing are around this age, but if you have brought your puppy up well, the issues faced here will lessen, but not completely. Just remember though, this phase doesn’t last forever, and once past it, you will be able to relax and enjoy life with your puppy.

Maturity, 1 year/18 months

Physically, your puppy will be fully matured, but he is still inexperienced, and a few issues may still be present. Keep training and exercise him. You may find that his confidence lands him in some undesirable scenarios, use physical restraint if your dog does something he isn’t meant to do.

Social Maturity, 18 months/3+ years

Your dog is now fully matured, both physically and socially. Experiences gained over the many months will now guide him (along with his owner) through the rest of his life.