Puppies are a special addition to any family, offering love, inspiring laughter, and teaching us the importance of playfulness. Their darling noses, sweet eyes, and adorable whimpers can reveal the sensitive side in even the toughest of tough guys. During their first four months of life, puppies are particularly impressionable. As a matter of fact, they will learn more during this time than any other time in their entire lives.
The quality and quantity of what they experience will have a significant impact on their future personalities and determine the formation of many of their "good" or "bad" behavioral tendencies. Between the first 3 weeks to the first 1-2 years, a puppy's maturation process is something every dog lover should understand.
The First 7 Weeks
The beginning of a puppy’s life is full of new experiences. During this time, he will begin using all of his senses, walking, growing baby teeth, and will begin transitioning to eating solid foods. Puppies should never be separated from their mother prematurely as the weaning process occurs naturally within these first weeks.
What is a caretaker responsible for at this stage? A devoted caretaker will make sure that specific neurological stimulation, including a complex environment and careful, yet thorough, socialization for proper development and adjustment to living in human society, is provided.
Once puppies are 8 weeks of age or older, they can start to be placed in a new home with their new families. This time frame has long been accepted as the optimal time to acquire a new pup. Move quickly! It’s important that a high quality of education and socialization happen during this transitional period. This is where many behavioral traits are shaped.
Housetraining is a great place to start training your puppy. This basic command is easily taught with consistency and two main guidelines:
1) Prevent indoor accidents through confinement and close supervision.
2) Take the puppy outside on a frequent and regular schedule and reward him for going where you want him to go.
Some puppies learn where not to eliminate at a very young age, while others take longer to understand. Most puppies can be reasonably housetrained by four to six months of age. However, some puppies are not 100% reliable until they are eight to twelve months of age. Patience is the key.
This stage in a puppy’s life is marked by a whole lot of energy! The discomfort of teething may make him restless or “mouthy” and he will start growing into his adult coat. Remember to continue a consistent training regimen as your puppy moves full steam ahead towards the end of the maturation process!
One Step at a Time
Focus on training one skill at a time. Once your dog is well on their way to being housetrained, start a new skill. Try teaching your puppy to sit, then to lie down, and then to stay and to come. An incremental and measured learning process, as well as review every day, will make the training process easier!
Your puppy may look like an adult, but that classic puppy energy will most likely remain. You’ll thank yourself for the early training and socialization work you did during those first few months, making these next few ones that much easier. Puppies tend to test their boundaries (and your patience!) at this time, but remember that consistency and love are the keys to success!
Although it may not seem like it, smaller breed puppies mature at one year of age, while larger breed puppies may take nearly two years. Many retain their puppy mentality for up to four years! Our best advice? Enjoy every minute with your new Best Friend!
Do you have questions about how to raise your puppy? Or stories to share with us about an experience you may have had with your best friend? Share your thoughts in the comments below!