Puppy Development & Growth Stages Guide – Key Age Milestones and Week-by-Week Timeline
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As your puppy grows, it will pass through several different stages of puppy development.
Each of these puppy stages comes with its own unique milestones as well as particular care requirements.
As such, you need to be aware of what your pup needs from you at a given puppy development milestone, what type of training you can try, and what to avoid doing to your pooch.
When looking at the following puppy growth stages, keep in mind that the puppy development timeline is generalizations and your puppy may progress more quickly or slowly in their life stages.
QUICK RECOMMENDATION: If you’re raising and training a new puppy then you’ll want to check out Doggy Dan’s Puppy Program. It has a ton of great information on how to train the perfect puppy.
The Stages of Puppy Growth and Development Month by Month
The following are the stages of puppy growth and development, starting at birth and ending when your dog reaches adulthood.
1. The Neonatal Stage (0 to 2 weeks)
This is the newborn puppy growth stage that lasts until two weeks of age. At this developmental stage, puppies are blind and deaf. They don’t have teeth and can’t regulate their own body temperatures.
Expect puppies at this point to sleep almost constantly and their mother will take care of everything, keeping them warm, feeding them, and keeping them clean.
2. The Transitional Stage (2 to 4 weeks)
At this puppy growth stage, they will start to open up their eyes and respond to sounds, light, and movement around them.
This is also when your puppy will eliminate without their mother’s help and their teeth will start to come in.
You will also notice a puppy at this point starting to get more mobile, although they will still tend to crawl instead of walking. They do, however, have enough strength to stand up, but will stumble a lot.
A puppy in this developmental stage will just be starting to recognize their siblings and mother. They may even take a lick of their mother’s food out of curiosity at this point but still don’t need more than mother’s milk.
When Do Lab Puppies Open Their Eyes?
Lab puppies open their eyes at about two weeks old. By this time, Labrador puppies will have their eyes fully open and most will be at least partly open. Ears open at this point too and your puppy will begin to hear.
3. Period of Awakening of Senses (3 to 4 weeks)
At this period, a puppy develops various senses rapidly. They start to get fully alert and aware of their environment and may recognize you and other humans that are frequently around.
During this stage, you should take steps to avoid sudden changes or loud noises since negative occasions can affect the development and the dog’s personality.
It is crucial that the puppy still stays with the mother at this point since they are learning ‘how to be a dog’, how to act themselves and how to interact with others of their species.
4. The Socialization Period (4 to 7 Weeks)
Once a puppy is around four weeks old, they start to learn the most important things in life-related to social development. They will learn to not bite all the time and how to interact with their siblings.
Interactions with humans are especially important between five and seven weeks.
This is also the time they will start to understand discipline thanks to their mother. She will start weaning her puppies and teaching them manners, like acknowledging she is in charge.
As the owner, you can start introducing food to your puppy when they are around four weeks old. Start small and begin to give them more food as the mother continues to wean them.
You should also continue handling the puppy every day. However, be sure not to separate them from their siblings or mother for over ten minutes each day, since this can lead to issues with training and socialization.
Dogs who are separated too soon may also be nervous and more likely to bark and bite.
During this period, let the mother dog take care of discipline; you should not correct the dog for mouthing or housebreaking mistakes until later in life.
5. 2nd Socialization and Fearful Period (8 to 12 Weeks)
Although not all puppies go through a fearful period, most pass through a time where they are afraid or terrified of nearly everything, including items they used to be okay with.
To help ease them through this process, avoid traumatic events, loud voices, or harsh discipline.
You should also make sure your pooch has plenty of human contact during this stage. If you want, you can start leash training and even teach simple commands such as sit, down, stay and come.
In terms of development, you will notice that your puppy can sleep through the whole night and starts to develop better control of its bowels and bladder.
During this time, you should make sure you don’t bring your dog to areas un-vaccinated or stray dogs frequent since they will be more prone to a fatal disease, such as parvovirus.
Most vets suggest that new outings should wait until they are fully vaccinated.
