29.10.19

Puppy development stages: newborn milestones & growth charts

The stages of puppy development are wondrous to behold. Your dog will grow and gain independence each day as he passes through the key puppy development stages and reaches important puppy milestones.

While all dogs pass through the same puppy stages in their early life, bear in mind that small dog breeds develop more quickly and reach maturity at a younger age than larger breeds (see our puppy growth chart here).

In this article we explore the various puppy development stages, looking not only at your puppy’s physical growth but also at his social and emotional maturation. Socialisation is an important aspect of your puppy’s growth and development, being the process that all dogs need to go through in order to live comfortably in our human world. Socialisation includes learning not to fear new experiences and to welcome human beings as friends.

The puppy development stages

Each of the puppy stages includes important milestones in your puppy’s journey from a helpless newborn to an independent adult. By knowing what to expect and when to expect it, you can be better prepared to deal with your puppy’s more challenging behaviours, understand what is age-appropriate, feel comforted that your puppy is developing normally and be aware if there is any reason for concern.

The Neonatal Period – 0 to 2 weeks

For the first two weeks of life, a puppy is considered a neonate or newborn. Puppies in the newborn puppy development stage are completely helpless, being born blind, deaf and neurologically underdeveloped. They need to rely entirely on their mother and spend most of the time sleeping or eating.

Newborn puppy’s body

The first week

  • Puppies are born fully furred
  • They can touch and taste
  • Their eyes and ears are closed so they cannot hear or see
  • They can’t stand or support their body weight, but their front feet are strong, and they can pull themselves towards their mother
  • They make tiny squeaking noises when they are cold, but are mostly silent
  • They cannot regulate their own body temperature and need their mother for heat
  • There is almost no difference in their brain activity when asleep and awake
  • They grow rapidly and double their birth weight in the first week to ten days of life (see puppy growth chart here)

The second week

  • Their eyes start to open at around ten to fourteen days, although they can’t see very much yet; sometimes one eye opens before the other
  • Their forelegs are getting much stronger
  • They continue to grow rapidly, adding 5-10% of their body weight (see puppy growth chart here)

Newborn puppy’s socialisation

Socialisation in this initial stage is influenced by mum. The puppy actively seeks his mother – if separated from her, he will start to vocalise and crawl, swinging his head from side to side as he tries to find her. She is constantly attentive, only leaving her babies to eat or go to the toilet. If a puppy cries, mum responds by moving him towards her and licking him.

The breeder will slowly begin to handle the puppies in order to get them used to human contact. Studies have shown that handling and other interaction with a human carer experienced during the newborn puppy development stage can lead to a quicker maturation of the puppy’s nervous system and enhance the development of the puppy’s motor and problem-solving skills.

Newborn puppy care tips

  • Feeding: newborn puppies are only able to feed by suckling from their mother (or if not possible, a commercial milk substitute), and they need to have milk about every two hours.
  • Toileting: the mother licks her puppies’ anogenital regions to stimulate peeing and pooping and she keeps the sleeping area clean by eating their waste products.
  • Deworming: the breeder deworms the puppies for the first time at the end of the second week.

 

The Transitional Period – 2 to 4 weeks

There is a lot happening during the second stage of puppy development, as the puppy transitions out of the neonate period (see puppy growth charts here). Brain development quickly ramps up, with a marked increase in brain activity. Puppy also begins to show his personality.

Puppy’s body

The third week:

  • Puppies can stand, sit up and even start walking, taking their first wobbly steps, by the end of this week
  • They can wag their tails
  • Their ear canals open and they start to respond to sound, showing a startle response to loud noises
  • Their vision improves and they start to respond to light and movement
  • They start to make proper dog sounds and may make their first attempt at barking
  • They can regulate their body temperature more effectively
  • They start to cut their first milk teeth in preparation for weaning, with the front teeth, canines and incisors coming through first

The fourth week:

  • Puppies become much more active and stronger on their legs
  • They start to move away from the sleeping area to pee and poop
  • They may try to climb out of the whelping box
  • They can see quite well by now
  • The back teeth start to come through

Puppy’s socialisation

Socialisation in the second puppy development stage is influenced by their litter mates. Puppies start to interact with their siblings, even actively playing and play-fighting with each other. They begin to practice using social signals, such as growling, pawing and tail wagging. Biting behaviour may occur, which helps to relieve the discomfort of teething.

In this period, puppies begin to exhibit signs of distress for reasons other than being cold or hungry. Separation from their litter mates, a new environment, or accidentally wandering too far from the nest will cause them to cry.

