Puppies! Who doesn’t love ‘em? Those adorable balls of fluff grow and develop amazingly fast in their first few weeks and months. Puppies go through several stages, physically and mentally, before they’re full-grown, with some significant milestones to track along the way.
Newborn puppies only have the sense of smell and taste.
Hearing develops, puppy teeth come in, and eyes open. They begin to walk, wag tails, bark, and play with their siblings.
Rapid changes occur in these weeks. Puppies will start to eat solid food at around 4 weeks old and should be running and jumping too. They’ll gain full use of their senses by 7 to 9 weeks, and are ready for a new human family at about 8 weeks or so, after their first vet check. They are curious about everything, will develop relationships with their siblings and people, and bite and nip whatever they can reach.
Some training can start!
Crate training can start at 8 to 10 weeks. Make it a game — toss a toy or some treats inside the crate, leaving the door open so that the puppy can explore inside. When the puppy is inside, close the door, give a treat, and then let her out. Repeat for longer periods and leave the room for a short time before letting her out. Any barking or whining will fade as the puppy matures.
Teach bite inhibition, since puppies must learn that biting and nipping on hands and feet is an absolute “no-no”.
Begin lead training — start by letting the puppy drag around a lead attached to the collar, then pick it up and encourage the puppy to walk with you.
No jumping! Teach the puppy that leaping up on your legs is not allowed. It’s dangerous for children and seniors, annoying for guests, and uncomfortable for you if you get scratched or lose your balance.
Time for the core vaccines — distemper and parvovirus, and later, at 20 to 24 weeks, rabies. Talk to your veterinarian about recommended vaccine protocols. Visit animalwellnessacademy.org for vaccine expert Dr. Jean Dodd’s protocol if you’re looking for an integrative vet’s approach.
Some breeds are prone to genetic eye diseases. An eye exam of the puppy by a veterinary ophthalmologist can be done before the puppy goes to his new family.
A vet can check for luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps) as early as 8 weeks. Smaller breeds may suffer from this.
In certain breeds, heart disease can occur, so breeders will have the puppies checked by a veterinary cardiologist at 8 to 10 weeks before they go to their new families.
Begin house-training. Take the puppy outside first thing each morning, after a meal, after she wakes up from a nap, and last thing at night. Always take her to the same place, and stay with her outside until she performs. Then give lots of praise!
Teach your pup to come when called. Make this fun, with praise and treats to get the puppy to run to you every time he hears his name.
Your puppy will shed the primary teeth. Adult teeth will develop, and everything will be chewed!
Puppies will test their boundaries, being stubborn and ignoring you to see what they can get away with.
Males will have both testicles descended, start to lift their legs to urinate, become less friendly, and might start to show aggression towards other males. Often a young male will ignore commands and become interested in roaming.
Females often start their first heat. They can become moody and, occasionally, aggressive.
Both sexes might display lack of concentration, refuse to give up a favourite spot like the bed or couch, guard their food, become selectively deaf, as well as destructive, and challenge their pet parents. The guarding breeds may show severe guarding tendencies.
These behaviours will diminish, and lots of exercise and consistent training will help the puppy through this confusing time.
A further booster or blood titer test to measure immunity is required.
Toy breeds are fully grown by 12 months of age. Medium and larger breeds take longer to reach full growth. Medium-sized breeds are fully grown by 15 months. Larger breeds generally reach adult size by 18 months. Some giant breeds such as Mastiffs and St Bernards may continue to grow until they are two years old. Adolescence can also continue in the larger breeds until they are two years old, so be prepared to deal with their often moody and unpredictable behaviour for some time! Consistency and routine will get them safely through it.