Puppies are born blind and helpless, yet they mature to young adulthood by 18 to 24 months, depending on the breed. How do puppies get so far so fast? How can a pet owner best relate?
“A week … represents a large portion of its puppyhood,” according the K9lrng.com. It is up to the owner to provide variety and positive experiences every step of the way. (See Reference 1)
At this stage, puppies are dependent on cues from the mother concerning eating and elimination. For approximately two weeks they only eat and sleep.
Begin gently handling your newborn pup as soon as possible, suggests Barbara Wadge of Bargary Boxers. “Start turning them on their backs and holding them in your hands away from your body.” Build trust early on.
Eyes and ears begin opening the third week and the pups will start trying to walk and explore as they transition into toddlerhood, writes Sue St. Gelais of Hundmeister Reg'd Dobermans (See Reference 2). Let them hear the sound of your voice regularly.
Expect your puppy to become more social at this stage. Wadge points out that they start showing individual personalities and begin playing with the mother and littermates. Charles LeFave, author of "Dog Training SECRETS!", refers to this time as “almost ready to meet the world.” (See Reference 3)
By 5 weeks, the mother starts teaching the pups manners. The puppy can begin to understand rules about house-training. Biting takes the place of gnawing as teeth emerge. By 6 weeks, mother has begun weaning the puppies.
Think of your puppy’s mind as a sponge--it will absorb information from the world around it at an amazing pace. Robyn Olive of Down Home Dachshunds likens it to a blank page. “Whatever you teach him over the next four weeks he will never forget.”
The period of socialization contains many new experiences. According to LaFave, during the period between 8 weeks and 3 months, the pups could be "afraid of everything." Remember, patience with your pup will help him through the scary episodes, help build his confidence and strengthen the connection between the two of you.
Once your pup passes 3 months of age, prepare for a time of testing as he pushes the limits of his body and your rules. Until he passes the 6-month mark, expect a short attention span, distraction and some defiance. LeFave calls the 4 to 6 month age “the brat stage.”
LeFave considers the young adult stage to begin at 6 months. St. Gelais adds an intermediate stage between 6 months and 14 months she calls “second fear imprint period” prior to adolescence. This stage may manifest as a shyness or progress into major fear episodes. Exercise patience and you will both get through the time.
Your cute and cuddly puppy will reach adulthood somewhere between 18 and 24 months. Remember, every dog is an individual and breeds mature at different rates.