The puppies’ mother will start to spend more time relaxing away from the puppies. If she lives indoors, she may re-join the family for more of each day. She will gradually stop cleaning up after her puppies.

Puppy care tips

  • Feeding: Toward the of the third week puppies may have their first taste of puppy food and the breeder may get weaning underway. By the end of the fourth week, puppies are usually getting quite a bit of their nourishment from puppy food. They can now lap water from a bowl. If the mother is allowed near the puppies after she has been fed, she may regurgitate her dinner for them. This is completely natural and normal.
  • Toileting: Puppies begin to pee and poop naturally, away from the nesting area, without stimulation from their mother.
  • Deworming: The breeder deworms the puppies for a second time.

 

The Socialisation Period – 4 to 12 weeks

The third of the puppy stages is a truly wondrous period in which the puppy can now really run and play. It is probably the most significant period of the puppy’s young life and much of what he learns now will last throughout his lifetime. In this stage it’s incredibly important to socialise him by introducing him to other people and dogs, as well as new noises and environments.

Puppy’s body

  • By the fifth week, puppies can bark properly – some can be quite noisy at this age!
  • From the sixth week onwards, a small breed puppy may gain around 140 grams per week in weight, whereas a large breed puppy may put on around 9 to 10 kg per week (see puppy growth chart here) – weekly weighing is recommended
  • At eight weeks the puppy’s brain is ready to start soaking up information, making it the ideal time to start training him

Puppy socialisation

As its name suggests, this puppy development stage is the critical time for learning socialisation skills – it is the time when puppies learn how to be dogs. They become familiar with all the species-specific behaviours, such as different body postures and vocalisations, that allow them to live and communicate with other dogs.

During the first half of this stage puppies will ideally still be with their mother and litter mates, and mum will educate her pups about discipline and dog-manners. She teaches them how to bite and what it feels like to be bitten, and they learn not to bite too hard. It is important for puppies to learn this lesson when they are young, so that they do not hurt other dogs and people as adults.

The window for optimal socialisation closes at around three months, and up to this age is the time when your puppy will most readily accept and adapt to new experiences. Good breeders start socialisation before puppies go home with their new owners (typically at around eight weeks), introducing them to lots of new experiences so that they won’t be afraid of them later. Positive interactions with people from weeks five to seven will play a large role in how puppies continue to interact.

During the second half of this puppy stage, when the puppy is in his new home, it is essential that he is exposed to many of the people, dogs, objects, sounds and environments he may encounter in later life, including being left alone for short periods, visiting the vet and travelling in the car. Puppies need some help with this process because at around three months old, they start to become nervous and fearful of unfamiliar people and events. As the owner, this is the time when you can have the greatest impact on your puppy’s social development.

Puppy training

At eight weeks, your puppy’s brain is ready to start soaking up information, making this the ideal time to get puppy training under way. Train your puppy to be happy with new encounters. From weeks eight to ten, your pup will go through a normal “fear” period that can be helped with training that is positive and encouraging. Expose him to a few brief and friendly visits from as many different puppy-friendly people and animals as possible. This teaches puppies not to fear people and other animals.

Start house-training your puppy, as he can now learn to wait before eliminating and start sleeping through the night without a potty break. Biting can be a big problem during this stage, and you need to be patient and consistent in order to teach him not to hurt people when he plays.

Puppy care tips

  • Feeding: At 6 to 8 weeks, your puppy will be fully weaned and enjoying four or five small meals a day. Initially, your puppy may still suckle from his mother, but he doesn’t need to. When you bring him home, you’ll be feeding him four times a day, and/or using much of his food in training. By 9 to 12 weeks this will reduce to three meals per day.
  • Grooming: Your puppy will need regular grooming, particularly if he is a long-coated breed, and although he won’t have much coat yet, now is the time to begin.
  • Exercise and play: Puppies under four months don’t need formal walks, just lots of opportunity to play and run around in your garden or yard. Teething toys, balls and rope toys are big favourites with many puppies.
  • Vaccinations: Your puppy will have his vaccinations during his first month at home. You can take him out before his vaccinations are complete, as long as you carry him and don’t allow him onto the ground or in areas where other dogs may have been. After his vaccination, it is important to check with your vet how many days to wait before it is safe for him to go outside in public areas and meet other dogs.

 

We recommend that you take out pet insurance prior to your first puppy check up so that you will be covered for any potential issues or medical conditions from the start. You can insure your pet from 8 weeks of age, and Bow Wow Meow offers 2 months free in the first year for puppies, which makes it even more affordable.

