Developmental stages in the dog: from puppy to senior

From puppy to young dog to adult four-legged friend: Your pelt-nose goes through the dog development phases with all facets, such as socialization and puberty, within a maximum of three years. That is only a fraction of the time it takes humans to grow up. And a few years later, your adult dog will have become an elderly senior, as you can see from the following graphic.

We'll show you what the challenges of each developmental stage in training are and what that means for your life together.

Puppy development: a guide for the future

Your cuddly ball of fur has just about everyone wrapped around its finger. Perhaps you also tend to let your puppy get away with a lot? But here's why this phase of their life is so important for their upbringing and lays the foundation for your future life together.

Age: How long is a dog a puppy?

Puppyhood flies by. Of course, a dog does not go from puppy to young dog overnight, but changes especially during the change of teeth between the 16th and 18th week of life. Although small dog breeds basically develop both physically and mentally faster than the larger breeds, the beginning and duration of the puppy phase is very individual.

Development stages of a puppy

  1. Neonatal phase: In the first ten days after birth, a puppy's sense of smell and taste are already developed. However, it is still dependent on external warmth from its mother and littermates.
  2. Übergangsphase: In den Tagen bis zur dritten Lebenswoche können Welpen ihre Umwelt hören und sehen. Die Wärmeregulierung funktioniert nun auch ohne Ankuscheln an Wurfgeschwister und Mutter. Kot und Urin setzen Welpen nun allein ab und wagen erste Schritte aus der Wurfkiste in das nahe Umfeld.
  3. Transition phase: In the days up to the third week of life, puppies can hear and see their environment. Heat regulation now works without cuddling up to littermates and mother. Puppies now defecate and urinate on their own and dare to take their first steps out of the whelping box into the nearby environment..
  4. Socialization phase: Dogs learn social skills between the 8th and 12th week of life. Many puppies still live with their mother during this stage. This phase is important because it influences future interaction with conspecifics and living with people.
  5. Ranking phase: The ranking is clarified between the 13th and 16th week of life. In this sensitive phase, which you can compare with a child's phase of defiance, your four-legged friend tests limits and checks what he can allow himself. Therefore, always remain consistent and keep the upper hand.

Characteristics: What makes a puppy?

Especially the imprinting and socialization phase of the puppy you should consciously use to try out many different situations with him and teach him a lot, because with this you lay the foundation for further living together. Your little pelt-nose is now not only building a bond with you, it also contacts conspecifics, strangers and inanimate objects and associates positive or negative experiences with them. In addition, puppies now easily learn and understand the rules of coexistence, as experiences and commands are quickly consolidated by the 18th week of life.

Size: How big will your dog be?

Basically, the size of the puppy at 8 weeks of age can provide information about its final size (measured by shoulder height):

< 20 cm

Your dog will be max. 35 cm tall

20 - 30 cm

Your dog will get between 40-50 cm tall

> 30 cm

Your dog will grow over 50 cm

Give further clues to the growth and to the size of the dog:

  • Breed

Purebred dogs are subject to established standards, to which the size is also assigned.

  • Gender

Normally, males grow larger than females.

  • Parent animals

Especially with mixed-breed puppies, the size of the parents does not always provide information about growth. For example, if the father is a German shepherd and the mother is a dachshund, the puppies may become quite different sizes.

  • Radiographs

The veterinarian can use the spacing of the growth plates in the skeleton to track current growth development and roughly estimate how big a puppy will grow.

Needs: This is what your puppy needs

After the first weeks with his mother, puppies are given at an age of 8 weeks at the earliest. Now it's up to you to pave the way for your little companion's development during the first weeks of settling in:

  • Safety: Make your living area puppy-proof so he doesn't swallow small parts and is protected from injury.
  • Time: Give your puppy enough time to sniff his new environment extensively and learn about it in peace.
  • Support: Offer your four-legged friend "back-up": your patience and calmness will transfer to your little darling and strengthen his confidence.
  • Contact: It's best to take the first 14 days off after your puppy moves in so you can get familiar with each other and build a bond.
  • enough sleep: Puppies need about 18 hours of sleep a day. Allow your four-legged friend sufficient relaxation in a quiet place.
  • Heat: Expose your puppy to cold temperatures only for short periods of time and avoid cold drafts. Especially breeds with thin coats catch colds quickly.
  • Food: Always provide your puppy with plenty of fresh water and feed him small portions rich in vitamins several times a day. By the way: In our magazine you will also find detailed tips on puppy nutrition.

Challenges: 6 tips for raising a puppy

Unfortunately, there is no patent remedy for the perfect upbringing of your little protégé. But we have 5 useful training tips for you:

  1. Nonviolence: Violence and punishment have no place in puppy training! On the contrary, positively reinforce your darling in correct behavior and ignore misbehavior.
  2. Guidance: Portion the food appropriately and provide enough toys. This way your puppy understands that you are his leader and he can rely on you.
  3. Timeouts: Create space for yourself and temporarily restrict your puppy's range of motion. In this way, you can move freely and alone in your home in the future and prevent possible fears.
  4. Manners:Vermeide, dass dein Hund beim Essen am Tisch sitzt, aufdringlich bettelt oder sogar Essen vom Teller klaut.
  5. Alternatives: For example, if your puppy chews on furniture while he is teething, firmly but kindly forbid it and offer him a chew toy instead.
  6. Commands: Teach your little four-legged friend the first basic commands early on, such as. "Sit!" and "Off!".

