Have you brought home a little bundle of joy? Are they hairy? Either your baby is going to have a great career as a model for some of the world’s greatest shampoo adverts, or you may have just become a pet parent.
Becoming a pet parent to a puppy is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have, but it can also be a worrying and daunting time if you don’t have all the facts. Knowing a little something about the stages your puppy goes through in their journey to dogulthood might just help put your mind at ease.
A lot of development happens before we bring a puppy home, this is why it’s very important to find a reputable and responsible breeder. Breeders are the people who start your puppy on its way to being a happy and confident member of your family.
Having an understanding on how your puppy develops physically and mentally can help you realise that they aren’t just being ‘naughty’ or ‘difficult.’ It can be a frustrating and confusing time for them as we teach them to be able to cope with and adapt to our world.
The Prenatal Period (before birth)
Any adverse experiences for the mother may affect the behaviour of the unborn puppies. Pregnant bitches should not be placed under stress. Lack of balanced diet can also have a detrimental effect.
The Neonatal Period (birth to 2 weeks)
At this age, a puppy’s needs are food, warmth, rest, urination, and defecation. They are reliant on their mother for most of these needs. Too much human interference will interrupt the puppy’s bond with their mother.
Mild daily stimulus has been shown to be beneficial in brain development. This could include introduction and exposure to mild stimulus such as petting, cold floors, different texture surfaces etc for a few seconds each day.
Diet remains extremely important – the mother will require extra calories while nursing her puppies. A good quality, highly digestible food fed in small frequent meals will be beneficial.
The Transitional Period (between 2 and 4 weeks)
During this stage puppies become aware of and interact with their littermates as well as their mother. Their eyes open and their sense of hearing and smell are developing. Their baby teeth start emerging and they begin to walk, bark, and wag their tail. By the end of this period they can pee without their mother’s stimulation. Weaning from the mother also starts – from 3 weeks of age the puppies should be started on solid food.
The Socialisation Period (between 3 and 12 weeks)
Puppies will start to experiment with different behaviours and testing reactions from litter mates and other members of their household. The influence of littermates increases at 4-6 weeks as the puppy develops social skills, bite inhibition, develops physical coordination and explores social boundaries. At this age puppies will easily become tired and over stimulated.
At 8-10 weeks a puppy can start to experience fear around everyday objects and experiences. During this fear phase support and positive reinforcement is important.
The Juvenile Period (12 weeks through to adolescence)
The puppy will now be finding its place within the family – with people and with other animal members. Who the puppy plays with and is exposed to becomes influential in their lives, including interactions with other species. Teething and chewing begins.
Another fear stage at around 4 months may occur. Be prepared with positive reinforcement and introductions to objects and situations.
Adolescence (depending on size of breed)
During this stage puppies will be most affected by the types of experiences they have with their family members and within their surroundings. They may start to challenge and push boundaries, be more interested in their environment and wanting to explore. Between 7-9 months a second chewing phase may set in. Adolescence may also see the beginning of displaying sexual behaviour.
Read More: How to Prepare for your New Arrival