7 Stages of puppy development

Seeing the various stages of puppy development is both fun, and fascinating.

Puppies are babies and just like human babies they`re going to go through a lot of different phases and stages on their way to adulthood.......

Golden Retriever adult and puppy

... but you have a shorter period in which to hone your parenting skills! 

Knowing what you can reasonably expect from your puppy (and what he simply isn`t capable of yet) is hugely important.

This is because it not only eliminate some frustrations, but it also ensures that your little guy gets exactly what he needs from you.

Every puppy is a unique individual - a furry little bundle of needs/wants/instincts and genes - and as he grows and you learn more about his personality you`ll find it easier to meet his needs.

Puppy Development During Pregnancy

If you want to learn all about canine pregnancy, and how puppies develop during the 9 weeks they spend in the womb, check out this page.... Dog Pregnancy

This is what parenting is all about!

You may not know this yet, but largeand giant breed puppies grow and mature much more slowly than small ortoy breeds.

This means that the ages at which puppies of different breeds/sizes go through eachstage of development can vary a bit.

The first 8 weeks is pretty standard for all pups, but after that - not so much.

Physical & emotional changes are just two of the three types of changes which all puppies experience as they mature.

The third one is growth, especially weight gain. Many new puppy owners want to know how big their new furbaby will be as an adult.

With purebred pups you can get a reasonable answer to this by looking at the parent dogs. For mixed breeds it is much more complicated.

If you want to know what your pup might weigh as an adult, check out these pages for tips and advice to get you in the ballpark...

Puppy Weight Estimates

Puppy Weight Chart

Click on the quick-links below, or simply scroll down to get an in-depth look at how little Fido grows and develops from birth through adulthood. Enjoy!

  • First Stage: 0 - 3 weeks
  • Second Stage: 3 - 7 weeks
  • Third Stage: 7 - 12 weeks
  • Fourth Stage: 12 - 17 weeks
  • Fifth Stage: 17 - 40 weeks
  • Sixth Stage: 40 - 52 weeks
  • Seventh Stage: One year & beyond

First Stage: 0 - 3 Weeks

This stage of puppy development is the very beginning of your puppy`s life and he`s a tiny, vulnerable creature!

Take a look at some puppies being born and you`ll see exactly what I mean...

During this first stage of development, puppies are born with their eyes and ears firmly closed and without any teeth.

Although you won`t see much external activity in a puppy during this period (all they want to do is eat and sleep!), there`s a LOT going on inside.

In fact this is a very critical stage of puppy development andall that sleeping is actually playing an important role as puppies domost of their growing during that time.

Towards the end of this period in your puppys` development he will begin to open hiseyes (at around 2 weeks old) and his ears (at around 3 weeks old), thenhis little teeth will start to peek through his gums.

His eyesight and hearing improve daily, and by the time he`s 3weeks old your puppy will be toddling around, trying out his voice andbeginning to play with his siblings.

Your Puppy`s Needs:

Obviously right now your puppy is with his momma and siblings, so the breeder has full responsibility for him.

If you have puppies who have been abandoned or rejected by theirmomma, or are orphans, they will need you to take care of them. My Caring For New Born Puppies page has all the tips, advice and information you need to do this properly.

It`s a good time for him/her to begin to introduce new things forthe puppies to experience and help to stimulate their senses.... suchas different textures for them to feel (ie. wear different clothing forthem to be held against, different surfaces to toddle about on, brushtheir fur gently and so on).

Different sounds can be introduced such as the radio, tv, washing machine etc.

To help you see how little ones behave during this period of puppy development, here are some adorable 3 week old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies... aw...

Second Stage: 3 - 7 Weeks

During this period of puppy development little Fido will grow very quickly and will mature at the same sort of pace.

Video: How to Care for Newborn Puppies : Puppy Growth Stages

He will start to regulate his own temperature during thisperiod, and also start to feel the urge to pee/poop all by himself so hewon`t need his momma, or you, to stimulate him to eliminate any more.

Your puppy is a now a `toddler` and he`ll be very busy learninghow to interact with other dogs (both puppies and older dogs) and withother animals and, of course, humans.

Your puppy`s teeth start to emerge during this stage and this means that he doesn`t have to rely on drinking milk as his sole source of nutrition.. but he can`t switch straight from nursing to eating dry kibble at this point.