 

10% discount for multiple pets   

The Juvenile Period – 3 to 6 months

This puppy stage begins between 14 and 16 weeks of age and ends at the onset of puberty. During this time, puppies start to lose that very young puppy ‘look’ and more closely resemble a miniature version of their adult selves.

Puppy’s body

  • Puppies become mouthy, as from 4 months baby teeth start falling out
  • Teething and related chewing (and chewing issues!) occur
  • They can hold longer in-between toilet breaks and toilet training becomes much easier
  • The growth plates are starting to close for small breeds
  • Sexual maturity is developing, making this a good time to spay or neuter your puppy
  • Motor skills are similar to adults by the age of six months
  • Medium to large breeds will reach about half their adult height by the end of the fourth month (see puppy growth chart here)
  • Toy and small breeds will almost complete their growth by the end of the sixth month (see puppy growth chart here)

Puppy socialisation

During this stage, puppies start to understand their role in the pack and pick up more and more cues. Just like human children, dogs in this puppy development stage are most influenced by their playmates — both dogs and people – and are beginning to understand rank, submission and dominance.

Well-socialised puppies will feel comfortable with people and other animals and will begin initiating interaction with them. Continued socialisation is necessary throughout the juvenile period to reinforce previous positive socialisation experiences, otherwise these will be forgotten. Puppies in the juvenile stage begin to demonstrate independence and exploratory behaviour. However, another fear period can occur at around 4 months of age, so be sure to keep your puppy safe on the lead.

Puppy training

This puppy stage is the best time to train your puppy, as he is now at his peak learning ability. However, he has a short attention span and can become easily excitable, so keep training short, consistent and fun. Your puppy can be actively taught by five months not to bite hard, and by six months to stop biting altogether.

Begin to practise recall, which can take some time to learn, but your persistence will pay off. Heavily reinforce good behaviour, giving rewards every time he comes to you when called.

Puppy care tips

  • Feeding: Puppies will need to stay on puppy food until they reach adulthood, but they can usually drop down to 3 meals a day at the end of the third month.
  • Exercise and play: By age 5 months, puppies can go on short walks. Make sure to keep your puppy close by when outdoors and when walking as they become progressively less dependent on you.
  • Biting: Your puppy may still bite and chew a lot, so invest in some chewable toys to keep him occupied.

 

Adolescence – 6 to 18 weeks

Adolescence begins when a puppy reaches puberty, which typically occurs between six months to one year of age. Puppies mature very quickly, and the smaller the breed, the faster they reach puberty. In small breeds, adolescence can start as early as 5 months. In larger breeds it can start as late as 9 or 10 months, and in very large breeds adolescence may not begin until 12 to 18 months. The duration of adolescence also depends on the breed size, lasting anywhere from a few months to a year.

Puppy body

  • A female puppy will come into season for the first time, any time in the second half of her first year (commonly between 6 and 9 months), at which time she is able to mate and have puppies. Breeding at such a young age could harm your puppy so you need to make sure this cannot occur.
  • Male dogs will often start showing an interest in females in this developmental stage, at which time you can assume they can reproduce. It is your responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen.
  • By about seven months, adult teeth will replace the milk teeth.
  • All growth plates close off and puppy is ready for more impact activities like agility or jogging.
  • The adolescent puppy’s brain is fully developed and contains the learning capacity of an adult dog.
  • By the end of this stage, dogs have reached their full body weight and height (see puppy growth chart here).

Puppy socialisation

This stage is all about testing boundaries and challenging behaviours, some of which may include:

  • aggression
  • excessive energy
  • short attention span
  • poor socialisation
  • disobedience
  • wandering
  • leg cocking (males); and
  • obsessive mounting behaviour

Adolescent dogs that were fully socialised as puppies may again become fearful. Continue providing positive socialisation experiences and using positive reinforcement and consistent guidelines to help prevent later behavioural problems. Practice makes permanent, so it is wise to continue providing positive socialisation experiences for your pet from puppyhood onwards.

Your puppy now understands that he has a “pack” (which may consist of both humans and dogs) and his behaviour will be most influenced by this group. You can expect that he will challenge you and other animals more as he explores dominance and his role in the pack. When he challenges or is challenged by another dog, a scuffle will often break out. As soon as one has established itself as ‘top dog’, the fight usually ends in a few seconds, without resulting in injury. This is part of adolescence and is all about learning the rules. If you keep your adolescent puppy apart from other dogs, he will grow up frustrated and poorly socialised.

