A long believed theory claims that 1 dog year equals to 7 human years. Well, today we know this is definitely not true, especially during the puppyhood. During the puppyhood dogs mature much quicker and some 1 year old dogs can be fully grown-up individuals.
In reality, different dog breeds mature in different pace. While most small dog breeds will reach their adult size at about 12 months, giant breeds may not reach full physical and mental maturity until they are 2 years old. So typically, puppyhood lasts somewhere between 1 – 2 years.
And even the puppyhood as a whole can be divided into several, very different stages. When the puppy is born up until 3 or 4 weeks, it is considered as a newborn. Their senses are not fully working, they dont see, hear or smell yet and most of the time they spend sleeping. After they are 2 weeks old, the pups start to interact with their mother, brothers and sisters and they are opening their eyes.
Typically, when they are 4 weeks old, puppies can walk, their teeth emerges and they are showing emotions by wagging tail or even by sweet barking.
The puppyhood phase between 4-12 weeks is one of the most important. During this stage, puppies will be aware of their surroundings and they are starting to create relationships with their siblings, but also with people. They are learning how to interact with others and they start to play with each other.
At the age of 8 weeks most pups will go home to their new owners and families. They are old enough to adjust to new environment and still have high fear treshold.
You can start training your puppy at the age of 8 weeks and they are slowly capable of understanding the basic commands, such as their name or sit. You should also start socializing your puppy as soon as possible, but in very safe and controlled manner.
Puppies are like sponge during this period, so you should try to give them as many positive experiences as possible. Definitely avoid any scary or painful experiences. Puppies are forming extremely strong bond with its owners during this time.
This period ends, when the puppy is around 12 weeks old. After that, the pre-adolescent, or someone call it as testing period, starts. It lasts from 3-6 months of puppy age. During this time, puppies are becoming less fearful and much more curious about the world. They are testing their boundaries within the world, but they also test limits with their owners and other animals. Problematic behaviour can occur.
After 3 months of age, puppies are ready for any training you want to do with them. They are capable of learning all the basic commands at this age and it is the best time to start real proper training or to sign them to training program.
This stage is also probably the worst for chewing and biting, since the pups go through the teething. Make sure your dog has enough chewing toys enable, so they do not chew on your shoes or furniture.
The last puppyhood stage starts when the dog is 6 months old. It is possibly the most challenging one and yes, it is the teenage phase. It can last from 6 to 12 or even 18 or 24 months, depending on the breed. Your cute little puppy starts to produce a lot of hormones, which may lead in behaviour changes.
They may challenge their owners or other dogs in household to find their place in the family. They are very often bored and need plenty and plenty of exercise. During this period, most puppies will reach their sexual maturity, which can lead to some problematic behaviour, such as disobedience. Be very patient with pups, do not physically punish them, but be very strict and firm.
Many puppies will become extremely curious explorers during this time and they might run on further distance away from you.
Here are some of the signs that your dog hits puberty. Their testicles descend, or they start first heat cycle. They might become less friendly, moody, more interested in roaming, dogs might start lifting hind legs while peeing, they might start scent marking, they might start to show agression towards dogs of the same sex. Some pups will suffer from something called „selective defness“, which means they obey your commands only when they want to, some might become manipulative with you and some might become destructive.
Most of these behaviours will start to diminish as your puppy matures as long as you keep up training and socialization through these periods. But this is most likely the hardest period of dog ownership. Prepare yourself with a lot of patience, you will need it.
After the age of 18 months, most dogs will reach full emotional maturity. Of course, there are some dogs that acts like playful pups much longer than that and they are known to be puppylike for whole their life. Such breeds include Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Labradors or Bulldogs.
And as i said, physical maturity occurs much sooner in smaller dogs like Chihuahuas or Yorkies. Those are fully physically mature at the age of 12 months. On the other hand Great Dane, Bullmastiffs, Saint Bernards or English Mastiffs will not reach their adult size until they are 20 or 24 months old
As you can see, each dog breed matures differently. But now you will have approximate idea about the different puppyhood stages and remember the rule of thumb, smaller dogs mature faster, giant dogs mature slower.