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The Five Stages of Puppy Development

When you bring your new puppy home, knowing what to expect—and when—will help you both so much as they grow up. They really do grow up so fast. And it’s fun to watch our Puppy Development. As they reach new milestones and add joy to your life with each passing day.

There are five main stages of Puppy Development. And with each come new experiences and opportunities to set the stage for a lifetime. It’s a fast pace, and every stage is critical in effecting their positive development.

The objective? Happy. Healthy. Friendly. As the experts at Canine to Five advise, “Dogs aren’t born with the skills needed to take on the world; they have to be exposed to new experiences and intentionally socialized. Our customized Puppy Program partners your pup with dogs of different ages and temperaments and safely introduces new people, different surfaces, smells, and experiences to build confidence.”

The Curiosity Period (5 – 7 weeks)

There is nothing cuter than a puppy exploring the world for the first time. And now they are weaned, it’s game on! Pups will continue to learn from their mom and littermates—things like social skills, playing and bite inhibition. This is also usually their first introduction to new people and experiences as they are more mobile. Time with their litter is vital, so puppies should go to their new home no earlier than 8 weeks.

Behavioral Refinement (7 – 9 weeks)

Puppies learn immediately, and at this stage what they learn is permanent. Socialization is key, as well as learning boundaries and beginning positive reinforcement training, rewarding with praise and treats. Training can begin as soon as you bring your puppy home, and should be individualized to your puppy’s temperament and personality.

Fear Imprint (8 – 11 weeks)

At around eight weeks, puppies start experiencing fear as they become more aware of the world around them. It’s completely normal and doesn’t mean you’ll have a fearful dog, but this is an incredibly important time in their development. You should safely socialize and expose them to new experiences as much as possible, as any bad or scary experiences now may last a lifetime.

Environmental Awareness (9 – 12 weeks)

You are responsible for teaching your puppy confidence, manners, and proper behavior in any situation. With better motor skills and more interaction with people and other animals, you need to set clear boundaries and work with your puppy on what’s appropriate or not. Lots of patience, praise, and treats will be required!

Independence (13 – 16 weeks)

Now you’ll find puppies begin to test dominance and leadership. It’s an important time for learning how to behave including curbing biting, walking on leash and resource guarding (like food, toys and treats). Any bad behavior that is allowed or encouraged now makes it less likely they’ll develop into well-behaved dogs.

With lots of love, attention, and patience you and your pup will enjoy every stage of their life. And remember, at any stage positive reinforcement is key. Watch for the milestones as they hit each critical age, and be prepared. It’s SO much easier to teach your dog what you DO want and reward the behavior, rather than trying to correct what you don’t.

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