His momma will start to wean him by refusing to let him nursefor long periods. In the wild a wolf or wild dog will regurgitate foodfor her puppies, the ultimate `baby food`. You don`t see this often indomesticated dogs, but some females do it and it`s not to be confusedwith vomiting!

There`s a lot to be learned from their momma during this stage of puppydevelopment. She`ll teach him basic `canine manners` and he willfollow her lead in terms of how he reacts to the people and situationshe encounters.

A calm, well-behaved momma dog will usually raise calm,well-behaved puppies but a fearful or aggressive momma may transmitthose behaviors to her offspring.

A puppy will also learn from his litter mates, and one of themost important lessons is `bite inhibition` - this is basically how hardhe can bite without getting in deep trouble!

This lesson is veryimportant and just one of the many reasons why puppies should remainwith their canine families for at least 8 weeks.

Your Puppy`s Needs:

During this developmental stage, breeders need to continueincreasing the pup`s exposure to different textures, sounds, smells etc.

Individual puppies can be given short periods away from theirmomma and siblings to help them get used to being separated. This is asmall step towards helping a puppy feel less frantic when he has toleave his doggie family to go to a new home.

Also because this is the time when a momma dog will start to weanher pups naturally, breeders need to start supplementing the pups dietwith a premium puppy kibble soaked in warm water... and offering the puppies water to lap.

Just because the momma isn`t feeding her puppies that doesn`t mean they are ready to go to new homes... if anyone tells you this they do NOT have those puppies best interests at heart!

And to finish off, during this period of puppy development they should also get their first set of puppy shots and be treated for puppy worms by a veterinarian before the end of this period of puppy development.

Here are the same puppies as shown in the video above, at 7 weeks old. See how much bolder and more playful they are!...........

Third Stage: 7 - 12 Weeks

That little puppy has grown up pretty quickly and by 8 weeks old he`sready to leave his canine family and go to his new home.

Tiny breeds maymature more slowly and it`s better to keep these pups with their mommafor up to 10 - 12 weeks.

toddler with blue heeler puppy

He may be a little guy, but a puppy of this age is curious,outgoing and intelligent. He`s ready to find out all about the worldaround him and is eager to please his people.

Right now your puppy is the proverbial `blank slate` and it`seasiest time to teach and train your puppy. He`s small enough tocontrol, eager to learn and respects you as his `leader`. What he learnsnow will stay with him for life - good or bad - so make it good!

Socialization is also very important during this stage of puppydevelopment... the more new sights, sounds, smells etc. that he canexperience the better.

Puppies who have lots of socializationexperiences and stimulus during this period will be much better equippedto handle change as they grow.

Countless studies have shown that the best time for a pup to leave his momma and go to his new home is right around 8 weeks of age, so during this stage a puppy often moves to his `forever home` and family.

Many new owners aren`t sure what to expect at first and there isoften an adjustment period, you can learn more about the first fewdays/week with a new puppy on my Bringing Home A New Puppy page.

There is also the first `fear period` to deal with. This usuallycomes on around 8 weeks of age and the pup may seem scared of his ownshadow, wanting to stick close to you at all times.

Your Puppy`s Needs:

He`s about to take off on a huge learning curve, so it`s theperfect time to start introducing your little guy to some basic mannersand puppy training. Start basic obedience at home, and then move onto a formal obedience class once he`s fully vaccinated.

What you feed your puppy will have a long-term impact on his health and longevity. Feeding one of the best puppy food choices available is a big step towards keeping him happy and healthy, and growing at the proper rate.

It`s also vital to balance his need for socialization againsthealth risks. Your puppy is very vulnerable to disease at this point inhis life, so NEVER allow an unvaccinated puppy to interact with otherpups or dogs who are not FULLY immunized.. also don`t give him access toany public areas such as parks, stores, sidewalks etc.

Any fearful reactions are pretty normal at this age, and areusually nothing to worry about. You don`t want to `coddle` a pup who isbehaving this way. Just maintain a positive attitude and use a happy,upbeat tone of voice so that he realizes there is nothing to be scaredof.

Also, never push your pup to do something that he`s clearly terrified of - that will cause more problems than it will solve.

How Big Will My Puppy Get?

The majority of puppies go to their new homes during this stage, and one of the questions I hear most often is `How big is my puppy going to be when he`s fully grown?`  Check out these pages for more info.

