Developmental Stages of Dog and Puppy Behavior
Dog puppy behavior goes through distinct milestones, especially
during the first two years of their lives. These behavior stages
vary a little depending on different breeds (large breeds mature
more slowly) and even individual dogs, but anyone raising a
puppy will recognize these basic timeframes.
The most crucial period of your dog's development is the
socialization period between 3 to 16 weeks. During this time,
puppies imprint many things that stick with them their entire
During the first six weeks, puppies need to stay with their
litters. During this time, they learn appropriate bite levels
and puppy communication during play.
Between 5 and 7 weeks, puppies begin to show fear. If they
have not been exposed to a variety of new humans by week seven,
they may always be fearful. Week seven is a good time for
puppies to be placed in new homes.
Between 10 and 16 weeks, puppies become more independent and
begin to explore. It's important to expose them to a variety of
environments at this time. It's also the time to begin setting
At some time between 6 and 8 months, your puppy becomes an
adolescent, often referred to by trainers as "the teenager
phase." Puppies are really exhibiting their independence at this
time, and many behavior problems that have previously been
trained may appear again.
During this time, it's good to take a training class with
your dog or go back to reinforcing strict rules. Your dog should
not be allowed off-leash at this time. It is also important for
your dog to play with other dogs to learn proper puppy manners.
They should be playing not only with dogs their own age but
adult dogs who can correct inappropriate behavior. This is best
done in controlled settings, not the dog park.
As this stage ends between 12 and 18 months, your dog starts
to become more adult-like. Depending on the breed of your dog,
you might see a decrease in the puppy energy at this time. You
will see another decrease at some time between 2 and 3 years of
age, especially in larger breeds.
By the time your dog is 3, he is an adult. Though he may
still be playful and puppy-like in many ways, he will also start
to seem older. Though you can still modify behavior problems at
this time, your dog's personality is pretty well set. If your
dog has any type of aggressive tendencies, you will usually know
Depending on the dog breed, your dog will start to be
considered a "senior" dog between 8 to 10. Small dogs live
longer and don't tend to be considered senior until 10 to 12.
Large dogs may only live 10 to 12 years. At this time, their
energy will slow, and their behaviors are very routine. Though
it's a myth that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, it is
much harder to change a behavior problem that has persisted 10
Watching your puppy grow into a dog is a fun and rewarding
time. By being aware of developmental stages, you can help
prevent and solve behavior issues that may arise along the way.
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