Congratulations on the new addition to your family! As puppies go through their stages development, several milestones are reached that you surely don’t want to miss!
What Your Puppy’s First 8 Weeks Are Like
We first need to understand what a puppy experiences and how they physically develop in the short time after they are born in their litter. You may not be there to witness these milestones, but hopefully your breeder will keep you informed of what is happening 🙂
Newborn: Week 0 – 2
Puppies are relatively helpless and rely entirely on their mother.
- They spend most of their time sleeping and eating
- They are born deaf and blind, so they heavily rely on their sense of touch and smell at the beginning of their life.
- They are also only able to slowly crawl around and not yet able to stand.
Transitional Period: Week 2 – 3
- Your puppy’s eyes and ears will start to open at this stage.
- They will also start showing their first social signals such as wagging their tail, growling a bit, whining, and barking.
- Their first set of ‘milk’ teeth will start to erupt as well, of which we will explore more in depth below.
Socialization Period: Week 3 – 12
This is a long yet extremely important and influential phase in your puppy’s life, as much of what is learned during this time will last throughout their life.
- Early on in this period, your puppy will start to stand up and take their first wobbly steps!
- They will start playing with their brothers and sisters and thus get more practice at walking and even running around, not without many stumbles though!
Your Puppy’s First Milestones With You!
1. The day you bring them home (~8 weeks old)
A puppy will usually be allowed to go home with their new forever family from around 8 weeks of age. This is of course one of the most significant moments of your relationship with your new fur baby, and it’s best to keep in mind what to do and expect that first day (and week)!
How To Prepare:
- You want to make sure your home is puppy-proofed and that you have set up boundaries around the home. This may include setting up a crate, baby gates and/or play pens before their arrival.
- Also have lots of treats and toys available to encourage them to explore their new home as they initially may be shy and afraid to do so on their own.
Try keeping your new puppy on a long leash indoors as much as possible to control their environment. Even clip the leash on to your clothes (eg. belt loop) so they are always supervised by you! After all, you never want to have a new puppy getting into something they’re not allowed!
2. Their first visit to the vet!
Puppies will need their first vaccinations at around 6 weeks old (when they are still with their breeder). Once they come home with you, they’ll need to have their round two of shots, and more rounds to follow!
Why Should You Vaccinate Your Puppy?
It’s super important to keep on top of your puppy’s vaccinations, as these are usually require before they can start socializing in puppy play time classes, going to public areas such as dog parks or attending doggy day care and dog boarding.
A Positive Experience At The Vet Is Key!
Be sure to make your puppy’s first experience at the vet a positive one, giving them lots of praise and treats. They will need to get used to being touched all over by the vet (and you!) as well – from their ears, nose, teeth, paws and even their bottom.
Getting them to like going to the vet at the beginning of their life will make their visits easier in the long term when they become adults!
3. Starting their potty training journey
This is a journey that will have you feeling elated, frustrated and confused at times! Depending on your puppy and their breeder, they may or may not come home with you with a little bit of potty training already.
How do I start potty training my puppy?
- Establish a schedule and routine with them! You can do this by writing one down in your calendar and even set an alarm when necessary to remind you to take them outside to do their business. The more you commit to the schedule, the greater the success!
- It’s also a good idea to potty train in conjunction with crate training. It is natural for dog to not want to relieve themselves in the same area they may sleep in, so crate training them will in turn encourage them to hold their bladder until going outside.
- While outside with your pup, hide any enthusiasm or signs of fun while your puppy is looking around for a spot to go potty.
- As soon as they go potty, immediately change your demeanor to happy and excited and shower them with lots of praise and treats. This will encourage them to want to go potty in the future!
- Always have an odor removing spray cleaner at the ready for any accidents your puppy may have indoors – it’s inevitable! Be sure to immediately clean up the accident in front of them as you want to remove any smell of the urine or poop to deter them from going in the same spot again!
4. Learning to recognize their name (~ 3 months)
By the time your puppy is 3 months old, they will have developed most of their brain mass as well as their social and behavioral habits.
Your puppy may have been given a different name from the breeder or shelter but now they may start to recognize the name you have given them!
In order to encourage them, be sure to praise and reward them with lots of treats when they come to you after calling their name!
6. Starting to socialize with other dogs (3-4 months old)
Hooray! Your puppy has had their vaccinations and are now ready to socialize with other dogs! This is such an important time for you and your puppy as this will impact their development as they grow into an adult.
- Make time to attend supervised puppy playtimes with qualified dog trainers. Do your research on where they are held – they may even be held at your local pet store and can be free of charge 🙂
- Try to make friends and schedule playdates with other puppy parents who want to socialize their puppies.
