Puppy Development from 8 to 12 weeks

Most puppies join their new homes from 8 to 12 weeks of age, leaving their mothers, litter mates, and infancy behind. Many people get a puppy at this age — the imprinting stage. This is a time of rapid brain development when the puppy is impressionable and ideal for training – in other words they are a blank canvas awaiting our artistic talents. The puppy is learning to be a dog, and the dog is picking up its good and bad behaviour tendencies from their experiences and environment during this critical learning period.

Physical Development

An 8 to 12-week-old puppy will still be quite small, even if the puppy is a large dog breed. Puppies are physically vulnerable and a bit clumsy. They need plenty of supervision and crating when alone and also as their little safety stroke chill out zone.

Expect your young puppy to sleep a lot during this stage. Most puppies will sleep about 18 to 20 hours a day to support their fast-growing brains and bodies. Puppies from 8 to 12 weeks old may seem to go from zero to 60 out of nowhere, then suddenly flop out to nap within minutes of being in overdrive.

Before 12 weeks of age, most puppies will have trouble controlling their urination and defecation. They are prone to frequent accidents and cannot usually make it through the night without urinating. House training should begin as soon as you bring your new puppy home but be prepared for the first few weeks to go slowly. Stick to a regular schedule, taking your puppy outside every time it eats, drinks, or wakes up from a nap. Take your puppy to a designated “potty spot.” After a few weeks, it will learn to have better control over its bodily functions.

What we find helpful with all of our puppies is to use a piece of AstroTurf strategically places over a soil patch in the garden. This has the real look of grass and if you get the soft quality one it has the feel of grass, keep it close as possible to the back door and every time they use it reward them and make a huge fuss. In time they will start to give you body language cues or may even give a gently vocal whimper as they stand or pace near to a door, this is an indication that they need to go toilet, if you chose to ignore it then it is down to you if they have an accident as they did try to communicate their need to you.

If a puppy ever has an accident in the house, DO NOT reprimand them for it, 9.5 times out of 10 it is your fault for not being observant enough and shouting and smacking them is not something they will understand as it is not something their parents would do. Just simply ignore it, nicely pop them outside even f they do not go toilet again, not a problem and simply clean up after them. There are products on the market that will remove the scent from floor surfaces, it is advisable to chose a good one  as that will help discourage unwanted repeats of the accident in that particular spot.

Personally, we put our puppies outside 10 minutes after a meal or drink and also last thing at night before you put them to bed and first thing in the morning before you make a tea/coffee or even light up a cigarette let the puppy outside first and foremost or be it on your head.

Your puppy will not begin to get adult teeth until about 12 weeks of age. Some of its baby teeth or “milk teeth” may start falling out between 8 to 12 weeks of age. Signs of teething typically will not necessarily start until 12 weeks old. You know your dog is teething when you begin to notice excessive drooling, excessive chewing, pawing at the mouth, and bloody residue left behind on chewed items. We will give you some tips in the lesson on teething

Behaviour Changes

The four weeks from 8 weeks to 12 weeks is a critical socialisation period.

This time is often called a “fear stage” as puppies may seem to be afraid of everything. One fatal mistake handlers make hear is it instantly pick their puppy up and cuddle it as a way or reassurance, that is fine – it demonstrates you have strong feelings for you puppy’s welfare – but what have you just taught your puppy in doing this?

Well! Every time puppy encounters something scary it is going to naturally freeze and wait for you to intervene and pick it up in order to remove the scary object from the situation. Whoops!

So what could you have done to save the situation? Well, what we do is try and encourage the puppy towards you and encourage them to focus on you throughout using a treat or a toy, at the same time acting like the village idiot and even talk to it like you would a baby, then as soon as it takes a step towards you reward and praise, even get a training toy out and play with it just to get the message over that if they look to you as the leader, if you can go past Mr. Scary, so can they. Doing it this way builds their self confidence and at the same time, increases their confidence in you as a pack leader and protector. Hopefully, that makes sense and be aware you may have to encounter this situation on more than one occasion, but it is how you deal with it that imprints how your puppy will handle the situation in future.

Practice handling your puppy so it can get used to being held and touched in unfamiliar ways.

Expect your young puppy to react with fear in some situations. However, avoid coddling or comforting a fearful pup. Find ways to introduce new sights, sounds, and environments. Introduce your puppy to vet visits, nail trims, and baths and try keeping everything positive and friendly.