Puppy Weight Estimates and/or Puppy Weight Chart

Fourth Stage: 12 - 17 Weeks

This period of puppy development is kind of like the `tween` or `pre-teen` stage that our human kids go through.

jack russell terrier pupp

Your pup isn`t a baby any longer, but he`s not really an adolescent either, he`s in that no-man`s land and you`re not the only one who`s confused about what he can, or should, be doing!

His confidence is growing by leaps and bounds, but he can unexpectedly slip back into that `anxious little puppy` mode at any time. One minute he`s all bold and brave and barking at the neighbor`s cat, next minute he`s trying his best to be invisible - or failing that, hide behind your legs.

It covers everything you need to know to get you both through this, often challenging, stage.

Sixth Stage: 40 - 52 Weeks

So what do you have to look forward to here....?

More teenage behavior, plus the upheaval of hormones signalling sexual behavior and maturity and another fear period. What fun!

two puppies in lov

Small breed puppies may reach maturity by the end of this period of canine development,but for the large or giant breed puppies there is still a long way togo!

Some of the extra-large dogs don`t become adult until they aresomewhere between 2 and 3 years old.

There will be a more noticeable difference between thedevelopment of small and large breed pups. Small or tiny breeds shouldbe starting to settle down in terms of behavior, and they will havereached their full height and weight.

Large or giant breeds will still be in the adolescent stage andthere will be the same sort of behavior that you`ve been seeing for thelast few months.

These big puppies will still have lots of growing to do. To getan idea of how big your puppy may be by the time he`s fully grown(whether he`s a small or large breed), check out my Puppy Weight Estimates page.

Your Puppy`s Needs:

At this stage of development, your pup`s greatest needs are for discipline, exercise, sturdy chew toys... and patience!

Puppies grow up much faster than human children, but don`t expectmiracles or overnight transformations. It`s the small, day-in-day-outinteractions, the consistent but loving corrections, the patience andpersistence that win the day.

Your pup WILL learn, but he`s a creature of habit and hislearning style is much more of a gradual build-up of understanding than asudden `aha moment`. If you follow the guidelines here, it will workout fine in the end, just stick with it.

It`s a good idea to get your puppy neutered (or if you have a female, have her spayed) during this period, recommendations generally say it`s best to do this before your pup is 6 months old. I agree with this for small or medium breeds, but as a big-dog owner, I prefer to go with somewhere around 8 - 9 months for these surgeries.

As large and giant breeds mature more slowly than their smaller `cousins`, 8 - 9 months is about right in my opinion.However, I would suggest that you discuss this with your own veterinarian and take into account your own research and feelings so that you can come to a decision that you`re comfortable with in terms of time-frame for altering your pup.

Seventh Stage: 1 Year & Older

As I mentioned above, there won`t be much change in terms of physical growth or maturation for small and tiny breeds after one year of age.

BelgianTeruvian puppies

But this `slow down` won`t happen for large and giant breeds untilsomewhere between 18 months and 3 years of age, so they will still begrowing. Gaining their full height first, then continuing to put onweight until they reach their full adult size.

In terms of behavior for large breeds you`ll basically see moreof the same teenage behavior, plus some noticeable growth spurts during this period of puppy development..

With guardian breeds this is when you`ll start to see those instincts rise to the surface.

Pups of this age tend to be more combative with puppies or dogsof the same sex as themselves and during this stage of puppy developmentfamily squabbles may surface between dogs who have lived in the samehouse happily for months.

Your Puppy`s Needs:

Video: Developmental Stages of Puppy Behavior

Many pups have no idea what to do with their guardinginstincts when they first appear, and may try to act brave while hidingbehind your legs. Again, normal and nothing to worry about. As your pupgrows and matures these protective urges will mature with him and he`lllearn the proper way to react.

NEVER, EVER encourage a pup to `guard` or to act aggressively ordefensively. That will confuse and frighten him and could cause a lot ofproblems later on. Be sure to correct him gently but firmly if hegrowls inappropriately though!

You can now switch your pup over from his puppy food to a premium dog food, as his nutritional needs are changing.

Your baby is an adult - at last! If you`ve spent time trainingand socializing your puppy and taken good care of his both his physicaland emotional health, you can now breathe a sigh of relief! You haveraised a happy, healthy and confident dog. Well done :)

Related pages............

Video: Presa Canario Puppy Play Time

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