Why socialization is so important for a puppy
Socialization is crucial for puppies to build confidence and grow into a well adjusted dog.
To a young puppy, the world is brand new and strange to them. Think of every encounter as a new experience for them and introduce them to different sights, sounds and smells in a positive manner.
Below is a concise list of what to let your puppy experience:
- Walk on different surfaces:
- Hot and cold surfaces (within safe temperatures)
- Meet different people in a variety of situations:
- Elderly people
- Disabled people using wheelchairs, walking frames, canes etc.
- People on bicycles, motorcycles, skateboards etc.
- People wearing hats, hoodies, sunglasses, beards, glasses, umbrellas, even face masks (thanks to Covid-19!)
Be sure to take it slow – you definitely don’t want to overwhelm them all at once!
As usual, always have treats with you while they are experiencing these new scenarios!
7. Starting school! Puppy training classes
It’s time for school already and your puppy is just going to love it! Depending on certain places, you could start them from as early as 2 months old, or when their vaccinations are complete.
Why should I take my pup to school?
- Classes are a great way to socialize and meet other puppies as well!
- It is an excellent way to bond with them as well as learn how to care for and how to communicate with them
- Classes and training will establish the foundations of a well-balanced and well-mannered dog for the future.
- They will learn the basic commands, including sit, down, come, stay, in your ‘place’. All very important commands that are paramount for a well behaved pup!
8. Teething, chewing and losing their teeth
Let’s face it, you probably don’t see this as a ‘milestone’, but to a puppy, it’s just their whole world! It can be annoying to constantly have to handle persistent chewing, especially when it comes to household items – furniture, shoes, cables, carpets etc.
- Give your puppy some ice cubes, frozen tea towels, or even freeze their rubber toys so it’s cold and soothing for their gums while they chew.
- Get some bitter chew spray, which you can spray on surfaces where they like to chew. It should deter them and save your belongings!
Eventually within the first year, your puppy will start to lose their milk teeth! Be prepared for some slight bleeding which you may find on their fur, other puppy’s fur if they are playing together, your clothes, furniture, and their toys. Sometimes they may even swallow their baby teeth without knowing!
9. Their first bath!
It’s time for their first experience in a bath tub! Maybe you’ve chosen to tackle this at home or you’ve taken them to a professional groomer. It’s important to realize that this can be a scary experience for a young puppy as they’ll be confined to one area and covered in water and shampoo!
Tips on bathing your pup at home:
- High value treats are vital to give them at all times in the bath. This can include some real meat like boiled chicken shredded into little pieces.
- Silicone licking mats can be stuck on the wall of your bath tub. Here you can smear peanut butter on it and this will keep them occupied in the tub instead of trying to escape!
- Bath tethers are also a great idea if you have a pup who insists on trying to make a run for it while in the bath too!
10. Reaching sexual maturity
Depending on what breed your puppy is, they will reach sexual maturity sometime in their first year (or a bit later). It’s normal for smaller breeds to reach adulthood earlier than larger breeds. It may be time to think about spaying/neutering your pup when you start to notice them marking trees, plants, poles, anything really!
Be sure to seek advice from your vet and breeder to see when the best time is for your pup to be spayed or neutered – they know best!
What is spaying and neutering?
- Spaying is the process of removing a female dog’s reproductive organs
- Neutering is the process of removing the male dog’s testicles.
- Both procedures require your pup to be under anesthesia.
What are the benefits of spaying/neutering?
- Improve your dog’s behavior
- Reduce a dog’s frequency of marking their territory
- Avoid surprise litters in the future, therefore reducing unwanted pets at shelters
- Help with future health complications such as testicular or prostate cancer (for males), and uterine or ovarian cancer (for females)
- It’s often a requirement for doggy daycares and dog boarding
11. The adolescent period (~ 9 – 12 months)
So now your puppy is an adolescent, and what do adolescent humans and dogs have in common? Rebellion!
It’s now that you may start to notice them pushing their boundaries; disobeying you and your commands and maybe even refusing to eat their food!
They may also be going through hormone related behavioral changes, which is completely normal!
Be sure to continue diligently with their training and socialization! Just stay patient and persistent, this phase will pass eventually!
12. It’s their 1st Birthday!
Congratulations! You’ve made it to their first birthday!! Maybe you mark this special occasion with a small (or big!) party with other puppy friends (and parents of course!). You can even bake or buy them a special birthday cake, cupcake and/or cookie!
Your puppy has made it through the main developmental stages and are on their way to adulthood! Their training is definitely not over yet – it never is!
Remember, patience is key and more milestones are to come as they grow up! Good luck 🙂