Reward your puppy for relaxing in new situations and exploring new things. However, do not push your puppy to accept a situation that scares it. It will eventually learn that there is nothing to worry about if you remain calm and upbeat. Act as if the situation is regular and routine.

Health and Care

Around 8 weeks of age, your puppy will need to visit the vet for its first or second puppy vaccines, deworming, and an examination. The breeder or rehoming centre might have administered its first vaccines and deworming and taken the puppy to the vet. Regardless, you should take your new puppy to your vet within a few days of getting it to make sure it is in good health. Bring any records provided by the breeder or rehoming centre so your vet can adjust or prescribe a vaccination schedule.

By 18 weeks of age, the puppy should have all its vaccinations. But until then, you need to prevent exposure to diseases. Do not allow your puppy to walk in public areas or interact with unfamiliar animals. Your puppy can play with healthy puppies and adult dogs that have been vaccinated and dewormed. Make sure you know the owner of the other dog and can trust that the dog is healthy.

Bear in mind that dogs are not necessarily affected by the Coronavirus, but may be carriers on the coat, paws for example. Therefore, I wouldn’t like my puppy getting into contact with an unfamiliar dog.

Food and Nutrition

Puppies begin weaning off their mother’s milk around 3 to 6 weeks of age and are typically fully weaned between 6 to 8 weeks. By the time you get your new puppy, it should already be eating puppy food for at least a few weeks. The breeder or rehoming centre should provide you with information about the type of food it is eating.

Start with the same diet, if possible. Allow your new puppy to adjust to its environment for a few days or weeks before you choose a new food. If you decide to change the food, be sure to transition to the new food gradually to avoid gastrointestinal upset.

Your puppy needs proper nutrition to grow and thrive. Provide a high-quality puppy food labeled for growth. Most puppies between 8 to 12 weeks of age should eat three times a day, spaced out somewhat evenly. This regularity in mealtime helps prevent blood sugar drops, especially in small breeds.

We are more than happy to inform you of the puppy foods we fed, feel free to ask us.

Start by feeding the amount recommended on the packaging for your dog’s weight. Check your dog’s weight every few days to see if the feeding amount needs to be adjusted. If your puppy seems voracious and does not seem to be gaining weight, adjust by adding more food. Reduce the offering if it leaves a lot behind. At your vet visits, discuss the type of food you are feeding, the frequency of feeding, and the amount you feed per day vs. the amount consumed. Ask your vet or even vet nurse if you need to make any diet adjustments.

If you wish to feed homemade puppy food, you can, but you will need to do so very cautiously. Consult with your vet about the recipe you plan to use. You will need to make sure it is a balanced, nutritious recipe, using the right ingredients, and you are feeding an adequate amount of calories. We tend to use small kibble in the early stages, but we will make sure it has been well soaked well prior to feeding plus again doing it this way you are ensuring rehydration takes place by using the water that you soak t

Training

Even though your puppy is still a baby, it is essential to start training as soon as it comes home with you. Start simple. Teach your puppy its name. You should give the dog a couple of days to get used to the house rules like where it can go and forbidden zones in the house.

We will cover this topic in a separate lesson.

Although this is a rapid learning period, your puppy may not be the fastest learner at first since there are many “firsts,” new scents, places, and people all starting to come into focus. You can even begin to introduce some basic commands like sit, stay, and down. I chose to do this as the puppy offers the behaviour naturally with no input from ourselves, we then name it and reward the puppy, this technique is called “Capturing” and again will be dealt with separately.

Go slow, be patient, keep it positive, and have fun.

Puppy Development From 3 Months to 6 Months

Puppies typically leave their mothers and litter mates and are placed in homes between 8 to 12 weeks of age. Therefore, if you are adopting or purchasing a young puppy, there is a good chance the puppy is nearing 12 weeks of age (three months old).

Puppies go through some major physical and behavioral changes from three to six months of age. Be prepared to care for your puppy during this crucial development stage.

Physical Development

Around 12 weeks of age, puppies begin to have better control of their bladders and bowels. They may begin to sleep through the night without accidents or potty breaks. House training may begin to go more smoothly over the coming weeks. Make sure you keep to a fairly regular schedule. Most dogs can be fully house trained by age four to five months.

By 12 weeks of age, your puppy will have begun teething. You may notice excessive biting and chewing, bruised or red gums, and teeth missing from the mouth. You may even find the occasional baby tooth! When teething, some puppies become frustrated or agitated. They may “act out” more or be picky about food on certain days. Be sure to provide plenty of puppy-safe toys during this time. Teething should slow down around 16 weeks, or four months of age. All adult teeth will be in by six months of age.

