Stages of Development




To help puppies grow up happy and healthy, it’s important to be aware of what they need at each stage of their development. Here is a quick summary starting at birth up to adult age.

Neonatal stage and dependence on mother dog: birth to 2 weeks

From birth to two weeks, puppies are completely dependent on their mum for food and care, such as keeping themselves clean. The senses of touch and taste are present at birth. Neonatal puppies have limited movement and are capable of only a slow crawl.

Puppy Socialisation Stage- 3-16 weeks

In the earlier part of this stage, puppies continue to be influenced by their mum and littermates. They learn to play, gaining needed social skills from littermates, such as inhibited biting (biting to play, not to hurt). Puppies become much more vocal during this period, with the appearance of play barking and growling.

Positive and Neutral exposure and socialisation is key during this stage. To socialise puppies to humans, have a variety of people interacting with them — young (with supervision) and old, male and female. It is also very important to expose your puppy to a variety of surfaces and sounds, experiences such as car rides, crate-training, vacuum-cleaning, ringing doorbells, and novel objects and sounds. Handling from a young age is also important.

Training and socialisation can start early, whilst puppies are still with their breeder. It is not recommended that puppies go to their new home before eight weeks of age. House-training can begin as early as five weeks, when puppies will follow their mother through a door and to be taken out for toileting lessons.

At about eight weeks, puppies start experiencing fear; everyday objects and experiences can alarm them. This is a perfectly normal reaction — it doesn’t mean that you will have a fearful dog.

Puppies can socialise with other species of animals as well — horses, cats, whatever animals you would like your puppy to be comfortable around. Of course, you’ll need to use caution and make sure that the other animals are friendly.

Adolescent stage – approximately 6-12 months

Like most adolescents, puppies are very rambunctious, so continue the process of training and socialising your dog during this phase. Socialisation and training are necessary if you want your puppy to be comfortable and act appropriately in public places such as parks and beaches, or anywhere they will meet new dogs and people.

During this stage you will often see a second fear period. Small dogs, who mature more quickly than larger dogs tend to experience this earlier. Give your teen plenty of time to assess situations and never force them to face their fears. Be guided by them for how to proceed – if they want to move away, go with them. If they want to approach, support them. This will help your teen to build confidence and strengthen your relationship.

Adult Stage

By this age, your dog has reached adulthood, but changes in social preferences and habits can occur up to two years of age. Ongoing training will ensure a lasting and fun relationship between you and your dog as you explore new activities together.

Being prepared for each stage will help you navigate this journey together with compassion, enjoyment and understanding.

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