Puppy milestones are markers signifying key steps on your pup's journey toward adulthood. These events are similar to the maturation children go through as they grow. Milestones occur at different times during a puppy's development. From birth to 1 year, major milestones emerge, with the majority occurring in the first 6 months of life.
Time flies by, so make the most of every moment you have with your pup. Mark their growth and celebrate their progress. Keep in mind that each puppy is different, and these developmental events may occur sooner or later for your pup, compared to other dogs of the same age.
Eyes and Ears Opening
Puppies are born deaf and blind, with their eyes and ears both closed. Newborn puppies experience the world solely through touch and smell for the first 2 weeks of their lives. Puppies open their eyes and ears during the third week, giving them a new perspective on life.
Learning to Bark
Shortly after their sight and hearing develop, puppies learn they can make sounds of their own. At this point, they begin to mimic the sounds of their mother. It doesn't take long for them to learn they can whine, grunt, and bark.
Learning to Walk
Puppies start standing around the same time their senses of smell and sight begin to develop. Most take their first shaky steps by their third week, offering them a newfound sense of independence.
Gaining Puppy Teeth
The third week is a crucial one in a puppy's development. Those sharp little puppy teeth begin to erupt from the pup's gums, during which time pups demonstrate teething behaviors. By week 8, they should have a full set of puppy teeth.
Transitioning from Mom's Milk to Solid Food
In a puppy's fourth week of life, their mother's milk production begins to slow and pups begin the transition to solid food. You will likely notice the puppy stealing a few bites of Mom's food. The weaning process takes about four weeks, and by week 8, they are solely dependent on solid food.
The Window of Socialization is Critical
Puppies generally begin learning about the world surrounding them starting in week 3, but weeks 4 to 12 are known as the critical window of socialization. The window of socialization will shape who the puppy becomes for the rest of their life. A puppy who is well-socialized is more likely to become a well-rounded adult dog, whereas a puppy who lacks socialization may grow up to display behavioral and emotional problems.
The sooner a puppy begins socialization, the more likely they are to become a well-adjusted, well-rounded adult dog. Socialization should involve new sounds, new smells, new sights, other people, other dogs, and other pets. It's significantly easier to socialize a puppy than an adult dog, so introducing these stimuli early in their socialization period is critical. It is also during this window that puppies are most impacted by fear. To avoid fearful behavior in the future, ensure all experiences are positive.
Puppy Learns Their Name
Your puppy will have 90 percent of their adult brain mass and a slew of new social and behavioral experiences by the time they are 3 months old. At this moment, one of the most thrilling puppy milestones occurs when your pup answers to their own name.
When Adult Teeth Appear
Adult teeth appear between the ages of 3 and 6 months in a puppy. This is when you might come across a chewed-up shoe, torn-up furniture, or shredded materials. If you haven't already done so, make sure to puppy-proof your home. Remove or hide anything that should not be chewed or ingested that sits near the puppy's level, such as power cords, toxic plants, and children's toys. Providing chew toys during this period can help with teething and prevent gnawing on inappropriate objects.
Reaching Sexual Maturity
The stage at which a dog is physically capable of breeding is known as sexual maturity. Puppies will reach this stage at about 6 months old. To avoid health concerns and surprise puppies, this is an ideal time to get your puppy spayed or neutered.
Beginning their Adolescence
Your puppy may begin to challenge their bounds during adolescence, between the ages of 9 and 12 months. All of your previous training may appear to have been forgotten at this point. Your pup may appear to have a shorter attention span. Hormonal changes will begin around this time if your puppy hasn't been spayed or neutered.
There's a reason this is referred to as "the teenage stage." It's difficult, frustrating, and challenging as your puppy makes the transition to adulthood. Continue to socialize and provide training while remaining patient. This stage is difficult, but after it's done, you'll notice your pup has become more well-rounded and calm.
Approaching Adulthood at One Year
This is a significant achievement that deserves to be recognized. You made it through your first year with a puppy! When your dog turns 1-year-old, they do not suddenly become an adult. Pups age at varying rates, primarily dependent on their breed and size. A large dog breed will typically reach adulthood around 15 months, whereas smaller breeds will only be puppies for 9 to 12 months. Regardless of breed, they've progressed through the major stages of puppy growth and are now approaching adulthood.
Continue Socialization and Training After One Year
It's important to continue socializing and training, not only when your dog is a puppy, but also as your dog progresses through life. Ongoing interaction with your dog will ensure they remain well-rounded, happy, and healthy. These milestones are important and definitely worth noting, but your dog will experience their own unique milestones as they progress through life.