Watching a puppy grow into themselves and their personality is one of the greatest things in life to experience. If you’re a dog lover, you know this to be true. From the moment they open their eyes to when they are bounding around your home as young pups and being a loyal companion in their adulthood, a dog’s life is a journey.
While not everyone experiences their pup from day one, it’s still important to understand how a puppy develops. This can help you better understand your dog’s behaviors, temperament, and quirks, all of which will impact how you will interact with them in the future.
If you’re someone who has adopted a puppy and is getting them at eight to 14 weeks, the weeks after will be much different than the weeks the puppy has already lived. Keep reading to learn more about your new furry friend and the stages of their development.
Stage One: Birth – 2 Weeks
When a puppy is first born, they don’t have too much awareness of the world around them. They don’t open their eyes immediately, need assistance feeding, can’t move around comfortably yet, and aren’t responsive to human stimuli. Instead, you’ll notice that a newborn puppy will sleep almost the entire time.
Don’t stress about this, though, because sleep is vital. If you are someone who is assisting an adult dog through the birthing process, you will want to ensure that you are handling her puppies, even for a few minutes a day. Tactile stimulation helps to reduce their stress from outside stimuli and can assist in their overall development.
There is very little training that you can do in this period. Punishing will only cause harm, so learning how to steer a puppy away from unwanted behaviors is the better alternative. You’ll also want to introduce these little puppies to stimuli they need to be accustomed to. This could be other animals or different noise levels and sounds.
Stage Two: 2 – 4 Weeks
During this period, a puppy will begin to walk around (clumsily) and will officially wake up from their sleep phase. This is the time when the mother can begin correcting the puppies’ behaviors and helping them socialize with their siblings. At this point, a puppy’s senses are strengthening, so they react to their environment in ways we humans can easily perceive.
Your puppy will soon begin their vaccinations, but until then, they shouldn’t be exposed to a wide variety of dogs. You don’t want your puppy to risk getting sick, but bringing them to clean environments, like puppy classes, is usually safe. Dog parks are not meant for unvaccinated pups.
Stage Three: 5 – 8 Weeks
At this stage, your puppy will likely be more involved with their environment and begin building their personalities. Your dog might be the one to greet every person that walks in the door, or maybe they are the one sunbathing away from all the commotion, enjoying their solitude.
This is the stage where your puppy will begin to learn how to play and gain social skills from their siblings, like biting to play, not to hurt. A puppy might also learn how to bark and growl during these stages.
During these stages, your puppy should interact with a variety of different people to become accustomed to them. Young children, older people, male and female, should come to meet your puppy so that they don’t become fearful of any type of person. Luckily, inviting people over to play with puppies is pretty much a guaranteed yes RSVP.
At the same time, you’ll want to vacuum around your pup, knock and ring doors, go for car rides, get used to a crate, drop things on the floor, or even ride a bicycle near them to normalize new experiences for them. You should also feel comfortable touching all parts of your puppy so that they see it as normal. Additionally, try to stop resource-guarding before it even begins by touching their food while they eat.
Starting early with house training makes your life a whole lot easier. There will be a lot less mess to clean up if your puppy is not having any accidents in the house. You can introduce them to a collar and lead and go for “walks” in your backyard and begin the basic training. Always use positive reinforcement.
During this stage, your puppy will need to get a few different vaccinations in order for them to go out and socialize with other dogs. They will need parvo, distemper, and hepatitis vaccinations, along with anything else your vet recommends.
If your pup isn’t vaccinated yet, it’s best to keep them away from other dogs to minimize any risk. Once your dog is vaccinated, they can go out in more populated dog settings to learn how to make some friends.
Stage Four: 8 – 14 Weeks
If you haven’t watched your pup grow from birth, this might be the time that you are getting your dog. Between eight and 14 weeks, a puppy is usually ready to go out and meet their new family.
Some people might suggest waiting longer to give your puppy more time to understand their surroundings. They have done the basics of their development, learning a bit about how to just be a dog.
When a puppy no longer has their littermate or mom to correct unwanted behavior, you need to take on that role in a way that wouldn’t traumatize them. Your pup might express some anxiety and fear, especially if they have just left their siblings.
It’s not personal: During this stage, their fear response becomes more pronounced. As a pet parent, you’ll figure out ways to increase your pup’s comfortability. Positive reinforcement with treats can make the training a lot easier, as many puppies are food motivated.
While it can be tricky at first to communicate with your pup, the best way to help them succeed is to learn about what their triggers are and what kind of interactions they enjoy the most. You can reward them for getting through hard times with something they really enjoy.
Here’s a hypothetical situation: Say your puppy is afraid of meeting children. If you give the child your pup’s favorite treat, have the child sit very still, and without making eye contact with your pup, have them reach the treat towards them.
This exchange allows for your puppy to make contact on their own terms and with more confidence. They will smell that treat from a mile away and reinforce a scary stimulus with something positive.
Stage Five: 12/14 – 24 Weeks
Around this time, you’ll want to keep your shoes off the floor and anything important to you out of reach. Welcome to the teething stage. Your pup’s teeth are growing in, which can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful, and chewing makes it feel better.
Supervise your puppy whenever they are chewing on something so that they don’t destroy something they aren’t supposed to. Having plenty of safe toys, maybe some with food inside can help to curb your puppy’s boredom and redirect their energy. Your puppy will need a lot of stimulation to avoid unwanted behaviors, like gnawing on chair legs and rugs.
This is an excellent time to start training with your dog, which will burn their energy and keep them occupied — a huge plus. With positive reinforcement, your puppy will catch on to tricks much easier and understand the concept of house training better.
Stage Six: 25 – 48 Weeks
By this point, your puppy might not feel like a puppy anymore since they’ve grown so much in a few short weeks. But trust us, your dog will forever be a puppy, especially during this stage when they are still one! Your dog might be more confident and active now, meaning regular walks and perfect potty training.
It’s likely that by now, your dog is more comfortable with you and you with them. You can communicate better and work together to meet your goals — whether in socialization or training sessions.
Your walks might become longer because they want to stop and sniff every spot they pass (this actually never goes away), they might be picking up on tricks faster, and you might be introducing them to new dogs and people that they can begin to form bonds with.
Around 24 to 26 weeks is when most dogs will be spayed or neutered, but consulting with your vet can help to figure out the best timing for your pup specifically. After this stage, your pup will enter their last year of puppyhood. Most dogs reach adulthood in two years, but they are still easily influenced by the environment. It also depends on breed and breed size.
Staying on top of training and socialization is the best way for your dog to see success in their future and live a happy and healthy life!
Get Support from AskVet
With raising a puppy comes lots of responsibility but also a lot of questions. Unless you know an expert personally, getting the best answers can be difficult, and the internet can tell you a variety of different things. AskVet is here to help. We want to see your dog thrive, but we know that it can be lonely sometimes trying to figure it out all on your own.
Reach out to a Certified Pet Lifestyle Coach™ (CPLC) at AskVet and schedule a session today. Our CPLCs can answer any questions you have and put together a 360° personalized health and lifestyle plan for your pet. Dogs, cats, fish, lizards, and more — all are welcome here!
Sign-up today and download the app for just $9.99/month and gain access to all the information you could possibly need!