Puppy Behavior From Week to Week: What to Expect Preparing Yourself for the First 18 Months

Bulldog Puppies Playing In The Grass

Puppies have those cute innocent faces that can make your heart just melt. Don't let those gleaming eyes fool you though, puppies are a lot of work and do not come with an instruction manual! Learn what to expect from your puppy as they grow and change.

Soft, cuddly, squirmy, mischievous puppies! There's nothing quite like bringing one of these adorable bundles home for the first time, and because the experience is so unique, it's important to be prepared. Your puppy will go through many changes during the first 18 months of their life, and knowing what to expect will make the process a lot easier. Ready to embark on an exciting adventure? Here's what to expect from your growing pup week-to-week.

Birth to Seven Weeks

From the moment they are born, puppies can taste and feel. Between two to four weeks, their eyes open, their teeth begin to come in, and they develop their senses of hearing and smell. By the fourth or fifth week, their eyesight is well-developed, and they are starting to stand, stumble around, and wag their tail.

This period of time should be spent with their mother and litter mates, as it is in that environment that they will begin to learn appropriate social behaviors, including bite inhibition, confidence, appropriate attention seeking behavior, and appropriate submission. This early socialization is the time when a pup really learns how to be a dog.

Eight Weeks to Eleven Weeks

Puppies are usually weaned off of their mother's milk at six to seven weeks, and by eight weeks, most puppies are ready to go home with a family. During this time, your puppy will be sleeping a lot, but it will also be getting familiar with its surroundings. Your young puppy will be very curious, impressionable, and easily scared. Be careful to avoid frightening experiences, and any necessary ones (such as vaccinations at the veterinarian) should be made less scary with treats, praise, and a positive attitude. However, never overly coddle or console your pup at this time, as it can affect their confidence.

You can start working on housebreaking and some training, but don't expect too much, and don't even think about discipline! Your pup is much too young to understand and punishment will only serve to frighten your pup and strain your budding relationship.

Twelve to Fifteen Weeks

Your pup is starting to notice what gets your attention and who is in charge (in some cases, it may not be you). You may see signs of independence and confidence in your pal, but that doesn't mean that they aren't still looking to you for leadership. In fact, this is exactly when you should start showing them who is the boss with close supervision and regular training. Just remember to stay positive and avoid getting frustrated. Your pup is still very vulnerable, and they are watching your every response.

A great thing to do during this time is to enroll in a puppy training class. Classes are not only an excellent way to socialize your pup and get them comfortable with unfamiliar situations, they also teach critical skills like how to come, sit, and walk properly on a leash. Be sure that any class you enroll in is positive and not punishment-based, as positive reinforcement is key to effective training.

Sixteen to Twenty-Four Weeks

Hold on tight -- adolescence is here. Your pup may begin ignoring known commands, chasing, nipping, barking, mounting, demanding attention, and basically acting like a little rascal. What's it all about? They are nearing sexual maturity, and with it comes high energy and a need for stimulation.

Your pup will also probably begin teething, which occurs when they lose their baby teeth and adult teeth begin to push through the gums, causing pain and irritation. Your pup may act a little anxious and may even take out their pain on the leg of the dining room table or your favorite pair of sneakers. Combat this by offering a chew toy. Something like Puppybone Chew should satiate your dog's urge and keep your furniture safe from bite marks.

During this time it is important to provide plenty of exercise and keep up with training, but don't expect perfect obedience. Some dogs also go through a fear phase at four months of age, so try to keep a positive attitude.

Most veterinarians suggest spaying or neutering your dog at the end of this phase -- around six months of age.

Six to Eleven Months

You're not out of the woods yet! Even if your pup was spayed or neutered at six months, chances are they will still be causing a bit of mischief. At this time your growing pup is trying to come to terms with two conflicting ideas: they want to please you, but they also want to be independent. Expect to be tested. Give your pup an inch during this time, and they may take a mile. The best you can do is remain calm, and never let your puppy ignore your commands. Reinforce the meaning of the word “no,” which your pup will begin to understand (but may not obey!) when they reach adolescence.

Twelve to Eighteen Months

At some point during this phase, your pup will reach emotional maturity. It usually happens sooner for small dogs and later for large dogs. In some cases, a dog may continue to behave like a puppy until they are two years old! Enjoy it while it lasts, even if it comes with some behaviors that make you want to pull your hair out. Your dog likely won't be this energetic and playful forever, so have fun while asserting your dominance and keeping up with training.

Common Puppy Behaviors and Training Tips

Normal Puppy Behavior: Understanding normal puppy behavior can help you distinguish between typical puppy antics and potential problem behaviors. Puppies often chew on things, bark, and engage in playful nipping. Providing appropriate chew toys and teaching proper handling can mitigate these issues.