QUICK TIP: Most puppies go to their new homes during this stage. Before we bring home a new pup we get them a Calmeroos Puppy Toy with Heartbeat and Heat Pack. We rub the Calmeroos Puppy Toy on littermates and mom to get their scent. When we get home the Calmeroos Puppy Toy helps our puppy feel comfortable and adjust more quickly to his new environment.
Many puppies will go to their new homes at around 8 weeks old. We recently put together a blog post on our sister site detailing what you can expect from an 8-week-old puppy.
6. The Juvenile Stage (3 to 4 Months)
At this point in development, a puppy can be compared to a juvenile. They will be more independent and may ignore the basic commands that they know very well.
If this happens, firmly and gently reinforce the commands and other training.
You may also notice your pup starting to test your authority by play biting or similar actions.
You can stop play biting this by saying “no bite” or “no” and then ignoring them for a few minutes. You can also redirect your dog to a toy that they can bite.
You should keep playing with your puppy on a regular basis at this time, but don’t wrestle or play tug of war. Either can end up teaching your pooch that it is okay to fight with you and challenge your authority.
7. The Ranking Period (3 to 6 Months)
When your puppy is between four and six months old, you should expect them to be somewhat bratty, showing more willfulness and independence.
They are more likely to test your limits and may try to show dominance over children or other family members. They begin to understand ranking, in terms of dominance and submission, and where they ‘stand in a pack.’
Counteract this by keeping up the training with basic commands and obedience. Don’t be lulled into confidence, however, and avoid letting them off the leash unless you are in a confined space.
If they fail to listen to you or come when called, it can be dangerous as it puts them at risk of injury when in public. It can also hurt future responses to you, making them less likely to listen.
This is also when your dog will be teething, so give them toys like frozen dog Kong toys to relieve pressure and pain.
Chewing behaviors will also start growing at this point so look for some safe chew toys to keep your dog entertained.
This is when hormonal changes start to occur and is the ideal time to spay or neuter your pup.
UPDATE: Back when I got my first puppy, Linus my vet recommended spaying/neutering puppies at 6 months old. More recent research suggests that early spay/neuter can affect a dog’s health. UC Davis published a study comparing the long-term health effects of neutering in Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers.
8. Adolescence (6 to 18 Months)
After six months, your pup is already in the final stage of puppy development but is still young. This is a fun and exciting time for your pooch since they will be learning, full of energy, and exuberant.
During this time, it is important to remember that even if your puppy now looks like a grown-up dog, they are still a puppy, at least in its mental capacity and emotional maturity.
Work to slowly increase training and other activities. You can even work on advanced training such as agility or herding.
Another option is to simply keep training them to ensure they interact in a non-aggressive and non-threatening way with other animals.
It is also possible that your dog will go through another fearful period of time at some point after they reach six months.
Not all will experience this, but if yours do, don’t force them to face their fears unless they are ready. You can speed up the process with counter-conditioning and desensitization.
When Do Lab Puppies Stop Growing
Most of your Lab puppy’s growth will be completed before he reaches his first birthday.
As a matter of fact, he will be quite close to his final adult Labrador height at around nine months of age, and a lot of his growth after this point will be ‘filling out’ rather than getting taller.
VIDEO: 8 Stages of Puppy Development – From Pup to Pooch
This was a Youtube users class project for a psychology class that describes Erik Erikson’s 8 stages of development, applying the stages to those of a growing puppy. It fits very well and is quite apt!
With the knowledge of how and when your new puppy will develop, you are better able to meet their needs.
Provide socialization at the appropriate times and be sure to give your puppy plenty of social interactions with their siblings as well as humans and any other pets in your home.
Your dog should reach maturity at some point between one and two years old with plenty of variation based on breed, Labradors are considered mature at between 2 and 2.5 years old.
QUICK RECOMMENDATION: If you’re getting a Lab puppy we recommend Doggy Dan’s Puppy Program. It’s a great course that gives you the basics of raising and training your new puppy.
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Top Picks For Our Puppies
- BEST PUPPY TOY
We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
- BEST DOG CHEW
We Like: Mighty Paw Naturals Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
- BEST DOG TREATS
We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
- BEST FRESH DOG FOOD
We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.
Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.