Congratulations on your new canine bundle of joy! Watching your puppy grow and learn about the world around them will be so exciting. Their experiences during their first year will shape who they become as an adult dog, so our Colony Veterinary Hospital team wants to help you start your pet out on the right paw by learning what to expect about several key puppy development areas.
How high will they go? Your puppy’s growth
Your new furry friend will grow rapidly during their first few months of life and then, depending on their breed and expected adult size, the growth explosion will slow at varying points. In general, toy and small breeds reach their adult size around 6 to 8 months of age, while giant breeds may not be considered mature until 2 years of age. Other considerations as they grow include:
- Nutrition — As your puppy grows and develops, their nutritional needs change. Typically, we recommend switching from a puppy diet to a breed-appropriate adult diet when your pet reaches maturity, or around the time they are spayed or neutered. Puppy diets generally have a higher calorie and fat content, which can cause unwanted weight gain in adult dogs, plus vitamin and mineral proportions are different for puppies versus adults.
- Dental health Your puppy’s first set of teeth will begin popping through their gums at around 3 weeks of age, and continue until they have a full set of 28 teeth at around 6 to 8 weeks. These baby teeth do not last long, and will fall out and be replaced with adult teeth by 14 to 16 weeks of age. When your puppy reaches 7 months, they should have their entire set of 42 adult teeth. However, some toy and small breeds have trouble losing their baby teeth, particularly their canines, which will require extraction to prevent damage to the adult teeth.
How much will they learn? Your puppy training
Positive, consistent training is essential for helping your puppy mature into a well-mannered adult dog. While a 10-pound puppy who jumps up to greet you may seem adorable, a 150-pound Great Dane behaving the same way could cause an accident.
- Training — Puppy training is often broken into house training, obedience, and crate training that are of equal importance, and the same guidelines of clarity, consistency, and positivity must be followed to achieve the best results. For example, when house training your puppy, always exit through the same door, go to the same spot in the yard, and use the same encouraging cue word. As soon as your puppy goes to the bathroom, reward them with excessive praise and their favorite treat.
- Obedience — Jumping is another example of the importance of being clear in how you want your puppy to behave. Many owners inadvertently reward jumping behavior by pushing the puppy down, but in the puppy’s mind, they were rewarded because they received attention. Instead, be clear about your expectations. Ignore your puppy until they put all four paws back on the ground, or ask them to sit before you reward them with attention. Every household member and visitor must follow the same greeting procedure to avoid confusing your puppy.
How many new friends and experiences? Your puppy’s socialization
Your puppy’s socialization period is a critical time in their life when they form their world view. The socialization period ends at around 14 weeks of age, so you must ensure your puppy is exposed to as many new people and experiences until that time. Ensure you expose your puppy in a positive manner to different:
- Pet-safe foods
- Surfaces (e.g., gravel, sand, tile)
- Grooming tools and techniques
- Household appliances and objects
Never force your puppy into situations that make them uncomfortable or frightened. Let them approach at their own pace, and reward them for confident, accepting behavior. For example, never forcibly hold your puppy down when you trim their nails. Use a high-value treat, like peanut butter or spray cheese, to distract them, and reward them after each nail is trimmed. If your puppy becomes stressed, stop and try again later.
How many hospital visits? Your puppy’s veterinary care
Regular veterinary care is necessary to protect your puppy against infectious diseases, parasites, and other preventable health conditions while their immune system develops. Our puppy wellness package covers all your new puppy’s wellness care for their first six months, and includes:
- Physical exams
- Parasite screening
- Parasite prevention
- Spay or neuter surgery
In general, puppies should visit their veterinarian every three to four weeks until they are about 16 weeks of age to ensure their vaccination boosters correctly stimulate their immune system to protect against infectious diseases. Plus, we have the opportunity to monitor their growth and development, and discuss diet, behavior, dental care, house training, and other important puppy care tips. Best of all? Our team gets to know your puppy—and they get to know us—from their earliest days.
Congratulations on your new four-legged family addition! We can’t wait to meet them and to help build a healthy foundation that will support their growth and development. Give our Colony Veterinary Hospital team a call to schedule your new puppy’s first wellness visit.