Crate Training: Crate training is an effective method for house training and can also help with separation anxiety. It provides a safe space for your puppy and can be a useful tool for managing undesirable behavior.

House Training: Begin house training as soon as you bring your new puppy home. Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are key. Take your puppy outside frequently, especially after meals and naps, and reward them for going potty outside. This will help avoid housebreaking issues and house soiling.

Training Process: The training process should be positive and consistent. Avoid punishment-based methods and instead focus on rewarding good behavior. A professional trainer can offer valuable guidance, especially if you're dealing with aggression or resource guarding.

Social Interaction: Early socialization with other dogs and people is crucial. It helps your puppy develop into a well-adjusted adult dog. Expose your puppy to various environments, sounds, and experiences to build their confidence. This helps with attention-seeking behavior and prevents them from becoming hand-shy.

Exercise and Play: Regular exercise and playtime are essential for your puppy's physical and mental well-being. Activities like fetch, tug-of-war, and interactive toys can provide the stimulation they need. Using a head collar during walks can help manage their behavior.

Handling Stress and Anxiety: Puppies may experience stress and anxiety, especially in new situations. Be patient and provide a calm, positive environment. Gradual exposure to new experiences can help them adjust. This is especially important for fearful pups and to prevent anxiety-related issues.

Positive Reinforcement: Using positive reinforcement is crucial in training. Reward your puppy with treats and praise when they exhibit good behavior. This creates a positive experience and encourages them to repeat the behavior.

Additional Tips for Puppy Parents

Early Signs of Problems: Keep an eye out for early signs of behavior problems such as excessive biting, aggression, or fearfulness. Addressing these issues early with positive training methods can prevent them from becoming ingrained.

Family Members Involvement: Involve all family members in the training process to ensure consistency and help the puppy learn from everyone in the household.

Pet Store Visits: Make sure your pet store visits are positive experiences. Allow your puppy to explore and interact with different environments and people, which aids in their social development.

Raising a puppy is a rewarding journey filled with challenges and joys. By understanding your puppy's behavior and providing consistent training, you can help them grow into a well-behaved and happy dog. Remember to enjoy each phase of their development, as they grow up quickly!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is normal behavior for a puppy?

Puppies are energetic, curious, and playful. They will often chew on things, bark, and jump. It is normal for puppies to be curious and want to explore their environment, so they may get into things they shouldn't. It is important to be patient and consistent when training a puppy and to provide them with appropriate toys and things to chew on. It is also normal for puppies to be afraid of new people and situations at first, so it is important to give them time to adjust and to provide a safe and secure environment.

What is the hardest puppy age?

The age at which puppies are the most challenging can vary depending on the individual puppy and their breed, as well as the owner's experience and lifestyle. That being said, many people find the first few months of a puppy's life to be the most challenging. During this time, puppies are learning how to behave and interact with their environment, and they require a lot of attention, socialization, and training. They may also be more prone to getting into mischief and chewing on things they shouldn't. It can be a lot of work, but it is also a very rewarding time as you help your puppy grow and develop into a well-behaved adult dog.

What age is a puppy best behaved?

It is difficult to say at what age a puppy will be "best behaved," as each individual puppy is different and may mature at a different rate. However, with proper training and socialization, most puppies will become well-behaved adult dogs. It is important to start training and socializing a puppy as soon as possible, as this will help them learn how to behave and interact with their environment. Training and socialization should be a continuous process throughout a puppy's life, and it is important to be patient and consistent when working with your puppy. With time, patience, and consistent training, most puppies will become well-behaved adult dogs.

What is abnormal puppy behavior?

Abnormal puppy behavior can include any behavior that is unusual or abnormal for puppies. Some examples of abnormal puppy behavior include aggression towards people or other animals, excessive barking or whining, destructive behavior like chewing or digging, urinating or defecating inside despite being trained, extreme fear or anxiety, and loss or sudden changes in appetite. If you notice any of these behaviors in your puppy, you should consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer to determine the cause and develop a plan to address the behavior.

What are signs of a good puppy?

Some signs of a good puppy include a calm and confident demeanor, willingness to learn and respond to training, being comfortable with new people and situations, friendly and affectionate nature, healthy appetite, good physical condition, regular bowel movements, and regular urination. Of course, every puppy is different, and it is normal for puppies to exhibit some mischievous or undesirable behaviors from time to time. With patience, consistent training, and proper care, most puppies will grow into well-behaved adult dogs.

More on Pet Parenting

How to Take Care of a Dog: 10 Common Parenting Mistakes
How to Handle 6 Common Dog Behavior Problems
What Kind of Pet Parent Are You: The Lover, The Trainer, & More

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