Young dog: life with the puberty creature

With the completion of the ranking phase in the 18th week of life, your puppy develops into a young dog. This stage of development is characterized by two phases of development:

  1. Pack order phase: Now your dog learns what his role is in the family pack. Basically, he should be at the bottom of the hierarchy - behind your family. In this way, you avoid future training problems, because he recognizes your position as pack leader and the rank of the other housemates.
  1. Puberty: This is the time of change! At just under half a year, your four-legged friend's hormonal balance kicks into high gear and the flea phase begins. He is already in the change of teeth and strips off his fluffy fur to exchange it for a shiny coat or rough hair. From now on, it's a state of emergency: your dog becomes more dominant and self-determined. He laughs in the face of every potential danger and possibly rebelliously challenges the previous hierarchy.

This is what your young dog needs in the puberty phase

Now the focus is on navigating your loved one calmly and lovingly, but also firmly and consistently through his hormonal chaos.

  • Needs: Puberty challenges your dog all along the line. One moment rebellious and self-confident towards other dogs, a short time later he shows himself fearful and in need of protection. The many stimuli, which he now perceives quite differently than a few weeks ago, stress and unsettle him. As a result, he is tired more quickly than usual. You are now his safe place.
  • Activities: During this time, it's probably true that it's all in the mix. Walks on which female or male dogs suddenly seem insanely attractive and interesting are just as much a part of it as patient training sessions, for example, to practice driving a car, which is suddenly no longer tolerated.
  • Nutrition: Neither his favorite food, nor treats can entice your "teenager"? Very exciting days may well cause temporary loss of appetite. Basically, however, your growing dog has a high energy requirement and should therefore receive dog food with sufficient nutrients appropriate to his age.

Our tip: Always keep your nerve! Despite some challenges, you can support your furry four-legged friend educationally. You can find out how to do this in our article "Puberty in dogs: How to master the puberty phase".

Adult dog: Full in life

When your dog is an adult depends on the breed. But roughly, an age of 24 to 36 months can be given, in which your dog is fully grown. His bones and joints are fully formed.

What your adult dog needs

In the best of his life, your four-legged friend is full of power and strength. Especially agile breeds are now looking forward to a good workout.

  • Needs: Adult dogs are largely independent and routinized in everyday life. You know your quirks and can adjust your life together to your needs and habits - so you are an optimally harmonized team.
  • Activities: There are now almost no limits to your imagination when it comes to joint activities. How about agility training and parcours exercises in the forest? Skillfully overcome obstacles such as tree stumps or benches and glide over narrow tree trunks or walls. Even doing fetch training together, swimming with your dog, cycling or jogging are now really fun together. Or plan your hiking vacation with your dog this year.
  • Nutrition: Depending on breed and activities, the dog food should naturally provide the energy and nutrients your adult dog needs. If you are unsure, a veterinarian or dog nutritionist will be happy to advise you on this.

Dog senior: In calmness there is the power

Just a year before, your dog was romping around the dog run with his fellow dogs and enjoying swimming in the summer. But now he prefers to watch his friends from a distance instead of actively playing together. Even at your favorite lake, he just lays comfortably on the shore or cools off in the shallow water - your dog is getting old. A senior dog grows gray fur around his muzzle, which spreads from there over his entire body over time. Also his fur looks duller, the teeth turn yellow to brown or even fall out.

What your dog senior needs

Your graying four-legged friend now likes to stick to you and his familiar surroundings because his senses and abilities are weakening to find his way among strangers or in new surroundings.

  • Needs: Your pelt-nose's vision and hearing are getting worse. It is not uncommon for old dogs to suffer from one or more of these medical conditions
    • adult-onset diabetes
    • Arthritis
    • Toothache / tooth loss
    • Heart disease
    • Adrenal hyperfunction
    • Incontinence
    • Obesity

Maybe your four-legged friend seems more headstrong than usual? That's no wonder, after all, your old dog becomes forgetful and no longer learns as well as in his younger years. Senior dogs also get stressed more quickly because they can no longer assess many situations and changes in everyday life as well.

  • Activities: Your four-legged friend moves more slowly, his gait seems stiffer and he is not as agile as before. If he was jumping on the sofa until recently, he may now need doggy stairs to get to his favorite spot. You can accommodate him by taking him on short walks, pampering him with light massages to help his circulation, and otherwise giving him the rest he needs.
  • Nutrition: Senior dogs need less energy-rich food - after all, they also move significantly less. Small portions of special, high-fiber senior food are also easier to digest.

Conclusion: As you can see, every dog's age is exciting and challenging for you and your four-legged friend. But one thing is certain: your dog will love you all his life and will always be your faithful companion, despite a few problems in old age!

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