The 7 Stages of Puppy Development
Let's take a look at the different stages, but before we do,
keep in mind that these stages are generalizations - each dog
will progress at its own pace.
Stage 1: The Transitional Stage 2-3 Weeks
The Transitional stage generally lasts from age two to three
weeks, and it's 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 any objects you might place in the
Stage 2: The Almost Ready To Meet The World Stage 3-4
The 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 you and other family members. 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 right
now. Puppies learn how to be a dog during this time, so it's
essential that they stay with mom and littermates.
Stage 3: 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
He'll also learn discipline at this point - Mom will begin
weaning the pups around this time, and will start teaching them
basic manners, including accepting her as the leader of the pack.
You can begin to introduce food to the pups starting around the
4th week - transition gradually as Mom weans them. Continue
handling the pups daily, but don't separate them from either Mom
or litter mates for more than about 10 minutes per day. Puppies
that are removed from the nest too early frequently are nervous,
more prone to barking and 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 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.
Stage 4: The "I'm Afraid of Everything" Stage 8 Weeks to 3
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 took in stride before. This is
not a good time to engage in harsh discipline (not that you ever
should anyway!), loud voices or traumatic events. 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.
(At last, you can get some rest!) You can begin teaching simple
commands like: come, sit, stay, down, etc. Leash training can
begin. 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.
Stage 5: The Juvenile Stage 3 Months to 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
they're trying to exert their new-found independence. As in "I
don't have to listen to you!" Firm and gentle reinforcement of
commands and training is what's required here. He might start
biting you - play biting or even a real attempt to challenge your
authority. A sharp "No!" or "No bite!" command, followed by
several minutes of ignoring him, should take care of this
problem. Continue to play with him and handle him on a daily
basis, but don't play games like tug of war or wrestling with
him. He may perceive tug of war as a game of dominance -
especially if he wins. And wrestling is another game that can
rapidly get out of hand. As your puppy's strength grows, he's
going to want to play-fight to see who's stronger - even if you
win, the message your puppy receives is that it's ok to fight
with you. And that's not ok!
Stage 6: 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 and willfulness. You may see a decline in
his urge to please you - expect to see more "testing the limits"
type of behaviors. 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 can help sooth
him during this period.
He may try to assert his new "dominance" over other family
members, especially children. Continue his training in obedience
and basic commands, but make sure to never let him off his leash
during this time 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, even fatal, breakdown in your
dog's response to you. If you turn him loose in a public place,
and he bolts, the chances of injury or even death can result - so
don't take the chance.
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!) If you haven't
already, you should have him neutered during this time. (Or
spayed if you have a female.)
Stage 7: The Young Adult 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 your 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 herding 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.
Congratulations! You've raised your puppy through the 7 stages
of childhood, er, I mean puppy hood, and now you have a grown-up,
adult dog! Almost feels like you've raised a kid, doesn't it?
Charlie Lafave, author, "Dog Training Secrets!" To transform
your stubborn, misbehaving dog into a loyal, well-behaving "best
friend" who obeys your every command and is the envy of the
neighborhood, visit: http://tinyurl.com/6u2cj
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