Puppy training

Your adolescent puppy can appear to have forgotten everything he has learned in the previous puppy stages, and behavioural issues may start to show. After all the hard work you’ve put into his training thus far, the adolescent puppy stage can be a frustrating time. It is important to realise that this is a normal part of puppy development and that it will pass only too quickly.

Adolescence is the time to keep working on every aspect of his training, give him consistent guidelines and lots of praise and rewards to boost his self-esteem while allowing him to work off some of his extra energy. Regular training during this stage is very beneficial.

Puppy care tips for this stage

  • Biting and chewing: A second chewing stage will likely begin somewhere between 7 to 9 months. Properly socialised puppies will “mock bite” without causing injury; however, if your dog does injure another, he will need specialist “bite inhibition” training.
  • Feeding: By the seventh month he should also be able to maintain two full meals per day.
  • Neutering: Dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered will start exhibiting sexual behaviour during this period, and females are often neutered once their first season is complete.
  • Exercise: Frequent walks will lessen their curiosity and urge to explore each time they are taken out. By 9 months they are ready for more strenuous activity and sports.

 

Adult – all grown up

Adulthood can commence any time from one year for smaller breeds up to between 18 and 24 months for large and giant breeds. There are three aspects of puppy development that need to occur for a dog to be considered an adult:

  • Physical maturity: This is reached at different ages, depending largely on the size of the dog. Little dogs stop growing much sooner than big dogs (see puppy growth chart here).
  • Sexual maturity: Most puppies reach sexual maturity before they are fully grown, especially the larger breeds which have longer and slower growth periods,
  • Mental maturity: Puppyish behaviour such as ‘silliness’ and ‘excitability’ can persist well into the second year, and many dogs are not fully mentally mature before they are two years old.

Your puppy needs to reach all three aspects of maturity before he is considered an adult. However, these processes don’t happen at the same rate, and the point at which all three are achieved varies from one dog breed to another. The second birthday is a major milestone in this respect, and the point at which most dogs are considered adult. The mature adult dog is much calmer and more self-controlled than the energetic and challenging adolescent.

 

Puppy growth chart

During the various stages of puppy development, you may wonder how much your puppy should weigh and whether he is growing and putting on weight appropriately. Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact answer to these questions, the reason being that not all puppies are the same, especially if you compare a tiny Chihuahua to its very much larger relative, the St. Bernard! Dogs vary considerably in their growth rates, as well as in the final size that they are likely to reach.

The most significant differences in growth rates and patterns is between dogs of different breed sizes. In the puppy growth charts below, you can see just how much more extreme the growth rate of larger dogs is, and how much longer they carry on growing. The general rule is the larger the dog, the longer he will grow for.

Of course, there can also be wide variations between animals of the same breed, which can be quite significant in adult dogs from the larger breeds, but less obvious in smaller breeds and very young puppies. Gender also plays a role in determining weight and height, with male dogs usually a little heavier and larger than female dogs of the same age and breed.

One way to estimate how big your puppy will be as an adult is to look at where he lies on a general growth curve for his breed:

Puppy Growth Chart

 

Weight charts by breed size

While we cannot predict exact weights at any of the main puppy development stages, the charts below will give you an idea of what you might expect your puppy to weigh at different stages in his development, depending on whether his breed size is toy, small, medium, large, or giant.

 

Toy

Examples of toy dog breeds include: Chihuahua, Italian Greyhound, Toy Poodle, Brussels Griffon, Miniature Dachshund, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Fox Terrier, Papillon, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Yorkshire Terrier

Dog Growth Chart - Toy Size Dogs, Examples of the Toy Breed include: Chihuahua, Italian Greyhound, English Toy Spaniel, Toy Poodle, Karst Shepherd, Beaglier, Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka
Dog Growth Chart – Toy Size Dogs
Source: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0840/6049/files/dog_weight_per_age_toy_large.jpg?v=1540443746

 

Small

Examples of small dog breeds include: Australian Terrier, Basenji, Bichon Frise, Border Terrier, Boston Terrier, Brussels Griffon, Cairn Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Dachshund, Fox Terrier, French Bulldog, Havanese, Italian Greyhound, Jack Russell Terrier, Japanese Spitz, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Maltese Shih Tzu, Miniature Bull Terrier, Miniature Dachshund, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Moodle, Papillon, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Pug, Scottish Terrier, Shih Tzu, Welsh Corgi, Welsh Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier

