Aren’t they just adorable with their innocent curiosity, their little round bellies, and that sweet smelling breath? Well, yes, but that’s only the half of it – they sometimes put absolutely everything they can wrap their teeth around in their mouth, they seem to pee at random and without warning (or regard for carpeting), and they often leave us wondering if they don’t know their name yet, or are they just ignoring us?
Yep, I’m talking about puppies! The most adorable, lovable, precious, and seemingly insane animal you could ever bring into your home.
According to an article entitled “Stages of Canine Development” published in Weimaraner Magazine, there are eight stages of canine development that constitute puppyhood. These periods are divided according to the days after the dog’s birth until your four-legged bundle of joy becomes an adult. Being aware of your puppy’s development stages and knowing what to expect can help you to give him the best care and training possible.
And, there is some relief in knowing your pup’s bizarre (or irritating!) behavior is just a phase.
How Puppies Develop
1. Stage 1 – Neonatal Period (Birth to 13 days of age). This period is considered to be the most helpless stage of development as the pooch here is still not capable of regulating his own body temperature. The pup needs food and warmth from his mother or his surrogate. During this time, human interaction has to start. Puppies need to be handled gently beginning this point of their development.
2. Stage 2 – Transition Period (13 to 21 days of age). Here, you will observe the eyes and ears of your puppy start to open up. Apparently, during this stage, your pet will begin to see and hear. Even his sense of taste and smell will start to develop. More handling from humans is of great significance at this point. If you have friendly kittens, the transition period will also be the best time to introduce them to your puppy.
3. Stage 3 – Canine Socialization Period (21 to 49 days of age). During this stage, your pooch will start to show his unique personality. This period will be a critical time for him to continue on relating with his mother and his siblings. You will see how your little pet will learn to submit to his mother and to understand discipline. It is important that you do not remove your puppy from his mama at this point in time as he could become noisy, rowdy, or worse, aggressive as he matures. In addition to that, this stage includes a brief sub-period that lasts from 21 to 23 days. It is called the Awareness period which highlights the rapid sensory development experience of the pup, thereby implying that owners have to avoid making radical changes during this phase.
4. Stage 4 – Human Socialization Period (7 to 12 weeks of age). This is the minimum age in which most puppies should be adopted out, or leave their dog mom and litter mates. Weening will be completed in this stage and your puppy will be hearty enough to thrive without his mother’s milk. This stage of development includes a sub-period that happens while your pet is about 8 to 10 weeks. It is known as the Fear Impact Sub-period and this is when any traumatic experience in the part of your pup could later become a lifelong problem. If your pooch, for instance, experiences a fear of strangers during this point in time, it could become an issue all throughout his life.
5. Stage 5 – Seniority Classification Period (12 to 16 weeks of age). For this phase, the puppy will try to figure out who is the boss. It is important that you discourage all the biting and nipping of human hands or clothing and leashes. If your pet is still with his other litter mates, intense competition among them may be noticed. By approximately 16 weeks, your pooch’s personality as well as emotional makeup will be fully developed.
6. Stage 6 – Flight Instinct Period (4 to 8 months of age). During this short period, your little companions will try your patience. You will observe how your pup will refuse to listen and try to run away and not come even when called. What you can do best is to simply wait him out and then keep him on a leash till this period goes by.
7. Stage 7 – Second Fear Impact Period (6 to 14 months of age). Your pup is basically a wild teenager during this phase. Expect unpredictable behavioral changes at any given moment (just like human teens!). Your puppy may develop strange fears and may act out for no apparent reason. You’ll need extreme patience during this stage. But, when your teenage pup acts out or displays unusual new fears, it’s best to ignore his wacky behavior. Never reinforce his fears by petting or praising him as this will teach him that it’s alright to be afraid.
8. Stage 8 – Young Adulthood (18 to 24 month of age). Congratulations – You survived puppyhood! During this time of development, your pup may try to show dominance or territorial aggression. Don’t be surprised if some sort of teenage weirdness is exhibited occasionally – just as before, ignore those brief moments, they too shall pass.
It may seem crazy to willingly put ourselves through the task of raising a puppy. Rest assured, although you may be at your wit’s end from time to time, the reward a puppy brings far exceeds any irritation or exhaustion. Plus, they don’t bottle puppy breath, so where else are you gonna get it?
Do you have a puppy? What phase is he/she in? Or, if you’re a puppyhood survivor, tell us – which was the most difficult?