The Stages of Puppy Development
In order to understand why your puppy doesn’t listen to you at times, you need to understand each stage of development a puppy goes through as it matures. Let’s take a look at the different stages, but before we do, keep in mind that these stages are generalizations – each dog will progress at its own pace.
Stage 1: The Transitional Stage
The Transitional stage generally lasts from age two to three weeks, and it’s during this time that your puppy’s eyes will open, and he’ll slowly start to respond to light and movement and sounds around him. He’ll become a little more mobile during this period, trying to get his feet underneath him and crawling around in the box (or wherever home is). He’ll start to recognize mom and his littermates, and any objects you might place in the box.
Stage 2: The Almost Ready To Meet The World Stage
The Almost ready to meet the world stage lasts from 3 to about 4 weeks, and your puppy undergoes rapid sensory development during this time. Fully alert to his environment, he’ll begin to recognize you and other family members. It’s best to avoid loud noises or sudden changes during this period – negative events can have a serious impact on his personality and development right now. Puppies learn how to be a dog during this time, so it’s essential that they stay with mom and littermates.
Stage 3: The Overlap Stage
From 3-4 weeks, your puppy begins the most critical social development period of his life – he learns social interaction with his littermates, learns how to play and learns bite inhibition. He’ll also learn discipline at this point – Mom will begin weaning the pups around this time, and will start teaching them basic manners, including accepting her as the leader of the pack. You can begin to introduce food to the pups starting around the 4th week – transition gradually as Mom weans them.
Continue handling the pups daily, but don’t separate them from either Mom or litter mates for more than about 10 minutes per day. Puppies that are removed from the nest too early frequently are nervous, more prone to barking and biting and have a more difficult time with socialization and training. Puppies need to be left with Mom and siblings until at least 7 weeks of age – and preferably a little longer – for optimum social development.
Experts say that the best time in a puppy’s life to learn social skills is between 3 and 16 weeks of age – that’s the window of opportunity you have to make sure your puppy grows up to be a well-adjusted dog. It’s extremely important to leave your puppy with Mom and his littermates during as much of this period as possible. Don’t discipline for play fighting, housebreaking mistakes or mouthing – that’s all normal behavior for a puppy at this stage.
Stage 4: The “I’m Afraid of Everything” Stage
8 Weeks to 3 Months
The “I’m Afraid of Everything” Stage lasts from about 8 weeks to 3 months, and is characterized by rapid learning as well as a “fearful period” that usually pops up at around 8 to 10 weeks. Not all dogs experience this, but most do, and they’ll appear terrified over things that they took in stride before. This is not a good time to engage in harsh discipline (not that you ever should anyway!), loud voices or traumatic events.
At this time your puppy’s bladder and bowels are starting to come under much better control, and he’s capable of sleeping through the night (At last, you can get some rest!). You can begin teaching simple commands like come, sit, stay, down, etc. Leash training can begin. It’s important not to isolate your puppy from human contact at this time, as he’ll continue to learn behaviors and manners that will affect him in later years.
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