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Health & nutrition

Life stage

Dr. Danielle’s Key Puppy Development Stages

From the day you bring your puppy home to the day you celebrate their first birthday, your new puppy’s growth and development is nothing short of impressive. Starting as a tiny bundle of fluff that can barely open his eyes and growing into a whirlwind of puppy energy that never seems to sit still, a puppy in their first year achieves what it takes humans over 15 years to accomplish!

Needless to say, the first couple years of your pup’s life are pretty important! Knowing what to expect as your puppy develops will prepare you for the challenges ahead, and ensure your pup grows into a well-adjusted adult dog. Just like humans, remember, each puppy is an individual. No two puppies will grow exactly the same, even if they were from the same litter. Hence, don’t fret if your pup doesn’t hit milestones by a set date.

What Are the Key Stages of Puppy Development?

One important consideration—when it comes to puppies, size really does matter!  Large and giant breed puppies develop and mature much slower than smaller breeds. Small and medium size breed dogs reach adulthood at one year. Large breed dogs take 18 months (24 months for giant breeds) before they reach maturity.

1. Neonatal Period: (0-2 weeks)

Born with their eyes and ears closed, here is what to expect with newborn dogs:

  • Can touch and taste at birth but not much else, very dependent on mother
  • At around 5 days old they start a slow crawl
  • By day 10-14 their eyes open with poor vision at first. The majority of their day is spent sleeping with complete dependence on mum whose role includes taking care of all their physical, emotional and social needs from helping the puppies find milk, to keeping them warm and even helping stimulate the pups to urinate and defecate.

2. Transitional period: (2 to 4 weeks)

  • Puppies start to stand and try walking
  • Sense of smell develops
  • By week 3 their ears open so hearing develops. They will wag their tail, start to bark and those first sharp little teeth can start to appear.

By the end of the transitional period, puppies should be able to use the bathroom on their own, see quite well and have truly doubled if not tripled their birth weight.  A puppy’s day at this age is still closely tied to mum for nutrition but more active with bursts of enthusiastic play with their siblings followed closely by complete exhaustion and short naps.

3. Socialization period: (4 to 16 weeks)

During these 3 months, a puppy develops their social skills and learns all there is to know about their environment making it one of the most influential periods of your puppy’s life. Much of what they learn in this period will stay with them through their entire life.

Dr. danielle, Wellness veterinarian,  with puppy

Tips for Socialization period:

  • Ensure they encounter many people, objects, sounds, dogs and situations which they may encounter in later life
  • Teach puppies to be content when be home alone
  • Do plenty of practice runs travelling in car
  • Vet Visit- first vaccination from 6 weeks, with follow-ups 2-4 weeks later.
  • Playtime with other dogs
  • A puppy’s interest in mum’s food starts around 4 weeks of age and progresses to be eating several small meals of their own by 6-8 weeks of age.

puppy crate training

Tips for Some Puppy Firsts:

Selecting the best quality natural puppy nutrition is so important during this period to ensure that pups have the energy and nutrients needed to thrive. My recommendation is always Wellness CORE Puppy – a grain-free, meat- rich balanced natural brand that score 5/5 in most pet food reviews. It’s a great choice to give them the best start in life!

puppy eating Wellness CORE Puppy Food

Lots of firsts also happen in this period—they are often adopted into their forever home from 8-12 weeks of age and housetraining often commences at the same time. Basic training can commence at 8 weeks and they should be able to easily understand simple commands such as come, sit and stay with puppy preschool from 12 weeks of age helping consolidate their training and socialization skills.

4. Juvenile period: (4 to 6 months)

Puppies are now in their prime and a complete bundle of enthusiasm. They’re desperate to play and will seek out attention every chance they get. They exhibit an innate curiosity and “zest” for life, enabling them to take on just about everything that life throws at them. Like most adolescents, puppies in this period are highly influenced by their playmates (both dogs and people), and during these 2 months they’ll begin to understand and use ranking in terms of submission and dominance.

puppy playing with woman and toy

Milk teeth start falling out as adult teeth come through. They’ll need a good supply of appropriate chew toys to ensure they can relieve the teething discomfort. And chew toys will help save your furniture from some serious damage!
6-7 months: Puppies’ hormones will kick in as they reach sexual maturity.  If your pup has not been neutered yet, now is the perfect time to discuss the options with your veterinarian.

5. Adolescence Period: (6 to 18 months)

Puppies in this period are best described as teenagers who have endless amounts of energy but are starting to learn the art of matching that energy with some manners and self-control. Self-confidence levels will be high and a strong pursuit for independence will often be paired with an innate desire to be all grown up. One of the biggest responsibilities for puppy owners in this period is to ensure that all the puppy has learnt up to this point is further built upon with more training, socialization and consistency. With persistence, patience and a whole lot of love, you’ll quickly see the worst adolescence challenges pass quickly and a well-behaved adult dog will emerge on the other side.

puppy going for a walk

If not neutered, you may start to notice sexually motivated behaviours from 6-7 months such as mounting and marking.  From 7 months of age in small and medium breeds their rate of growth will start to slow down and have reached their full height. Large and giant breeds will approach their sexual maturity closer to 8 or 9 months and only start to slow down their rate of growth closer to 12-18 months of age.

6. Adulthood: (12 to 24 months)

You made it! Give yourself a pat on the back. Your pup is now a fully-grown adult and hopefully, a well-behaved member of the family.  All that hard work training, socializing and bonding with your pup over the past year will have truly paid off. Don’t forget now is the time for their annual vaccination booster and also a great opportunity for an annual health check up with your veterinarian!  With a lifetime of unconditional love ahead of the two of you, it simply doesn’t get any better!

New pet parents, are you interested in trying Wellness CORE Puppy for your new four-legged family member? Sign up at

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