Your puppy will go through four stages in his life and it is good to know what to expect at each stage. Just like people, not all dogs develop at the same pace, and a lot depends on the breed of your dog.
By the time you get your puppy from the breeder, he will already be somewhere between the transitional and the juvenile period. From there, he will develop into the adolescent phase and then into an adult dog, where he will stay for a couple of years. The last stage of your dog’s life is being a senior. Let’s look at what you should do during the four stages.
The puppy stage is broken up into four phases. The neonatal phase is between 0 to two weeks, the first transitional phase is between two to four weeks, the second transitional phase between four to 16 weeks, and the last phase, or juvenile phase, overlaps at four to 16 weeks.
What to expect Your puppy is playful, busy and looks for items to chew. He will also test the waters while gaining independence and has lots of energy.
What you should do Ensure that your puppy has an endless supply of safe, chewable toys. Continue with the breeder’s lessons to make sure that your puppy grows into a confident dog. Socialisation at this time is crucial and cannot be emphasised enough. Provide him with good opportunities to learn. You need to feed him food for puppies at this stage. See page 69 for tips on nutrition.
Between six and 18 months, your doggy starts to grow out of his ‘puppy diapers’ and move into the adolescent stage. This is a very challenging stage for the new pet owner, as it is the onset of puberty. As your puppy moves into the teenage phase, his hormones start to kick in.
What to expect Your puppy becomes a moody teenager. If he hasn’t been sterilised yet, now is the time to do it. Your male dog will start to lift his leg to urinate, while a bitch’s first heat cycle may start.
What you should do Start with daily walks to get rid of excess energy and to get the required exercise. Continue positive reinforcement training classes during this period and address unacceptable behaviour as soon as possible. Consult your behaviourist for some advice and speak to your vet to find out when you should switch your pup over to adult food.
Between one and three years, your dog will develop into the adult stage. Provided that he has received the required training and guidance, he will start to settle down into a confident family companion.
What to expect You will most probably start to understand your dog’s body language better (see page 94 for more about body language). Your dog will also be more confident and comfortable in various scenarios.
What you should do This is the ideal time to start with dog sports and other activities, like hiking or walks in the park – all depending on your dog’s breed. Keep your dog’s breed in mind, as larger dogs’ ligaments and bones might still be growing. Don’t do high-impact sports before your dog reaches 13 or 14 months of age. Switch him to adult dog food now.
Between seven and 10 years, your dog will reach the senior stage. Medium and larger breeds get to this stage sooner than small breeds. There are various signs to let you know that he has now become a senior dog.
What to expect You will notice some physical changes, like his muzzle and the tips of his ears going grey. He will walk more slowly, be less active, and his hearing and eyesight will start to deteriorate. He might even be sleeping more during the day and be stiff when he gets up from his naps.
What you should do Discuss a balanced diet for your senior dog with your vet. He might need special food and supplements for his ageing bones and joints. He also needs to see the vet more than once a year for a general health check-up.