Warning

Keep dangerous “chewables” out of reach (like electrical cords, shoes, and houseplants). You should keep your puppy in the crate when you are not home in order to keep it safe.

Between 12-16 weeks of age, your puppy will begin to look a little bit less like a baby puppy and a little more like a miniature version of the dog she will become. She will likely grow rapidly from four to six months of age. By six months of age, your puppy will be closer to her future adult size. Most small dog breeds will be nearly finished growing at six months of age. Large and giant dog breeds may be at about half their adult size. Medium dogs still have some more growing left to do, but they are usually about 75% grown by the age of six months.

 

Behaviour Changes

Your 12-week-old puppy is nearing the end of a critical socialization window. Make the most of this time period by exposing your dog to new people, places, and things. Until your dog is fully vaccinated, she should not be around unknown animals or on the ground in public places. Try to have a variety of people and healthy animals visit your home and have a positive experience with your puppy. You can take your dog to homes where you know the pets are vaccinated and healthy. Carry your dog in public spaces, exposing her to loud noises, falling objects, and small crowds. Work on puppy handling exercises, so she gets used to being handled. While socializing your puppy, always keep things positive and upbeat.

Puppies typically experience a period of fearfulness around 16 weeks of age. This is a normal part of your puppy’s social development as she learns how to react to her environment. Avoid overwhelming your pup when you notice fearful reactions. This is not the time for loud noises, falling objects, or crowds of people. It is also important not to reward fearful behavior, or you will be confirming your puppy’s fears. Instead, ignore the fearful behavior and gently remove your puppy from the source of the fear. Reward calm, happy behavior instead.

Between three and six months of age, your puppy is approaching adolescence. Expect to see a bit of a rebellious side to your puppy as she begins to test her limits. You may notice your dog ignoring cues that she was previously trained on. She may also have some destructive chewing in this stage (caused by a combination of teething, general juvenile misbehaving, and possibly boredom). Make sure your puppy gets plenty of exercise and keep working on training regularly. Be consistent and firm.

When feeding treats, make sure they are healthy, non-toxic, and not fed in excess. Dog treats should never make up more than 10% of your puppy’s daily food intake.

Warning

When giving chews, avoid bones, antlers, hooves, hard nylon dog toys, or other hard chews. Adult teeth are still coming in and may cause oral pain or injury if chewed.

Training

You should begin training your puppy the moment she comes home with you. One of the first things you will focus on is house training. Most puppies begin to get the hang of this between 12 and 16 weeks of age and will be fully house trained by about four or five months old.

It is also important to focus on obedience training. Teach your puppy basic commands like sit, stay, and down. Train the recall cue as soon as possible. You will also need to teach manners, like not to jump up, not to bark excessively, and not to bite (many puppies are especially mouthy between 12 to 16 weeks old).

Lead training is important at this stage of your puppy’s life. After 16 weeks of age, you can begin to walk your dog in public. Start getting your pup used to the lead no later than 12 weeks of age. Then, train your pup to walk on the lead. Start in your house, then move to your garden. Working your way up to the outdoors.

One of the best ways to start your puppy’s training is by signing up for a puppy training class. Classes run by experienced trainers who can help guide you through basic training and even address some minor puppy behaviour problems. The classes contain small groups of healthy, vaccinated puppies. Puppy training classes can help socialise your dog and enable them to learn despite the distractions of other puppies.

Puppy Development From 6 Months to 1 Year

If your puppy is six months old, you have likely watched him go through his fast-growing juvenile stage from age three to six months. Now that your puppy has reached six months of age, he can be considered an adolescent.

During this time, your puppy’s physical changes will slow down a bit. Energy levels may increase, and you may see a newer side of your puppy’s personality. Be prepared to adapt to your puppy’s needs in this life stage.

Physical Development

By six months of age, your puppy’s growth will slow down. Most small dog breeds will be nearly finished growing at this time, though they may continue to fill out over the next three to six months. Medium dogs often keep growing for a few more months, but at a slower rate. Large and giant dog breeds tend to keep growing until they are 12 to 24 months old. Between six and eight months, many puppies have a “lanky” and awkward look that is quite adorable.

