The 7 Phases of Puppy Development
Like human babies, canine pups undergo multiple stages during its first year of life. It is during this time that it is learning about its surroundings and how the world functions.
As the owner, you play an enormous influence in your puppy's development. It is through you that it will learn what behaviors are good and which ones are bad. This will ultimately shape its demeanor, temperament, and ability to obey once it becomes an adult.
Puppy development stages can be classified into seven phases. If you have a young pup that is barely old enough to open its eyes, then the following guide will help you keep track of your pup's growth.
1. Birth – Three Weeks
This is the very first puppy development stage. It’s during this time that its ears and eyes will begin to open and respond to sight and noise.
During its first week 90% of a puppys time is spent sleeping and 10% eating. They are only able to crawl.
This is also the period when your pup adjusts to its legs and begins to walk for short distances. If its mother and siblings are around, it will begin to distinguish them as separate entities.
2. Three to Four Weeks
Once your canine reaches its first three weeks, it will begin to rapidly develop its sensory abilities. It will be more alert to its environment and learn to respond accordingly. It will also recognize family members, both canine and human.
This puppy development phase is roughly only one week but is also one of the most pivotal. This is basically the stage where it learns how to be a dog.
As the owner, be careful not to expose it to loud noises. Sudden noise can easily put it on alert and affect its temperament later down the road.
3. Four to Seven Weeks
This period can be referred to as the social phase. This is when your pup learns how to use its paws and teeth as a communication tool. This is also the appropriate time to transition it to solid foods.
If the mother is still around, this is also the time to start having brief separation time. Keep it short; multiple intervals of 10 minutes should suffice.
Pups that are separated for prolonged periods can become anxious and become prone to barking and aggression; it may also develop social inadequacies among other dogs and people.
At this point, do not discipline your dog for bad behavior, such as excessive barking or housebreaking. It is not old enough to associate its behavior with the punishment.
4. Eight Weeks – Three Months
Some canine experts characterize this phase as the fearful stage. During this time, it may become more timid and fearful of things it previously took in strides. Refrain from harsh discipline, including hitting or even scolding in a loud voice.
By this time, it will also have its bowels and bladder under much better control. From this point forward, it will also be able to sleep through the night and not bark incessantly during the wee hours.
This is the stage where you can begin teaching it simple commands, such as “sit” and “play dead.” Leash training should also begin at this time.
5. Three to Four Months
This is a pup’s “toddler” phase. By this point, it has established some level of independence. It may even act out from time to time and blatantly ignore its owner’s command.
Don’t resort to harsh discipline if it challenges your authority. Instead, use gentle reinforcement by rewarding it for good behavior and withholding the reward until it obeys you.
For an unwanted behavior, such as barking or biting you, simply make eye contact and in a firm voice, say something along the lines of “no bite,” “bad dog,” or even a simple “no.”
Afterwards, walk away and ignore it for several minutes. Pups want their owner’s attention and a few minutes of giving it the cold shoulder will show your dog that it engaged in a naughty behavior.
This is also the phase where your pup will engage in more play fighting. It may, for example, engage in a tug of war if you try to snatch something away from its jaws. While this is normal, be careful not to let it get out of hand. Too much tug of war or wrestling that constantly gets too rough may condition it to believe that aggression is acceptable. Giving more exercise with short walks will help this.
6. Four to Six Months
This phase is colloquially termed as the “brat” stage and is basically an extension of the previous phase. Your dog will begin to show even more independence and willfulness; expect more rebellious behavior.
This is also the growth cycle where its molars will begin to grow out and will begin its lifelong innate need to gnaw on whatever it can get is jaws on.
Be prepared for the teething stage. Make sure you give your puppy plenty of things to chew during this stage.
Continue your usual routine of command and leash training. For the latter, don’t release it from its leash during walks because it may especially be tempted to ignore you when it has all sorts of outdoor temptations to divert its attention.
In a way, this stage represents a dog’s puberty phase. There are physical hormonal changes taking place; this is also the time to have it spayed or neutered.
7. Six to Eighteen months
This is the final stage before your pup transitions to a full-fledged adult canine. This is also when your dog is at its peak in terms of physical energy and eagerness to explore the world.
Even though your dog may look like an adult at this point, it still lacks experience. This is the time to increase its training and exercise. If you’re interested in teaching your dog advanced tricks, now is the time to begin.
Other types of skills, such as carcass retrieval and herding, should also be taught at this stage. Also feel free to introduce it to strangers and even other non-aggressive dogs or pets.
The puppy development stages represent a young dog’s transition from puppy to adult.
This is the time when it’s most impressionable. As the owner, instill in it its role in the household. This means teaching it to respect your authority as the master and setting boundaries.