Stages of Puppy Development

First Year Puppy Growth & Development

Stages of Puppy Development and Signs of Healthy Progress - During the first year of life a puppy develops important skills, Is YOUR puppy on the right track?

Puppy Growth and Development

stages of puppy development

So much to learn when a puppy takes ...enters your life.

Here we look at puppy developmental stages. The benchmarks that a healthy puppy should meet in his first year.

Understanding social and physical milestones that a puppy should reach at a given age allows you to evaluate how he's doing in general.

Did you know that in your 6 week old puppy a soft fontanel could be cause for some concern and where do you find out what to feed a growing 6 month old puppy?

Relax, It's just a cute little puppy and we're here to help.

This page will outline general expectations for the first year of a puppy's life.

Puppies grow and develop at their own rate depending on factors such as breed, health, order of birth and weight at birth (compared to his littermates).

First 6 Weeks ~ Stages of Puppy Development

In the first few weeks of life, a puppy goes through a neonatal and transitional phase. Staying close to their nest and their mother, they learn almost exclusively from her and the other littermates during this time. At this age their eyes and ears are opening while the puppies learn to stand, walk, bark and wag their tails.

Within the first 4 weeks a puppy's fontanel (the soft spot at the top of the skull that allows the plates of the skull to overlap during birth) should close and become a hard bony skull to protect the brain.

Open Fontanel

Occasionally a puppy's fontanel doesn't close and the pup will have a permanent soft spot on top of his head, between his ears.

Many of these puppies live a long and healthy life completely oblivious of the risk this condition poses.

Most times, there is nothing wrong with the puppy's overall health but with the brain essentially unprotected serious injury or death can occur with any blow.

6 Weeks ~ Stages of Puppy Development

6 week old puppies will begin to seek socialization with a wider circle of friends. This is the time that a puppy will seek your attention and become playful all the time learning to control the pressure of his bite. Mother will wean the pups and some time after 6 weeks they're ready for adoption.

It is important for the puppy's development that she remain with her mother til weaning is complete.

Taking a puppy from his mother and littermates too soon can result in a nervous, bad mannered puppy who barks and bites and is generally dysfunctional. Sadly it can destroy any chance of the puppy reaching his full potential as a companion.

A puppy is more likely to grow into a well rounded and socially skilled companion if left with his mother and littermates til weaning is complete.

6 weeks is a good time to begin training your pup to follow simple commands. They are very trainable during this stage of growth, before they've developed any bad habits.

3 Months ~ Stages of Puppy Development

At three months, the puppy will begin to determine the ranking order within it's family unit. He will decide who the leader of the pack is. This is the time to gently but firmly establish yourself as the alpha dog.

During this phase, biting and tugs of war while at play should be discouraged as puppies use these signals to determine leadership.

Positive and calm play is always encouraged but avoid getting the puppy overstimulated and strongly discourage biting. A puppy learns not to bite during this time of development better than at any other time of his life.

A dogs personality and social skills are mostly developed during the first 4 months of his life. These months are known as the imprinting phase.

6 Months ~ Stages of Puppy Development

A six month old puppy is more independent and begins to test boundaries. At this age he may be inclined to wander away. Use puppy gates and enclosures or a leash to keep your puppy safe. Training your puppy to obey you (come, stay) will also keep him safer.

Now is a good time to familiarize your pup with a leash and use it during outings.

A pup of six months will still challenge you and other members of the family for the top dog position.

Use a strong and deep voice to re-establish your position as leader when the puppy challenges you. Continue building the puppy's confidence by praising and reinforcing positive behavior.


Do not allow the puppy to chew on old shoes and boots and such. It just confuses the issue for him.

Puppies are teething at this stage of life and will have a strong urge to chew. Provide a variety of chew toys and encourage the puppy to chew only those.

Signs of a puppy's maturing sexuality will begin to become evident around six months of age.
In males this is displayed as lifting his leg.
When a female comes in to her first season, blood will show around her vulva. Females sometimes become moody and nervous or assertively bold during their first heat and should be kept away from males at this time.

Six months of age is a good time to consider having your dog spayed or neutered.

What to Feed a 6 Month Old Puppy

Feed your puppy a high quality puppy food twice a day and follow label directions. Because dogs of different ages have different nutritional needs ensure that the food you choose for your dog is formulated for the appropriate age.
Weigh your puppy weekly to see that she's gaining weight.

General daily caloric intake for 6 month old puppies are:

Toy Breeds 250 calories
Small Breeds 630 calories
Medium Breeds 975 calories
Large Breeds 1875 calories
Giant Breeds 2800 calories

Each puppy differs in age, activity level and weight. There is no exact formula for how much to feed a puppy and his caloric needs will change over his lifetime.

9 Months ~ Stages of Puppy Development

Nine month old puppies are still chewing and require a selection of chew toys.

Males are beginning to show more interest in females and will sometimes challenge other males.

The attention span of a nine month old puppy is expanding and a puppy of this age is very teachable. Your puppy should be completely house trained before he reaches nine months.

1 Year ~ Stages of Puppy Development

Your year old puppy should be almost fully grown in height and will continue to fill in and add weight over year two. In every likelihood he is still occasionally challenging you and others for the "alpha dog" position.

One year old puppies become territorial and alert to strangers.

This is a good time to get the puppy familiar with other people and non-threatening animals.

Watch their body language closely, puppies of this age may fight if placed in a close area with another dog of the same sex.

As we see our beloved companions through the puppy developmental stages, a lifelong bond grows between us.

best friend dog names paw

Personalized Dog Treat Jar

Pet ID Tag

Collar Tag - 12 colors with 3 shapes and sizes.

8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog