If you just got a puppy you need to know this!

Many people dive into raising a puppy without any knowledge on how puppies work. Understanding what your puppy is going through developmentally will help you keep a level head as your puppy ages. Without this knowledge you may come to the wrong conclusions about your puppy’s behavior and have a hard time finding the right solutions.  


Birth – 3 weeks


3- 5 weeks

  • Learning and sensory development begins.

  • New surfaces and sounds should be introduced.

  • Puppies should remain with their litter and mother a minimum of 8 weeks, this is when pups learn the foundations of canine to canine language.


Even though you won’t have your puppy until they are ideally 8 weeks of age at the very youngest, what happens to your puppy in the first 8 weeks of their life shapes what kind of dog they will become. Knowing what kind of experiences your puppy had before coming to live with you will help shed some light on any perplexing behaviors you might encounter, in turn you may be more patient and understanding while you work through it.


6-16 weeks

  • Rapid learning occurs.  Greatest impact on future social behavior will be made by any experience that happens at this point.

  • Optimal socialization window is closing.

  • Puppies should be introduced to well-mannered adult dogs one-on-one as well as equally matched puppies one-on-one. Large groups of puppies are problematic, just as large groups of adult dogs is problematic. http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/doggy-day-care-fun-for-fido-or-not . SOIDT recommends puppy play is not associated with puppy training classes as it may develop dogs who disconnect from their handler when other dogs are in the environment. Some degree of disconnect at first sight of another dog will happen regardless, however, being let off leash to go play with other puppies is a huge reinforcement. A well thought out puppy class can use this powerful reinforcement to strengthen the puppy staying connected to the handler but that is a very tall order.

  • Consider puppy’s physical limitations and short attention span when training. Keep training fun, short, and positive. Use a variety of rewards beyond food such as, different toys, games, activities and excitement and play with you. Rewarding should be an event, sudden bursts of movement and excitement followed by a few bits of food and a game of fetch for example.

  • SOIDT’s top behaviors to immediately teach puppies: settle, wait/stay, recall, drop it, leave it. These will save you from a lot of frustration and potentially keep your puppy safe from himself.

  • Management of the home environment is critical so that the puppy does not develop unwanted habits such as, chewing on anything that isn’t a dog item, house soiling, and crossing physical boundaries. Use as many baby gates and barriers as it takes. It’s a lot easier to prevent problems than it is to fix problems.

  • Experiences a puppy perceives as traumatic during this time are generalized and may affect them all their life.

  • Fun vet and groomer visits should be a priority to avoid unnecessary stress, muzzling, and sedation for routine procedures. Conditioning your puppy to enjoy being handled, groomed, examined and treated by pet care professionals has deadlines. You need to have already been working on these things before the deadlines are up. You can teach obedience literally at any time.

  • Fun visits at any potential dog sitters or boarding facilities if possible should be considered and rehearsed long before leaving for vacations.

  • ·The puppy should be gently experiencing as many new; sights, sounds, people, animals, scents as possible. Gently means one or two new experiences a day taking care not to overwhelm.


4 months to 2-3 years – adolescence, the most challenging age range

  • Environmental management with gates, barriers and tethers are still critical as the adolescent dog becomes more outwardly curious and does not yet understand his limits and boundaries.  Keep adolescents on leash in areas where other people and dogs are as they may resist recalls in favor of meeting new dogs and people.

  • Because of the changes their body and brain are going through, behaviors that they were great at only days before may seem to fall apart. Emotions cancel out learned behavior, if your young dog is experiencing fear, excitement, frustration, over arousal, etc., they will behave like normal dogs not trained dogs. Dogs experience good and bad days just the same as humans.

  • Chewing, crying, biting, whining and restlessness may swell as the adolescent loses puppy teeth and new adult teeth grow in. All adult teeth should be in by 6-8 months.

  • Adolescent dogs are very emotionally sensitive and will dip in and out of more sensitive periods. You will notice your young dog will suddenly be apprehensive, shy, or fearful of new or even known people, dogs, sounds, environments, and objects. Providing a positive experience via food, toys, reassurance and play is critical. Harsh or out of proportion punishments may cause the adolescent to develop into a reactive, fearful, or aggressive adult.

  • A rise in barking or growling may appear during these sensitive periods. If handled inappropriately (using punishment or startle tactics) a rise in nipping, biting and aggression can occur. It’s important to be able to recognize what the motivation behind behavior is so that you can handle the situation correctly. For example, barking and nipping from fear is solved very differently than barking and nipping from over arousal. If you understand and recognize canine body language you will be able to differentiate between the two.

  • Puppies and adolescents can become frustrated and over aroused easily which can lead to jumping, humping, and biting. Discontinue interactions that are frustrating or over arousing and allow your young dog to calm down.  

  • Positive socialization exposure needs to continue but the areas and events need to be well thought out and the adolescent needs to be given as much space as they needs to feel safe.


Jamie Flanders