Developmental Stages of Puppy Behavior

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Although feeding time is important, it’s also vital to include petting, talking, and playing, in order to help your puppy build good “people-skills.” Well-socialized mothers are more likely to have well-socialized puppies. Puppies “feed” off their mothers’ calm or fearful attitude toward people.

Puppies are usually weaned at six or seven weeks, but are still learning important skills as their mother gradually leaves them more and more. Ideally, puppies should stay with their littermates (or other rolemodel dogs) for at least 12 weeks.

Puppies separated from their littermates too early often don’t develop appropriate “social skills,” such as learning how to send and receive signals, what an “inhibited bite” means, how far to go in play wrestling, and so forth. Play is important to help puppies increase their physical coordination, social skills, and learning limits. By interacting with their mother and littermates and attending puppy preschool classes, puppies learn “how to be a dog.”

Skills not acquired during the first eight weeks may be lost forever. While these stages are important and fairly consistent, a dog’s mind remains receptive to new experiences and lessons well beyond puppy-hood. Most dogs are still puppies, in mind and body, through the first two years.

The following chart provides general guidelines for stages of development.

0 – 2 weeks

2- 4 weeks

3- 12 weeks

3 – 6 months

6 – 18 months