Most dogs are house trained and in full control of their bladders and bowels by the age of six months. House training is mainly complete at this point. Some puppies will still have an occasional accident in the house, especially if there is a change in the routine. Continue to be patient and consistent; this is normal. If your dog is still having major issues with house training, contact your vet for advice. Your puppy may have a health issue that can be treated.

Your puppy should have all of his adult teeth by six months of age. This means that teething is over, and your dog may chew less obsessively. Remember that it is still normal for dogs to chew, so make sure you have healthy dog chews available. Word of advice, please, please keep away from treats like “Rawhide” and also “Antlers” , these can cause extremely dangerous and even live threatening problems to puppies and adult dogs.

Dogs reach sexual maturity between six and eight months of age. Many pet owners choose to have their dogs spayed or neutered by six months of age unless they are quality purebred dogs being bred by a responsible breeder. Again, personally we do not agree with this being carried out this early in life, for various reasons, unless there are medical concerns relating then it is a different matter.

If you have not neutered your male dog, he will begin to show an interest in female dogs, specifically those in heat. He will go to great lengths to mate at this point. Whether neutered or not, he will likely begin to lift his leg to urinate (if he has not already) and may begin marking areas with urine. Marking behaviour can be curbed more easily if you stop it early. Catch your dog in the act and redirect him to an appropriate place. Marking behaviour tends to be less severe in neutered dogs.

If your female dog has not been spayed, she will likely go into heat/season (estrus) between the ages of six and eight months. She can easily become pregnant at this time if she is with a male dog. She may also try to escape the house to mate. So, you will need to be a responsible dog owner and manage the situation safely.

Behaviour Changes

Your six-month-old puppy is an adolescent now, and his behavior may show it. He may have an increase in energy and willfulness. The dynamic between other dogs may also change; adult dogs can now tell he is old enough to know better and will not go as easy on him if he steps out of line.

Just because your puppy is past the optimum socialisation window, it does not mean that socialisation should stop. Your puppy is still exploring his environment and learning new things. Continue to expose your puppy to new experiences, people, places, things, and sounds. Reward for calm behaviour and ignore fearful behavior.

It is common for adolescent puppies to exhibit some destructive behaviour in this stage. This is often caused by boredom due to the increase in energy and confidence. Continue to provide plenty of exercise for your puppy both mentally and physically.

Puppies between six and 12 months of age may sometimes act like they “forgot” their training. Be consistent and positive. NEVER be afraid to go back and re visit “foundation training”, personally, we do this every autumn/winter with our Competition dogs in order to reseal any weak areas found in training, it is nothing to be ashamed off and you have something concrete to build up from rather than try to chip away at something that is not obviously working.

Health and Care

Now that puppy vaccines are completed, your puppy will not need to see the vet until adulthood (unless something is wrong). Be sure to watch your puppy for any signs of illness. Contact your vet with any concerns. You are still learning what is normal for your puppy. It is much easier to treat most health issues if they are caught early.

Food and Nutrition

Proper nutrition is an important part of your puppy’s development. In general, you should continue feeding puppy food (dog food labeled for growth) until your puppy is done growing. Large breed dogs often need to stay on puppy food past their first year, but other dogs can usually start to transition to adult food between nine and 12 months of age. Small breed dogs may even transition earlier.

Because your dog’s rate of growth is slowing at this time, it can be easy to accidentally overfeed. Make sure your dog’s growth is overall, not just in his belly. Obesity in dogs is a rapidly growing problem in this day and age. Ask your vet for advice about your dog’s optimum weight. Your vet can also tell you when to transition your dog to adult food.

When feeding treats, make sure they are non-toxic, healthy, and not fed in excess. Dog treats should never make up more than 10% of your puppy’s daily food intake.

Warning

When giving chew treats, avoid bones, antlers, , hard nylon dog toys, or other hard chews. Even though the adult teeth are all in, they can easily be damaged by chews that are too hard.

Training

You are never truly done training your puppy. Even adult dogs need regular training to keep them sharp. By this time, house training should be basically complete. Now is a good time to fine-tune obedience training. Continue to practice basic commands like sit, stay, and down. Add more advanced things, like roll over. Keep working on the recall cue and add in an emergency recall

As your puppy matures, you may notice new behaviour problems cropping up. Address them as soon as possible. Do not assume your puppy will grow out of it. The longer you allow inappropriate behaviour, the more difficult it will be to correct it. If the issues are too hard to manage on your own, seek assistance from a dog trainer or behaviourist.

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