Dogs, like humans, have emotional ages. Their first year has the most change. Yes their bodies are growing their minds grow too.
From the birth to 8 weeks
They are infants learning how to control their bodies and learning how to play. Most breeders ween the puppies at about 8 weeks because at this point they normally don't need mom any more. This is when we get most of our puppies. Little rolly polly babies very cute. and like human babies they may not be able to make it through the night with out needing to potty a few times and some may need a mid day feeding.
8 weeks to 4 months
This is the toddler stage they are learning more about their world.
Starting socialization at this point is important but you can't go to the dog park yet because they need to have their vaccines. If they had been left with their mom and siblings they would socialize with them. If you can ask the breeder and maybe get together with the siblings a few times a month (the more often the better) or if you know of some other puppies or dogs you know are vaccinated see if you can set up play-dates.
Start Training they can sit and lay down and come. They can wait for their food and sit for greetings. Potty training (see first blog for tips on this) is a big one for a lot of puppies at this age. Starting with manners when they are tiny is how they get set in for when they are bigger.
I will cover socialization and its importance in other blog posts but I will touch on it here.
4 month to 6 months
Is similar to 5 year old to 10 year old human. It is crucial that once you get the go ahead from the vet to get your puppy playing.* This helps with bite inhibition, impulse control, confidence, and having a well rounded dog. It is also important to expose your puppy to everything you can at this stage: Children, strollers, stores, weird noises, loud noises, city walking, country walking, and everything else they may encounter in their life time.
Training at this age is extremely important. What they learn about the world from 8 weeks to 6 months will shape who they are as an adult dog.
*Note that dog parks are a great place to socialize but you must know there is risk when going to one. Your first few times don't go in if there are a lot of dogs and your pup is nervous. Just sit outside the dog park and watch your pup will watch too. Try to get there when there are a few dogs so your puppy can get used to it.
**If you feel uncomfortable with a situation it is OK to leave.**
6 Months to 8 months/ 1 year
This is teenager time. Their hormones are raging and so are their emotions. You will notice they will start testing you. Any training you have done up to this point will be useful even if they may pretend they don't know what you are asking. Stay strong and keep practicing. Keep socializing.
Expect them to be defiant and to test boundaries if your puppy has been following you around up to this point know they may start to wander.
This is normally when people seek a trainer it makes things harder to start out because you have to break bad habits the puppy already has and then try to convince him to work with you. Sometimes the puppy loves the training and is happy to work others they don't have the trust any more.
*I will blog about spaying and neutering later but in recent years after some research I have concluded the best time to s&n is around 1 yr after the hormones have settled. It isn't easy but it is better for the dog on the whole.
1 year to 2 years
They start to settle but still have a lot of puppy at this point your training should be concreted and it is now more of maintaining the behaviors or correcting problem behaviors.
If you have kept up with training and socializing your dog might be a very good and well rounded dog.
If you have done all of that and are still struggling with training or had a major set back (an illness or another dog attacking yours) all is not lost. Dogs are very pliable I hold on to the believe that with enough work almost any dog can be rehabilitated.
2 years upward
Most dogs are set on who they are and as they get older they change but not as dramatically.
No matter what it is never to late to train a dog all dogs love to learn and please their people. You just have to find the best motivations for them and adjust your training to what they are able to do.
I have noticed that small dogs tend to go through these stages sooner than larger dogs maybe due to them reaching their full size sooner than big dogs.
Every dog is a little different when it comes to what they do at each stage and at what age they truly hit it. I have noticed that some dogs hit is sooner or start showing signs around 5 months others seem to hit a teenager bump at 6 then calm down and hit another at 8 months.
Rarely have I seen a dog change dramatically at 6 months but it does happen I worked with a boxer puppy he and his owner started with me at 4 months and we were doing fine until he hit 6 months then became afraid of people. No reason nothing happened that the owner knew of just terrified of all people. Ok with dogs but wary of new dogs. His owner had to work very hard for the next 6 months to get him rehabilitated. Last time I talked to her he was better. Still shy but would warm fast. I have worked with a lot of dogs and this was a first.
Just like people they are affected by their growth and their hormones. We have to be aware it is happening and try to work with it and not against it.
Until next time: May the Treats be always in your pocket