Dog Growth Chart - Small Size Dogs, Examples of the Small Breed include: Affenpinscher, Bichon Frise, Bolognese, Boston Terrier, Brussels Griffon, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dachshund, Havanese, Japanese Chin, Lhasa Apso, Lowchen, Maltese, Maltese Shih Tzu, Maltipoo, Manchester Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, Papillon, Peekapoo, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Poodle, Pug, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier, Toy Fox Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier
Dog Growth Chart – Small Size Dogs
Source: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0840/6049/files/dog_weight_per_age_small_50e3fe63-5975-41b7-afab-6c2635376787_large.jpg?v=1540443903

 

Medium

Examples of medium dog breeds include: American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Kelpie, Beagle, Border Collie, British Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Cavoodle, Chow Chow, Cocker Spaniel, Dalmatian, Irish Terrier, Old English Sheepdog, Portuguese Water Dog, Schnauzer, Schnoodle, Shar Pei, Shetland Sheepdog, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Spoodle (Cockapoo), Springer Spaniel, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Whippet

Dog Growth Chart - Medium Size Dogs, Example of the Medium Breed include: Afghan Hound, Airedale Terrier, Australian Cattle, Australian Shepherd, Basenji, Basset Hound, Beagle, Border Collie, Boxer, Chow Chow, Cocker Spaniel, English Bulldog, English Pointer, German Pinscher, Keeshond, Kerry Blue Terrier, Labradoodle, Miniature Bull Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, Siberian Husky, Skye Terrier, Stafford Bull Terrier, Standard Schnauzer, Whippet
Dog Growth Chart – Medium Size Dogs
Source: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0840/6049/files/dog_weight_per_age_medium_27c74a01-afb7-499b-b511-e2183393df53_large.jpg?v=1540443999

 

Large

Examples of large dog breeds include: Airedale Terrier, Alaskan Malamute, Australian Bulldog, Australian Shepherd, Basset Hound, Boxer, Collie (Rough), Doberman, English Pointer, German Shepherd, German Short Haired Pointer, Golden Doodle (Groodle), Golden Retriever, Greyhound, Hungarian Vizsla, Irish Setter, Labradoodle, Labrador, Pitbull Terrier, Poodle, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Weimaraner

Dog Growth Chart - Large Size Dogs, Examples of the Large Breed include: German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, Collie, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Akita, Bloodhound, Bullmastiff, Alaskan Malamute, Dalmataian, Old English Sheepdog, Irish Setter, Afghan Hound, English Setter
Dog Growth Chart – Large Size Dogs
Source: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0840/6049/files/dog_weight_per_age_large_a3da82e3-e42b-4bd8-a58f-3c3ab3b9af16_large.jpg?v=1540444062

 

Giant

Examples of giant dog breeds include: Akita, Bernese Mountain Dog, Boerboel, Bullmastiff, Cane Corso, Dogue De Bordeaux, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Giant Schnauzer, Irish Wolfhound, Leonberger, Newfoundland, Scottish Deerhound, St. Bernard

Dog Growth Chart - Giant Size Dogs, Example of the Giant Breed include: Great Dane, Mastiff, Newfoundland, St. Bernard, Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhound, Giant Schnauzer, Leonberger, Greyhound, Kuvasz, Scottish Deerhound, Chart Polski, Landseer, Shiloh Shepherd Dog, King Shepherd
Dog Growth Chart – Giant Size Dogs
Source: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0840/6049/files/dog_weight_per_age_giant_large.jpg?v=1540444240

 

Find out more with our helpful Puppy Resources!

Download our Puppy Guide – 36 pages jam packed full of helpful tips for all new puppy parents.

Still looking for the perfect puppy? Check out our puppy buyer’s guide to learn who to trust, and which sellers to better stay away from.

Puppy arrival without stress: Check out our puppy arrival equipment checklist and our top tips on bringing a new puppy home (incl. puppy proofing your home).

 

More information

https://thehappypuppysite.com/puppy-development-stages/

http://www.thepuppyplan.com/the-science/summary#.XW9IGCgzbct

https://thehappypuppysite.com/puppy-development-stages/#chart

https://thehappypuppysite.com/puppy-development-stages/#guide

https://www.cesarsway.com/the-stages-of-puppy-growth/

https://uk.pedigree.com/puppy/key-milestones 

 

We recommend that you take out pet insurance prior to your first puppy check up so that you will be covered for any potential issues or medical conditions from the start. You can insure your pet from 8 weeks of age, and Bow Wow Meow offers 2 months free in the first year for puppies, which makes it even more affordable.

 

10% discount for multiple pets   
*Please note, any pet insurance advice provided is general only. Refer to the applicable Product Disclosure Statement for details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover.