If you’re thinking about getting a new puppy, it’s important to know how your puppy’s first year affects the rest of their life. It’s a critical time for your little friend.
During those first 12 months, your new puppy will do most of their growing. It’s also a vital time in their life for developing proper social skills with other pets and humans—not to mention your puppy will be going through a lot of memorable experiences:
If you’re bringing home a new puppy, you’ll need to provide them with the essentials to help them develop into a happy, healthy and a well-adjusted dog. Let’s look at each stage your new puppy will go through in their first year and what you can do to help.
Your New Puppy at 8-10 Weeks
At about 8 weeks old, puppies begin to leave their littermates and go to new homes. This also marks a crucial time to begin housetraining your new puppy to go potty outside or on dog potty pads.
You also can begin some basic training with your young pup. There are a few commands, like sit, that puppies can learn with the help of some dog treats and praise (of course!).
Note that the size of your new puppy will impact their nutritional needs as well, according to Brent Mayabb, DVM, vice president of corporate affairs and chief veterinary officer at Royal Canin and Eukanuba in the Greater St. Louis area.
“For example, a small-breed puppy’s growth period is shorter than that of a larger puppy,” he says. “Their needs for minerals like calcium and phosphorus are also different. Meanwhile, large-breed puppies aren’t considered full grown until they’re nearly 2 years old, so they need to be on a large-breed puppy food longer.”
If you have a small breed puppy, a diet like Eukanuba’s small breed puppy dry dog food might be a good choice. A large-breed puppy could benefit from a diet like Eukanuba’s large breed puppy dry dog food, which is formulated without fillers to provide the nutrition he needs without adding extra calories.
Also at this time, your new puppy will be starting their vaccinations if they haven’t already. They should be ready for their first round of vaccinations at around 6-8 weeks and their second round at about 10-12 weeks.
Your New Puppy at 3-4 Months
When puppies reach the 3-4-month mark, they start losing their baby teeth and sprouting their adult chompers. Expect your new puppy to chew on anything they can get their mouth on to help with teething discomfort.
Luckily, you can help avoid destructive chewing by encouraging your puppy to chew on toys made just for this purpose. Be aware that they might try to use your hand for this, so keep a toy or long-lasting dog chew on hand as a substitute.
In addition to physical growth, your puppy is also experiencing mental growth. This is an important age to begin socializing your puppy to help permanently shape their future personality. You can help socialize your puppy by exposing them to new people, places and situations, and doing your best to ensure these are positive experiences.
Check with your veterinarian to see if your new puppy is ready for a rabies vaccine.
Your New Puppy at 4-6 Months
You probably will see a spike of energy in your puppy at this age, so be sure to provide enough exercise to help them expend that energy.
“Puppies are naturally active, and exercise via play is a great way to bond with a new puppy,” Dr. Mayabb says.
Dr. Mayabb recommends aiming for between three and six play periods per day.
“It’s important to remember that puppies tire easily while they are growing up, so make sure to allow for rest as well,” he says. “A game of fetch is ideal, as it includes exercise and a lesson on commands.”
This also is a good time to start formal training with your puppy. Once your pup has received all their vaccines, they can safely interact with other dogs in a puppy training class.
Your New Puppy at 6-12 months
Puppies are nearing adulthood at this stage of development and need plenty of training and socialization now to help them become well-behaved adult dogs. If your new puppy has finished getting his core vaccinations, they can safely interact with other pups at dog parks, doggy day care and in training classes.
Taking your dog to new places and providing them with positive experiences at this age will help them become comfortable in public, especially when meeting new people and dogs.
By Audrey Pavia