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Puppies develop much like human children, and their first year is the most important of all. Learning these stages, and understanding how to make the most of them will help you give your new friend a solid footing on which to grow through the rest of his life.
The first 4 months of a puppies life is called the Imprinting stage, this is when they do a vast amount on learning and is a critical stage in their development.
Birth to 7 weeks
Neonatal Phase, Transition Phase, and 1st Socialisation Phase
For the first 4 weeks, a pup is totally dependent on its mother, during this time it will open its eyes, grow in its baby teeth and start taking a few wobbly steps at a time.
Learning is already rapidly occurring, making it important that human caretakers provide puppies with specific neurological stimulation, a complex environment, and careful, yet thorough, socialization for proper development and adjustment to living in human society.
During this time there are also some crucial lessons a puppy must learn from its siblings and mother, so it is of paramount importance that a pup is not removed from its litter before the age of 7 weeks.
7 to 16 weeks
Second Socialisation Phase
The optimal time for puppies to be moved into their new human families is 7-8 weeks. This initial stage is the time when strong dog-human bonds are formed. It is also the most important time to socialise and mentally stimulate your puppy. Positive interactions at this stage will help build a self-confident, well-mannered dog in later life.
Use the Socialisation checklist at the end of this pack during this stage, to help make the most of this phase.
During the second socialisation phase, at around 8-11 weeks of age, your puppy will go through what is known as the fear-impact phase. During this phase it is of paramount important to avoid scary situations with your puppy. Although aversive methods should never be used, it is especially harmful to use them during this phase. Any fear-associations your puppy develops during this phase will likely follow it into maturity and will resurface in adulthood. Although socialisation is highly important during this phase, make sure your puppy is removed from any frightening situations as soon as possible.
4 to 6 Months
This phase is often the most problematic for first time dog owners. From the 4th month puppies begin teething, and have a number of short, pronounced growth spurts. Teething brings on chewing and if not suitable directed, can be interpreted as destructive behaviours. Puppies will also gain more stamina, and will be more active for longer periods. During this phase, mouthing and other bad manners should be discouraged.
Puppies will gain the majority of their height in this phase, as well as their adult coat. They will also enter sexual maturity, so this is the ideal time to spay or neuter.
Second Fear-Impact Phase
From the 5th month, your puppy will enter a second fear-impact phase which will last approximately 3 weeks. This is similar to the first fear-impact phase, and if it doesn’t happen during the juvenile phase, it will happen in adolescence.