The 7 Puppy Stages

The 7 Puppy Stages

The 7 Puppy Stages

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.


The neonatal stage: Birth to two weeks

  • The senses of touch and taste are immediately present after birth.
  • The mother has the most influence over the puppy.


The transitional stage: Two to four weeks

  • Mother and littermates continue to influence a puppy’s behavior.
  • The sense of hearing and smell develop, eyes open and the teeth begin to appear.
  • A puppy begins to stand, walk a little, wag its tail, and bark.
  • A puppy’s eyesight is well-developed by the fourth or fifth week.

The Transitional stage generally lasts from age two to three weeks, and it’s during this time that your puppy’s eyes and ears 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. He’ll start to recognize mom and his littermates, and any objects/toys/bowls you might place in their box or pool.

4weeks 041

The Almost Ready To Meet The World Stage – 3-4 Weeks

Chocolate Mini Aussiedoodle

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 family members. It’s best to avoid loud noises or sudden changes during this period – negative events can have a serious impact on 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 litter-mates.

Available - 10 weeks old - Multigen Labradoodles


The Overlap Stage

4-7 Weeks

By five to seven weeks, a puppy needs positive human interaction as he or she develops curiosity and explores new experiences.

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 8 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.

The “I’m Afraid of Everything” Stage

8 Weeks to 3 Months

A puppy has full use of his or her senses by seven to nine weeks. A puppy is refining his or her coordination and physical ability, and can begin to be housetrained.

  • At eight to ten weeks, a puppy can experience real fear involving everyday objects and experiences. During this stage, a puppy needs support and positive reinforcement.

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 experience this, but some do, and they’ll appear terrified over things that they may have taken 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.

The Juvenile Stage

3 Months to 4 Months

  • Enhancing responses, advancing social skills (proper contact), and investigating the surroundings and items takes place from nine to twelve weeks. This is a good time to begin elementary training as a puppy will begin to focus more on people.

The Juvenile stage typically lasts from 3 to 4 months of age, and it’s during this time your puppy is most like a human toddler. He’ll be a little more independent – he might start ignoring the commands he’s only recently learned – just like a child does when they’re trying to exert their new-found independence. As in “I don’t REALLY have to listen to you!”. Firm and gentle reinforcement of commands and redirection and consistent training is what’s required here.

He might start biting (mouthing) you – play biting or even real attempts to challenge your authority. Just a sharp “No!” or “No bite!” command, followed by several minutes of ignoring him or stopping interaction/play, should take care of this problem. Remember they’re teething and not they’re not born naturally knowing what’s OK to chew on and what’s not..  we do need to let them know.

Continue to play with him and handle him on a daily basis, but don’t play games like tug of war or wrestling with him. He may perceive tug of war as a game of dominance – especially if he wins and you never want your puppy to beleive they’re the boss over you. Also wrestling is another game that can rapidly get out of hand. As your puppy’s strength grows, he’s going to want to play-fight to see who’s stronger – even if you win, the message your puppy receives is that it’s ok to fight with you. And that’s not ok!

Never let your puppy chew on your hands or your clothes,  hair etc. Remember to teach this to your kids as well. Replace your hand with a chew toy. 

Baby Boy - Cream Multigen Labradoodle

The Brat Stage

4-6 Months

The Brat Stage starts at about 4 months and runs until about 6 months (for some dogs this bratty stage lasts much longer), and it’s during this time your puppy will demonstrate even more independence and willfulness. You may see a decline in his urge to please you – expect to see more “testing the limits” type of behaviors. He’ll be going through a heavier teething cycle during this time, and will also be looking for things to chew on to relieve the pain and pressure. Frozen doggie bones can help sooth him during this period.

Red Merle Aussiedoodle Puppy

He may try to assert his new “dominance” over other family members, especially children. Continue his training in obedience and basic commands, but make sure to never let him off his leash (in public) during this time unless you’re in a confined area. Many times pups at this age will ignore commands to return or come to their owners, which can be a dangerous, even fatal breakdown in your dog’s response to you. If you turn him loose in a public place and he bolts, the chances of injury or even death can result – so don’t take the chance.

He’ll now begin to go through the hormonal changes and you may see signs of some rebelliousness (Think adolescent teenage boy!).  If you haven’t already, you should have them neutered or spayed during this time (if you’re desexing to avoid behavioral issues like marking) .

A more recent study has said that waiting until after a year can help to reduce the chances of hip dysplasia. Waiting until after puberty and after they’re full grown. Do your research. 

The Young Stage
6-18 Months

The Young hood stage lasts from 6 months to about 18 months, and is usually a great time in your dog’s life – he’s young, he’s exuberant, he’s full of beans and yet he’s learning all the things he needs to become a full-fledged dog.

Be realistic in your expectations of your dog at this time – just because he’s approaching his full growth and may look like an , he’s not as seasoned and experienced as you might expect. Gradually increase the scope of activities for your dog, as well as the training. You can start more advanced training during this period, such as herding or agility training, if that’s something both of you are interested in. Otherwise, extend his activities to include more people and other animals – allow him to interact with non-threatening or non-aggressive dogs.

Finley Chocolate Aussiedoodle from Puppy to Adult

Stick it out!

This is also the stage where a lot of dogs are re-homed, given up on and dumped. So, it is crucial for you to be prepared for this phase to arrive and when it does to stick it through. Be consistent in your training, guidance and discipline. He is testing you so make sure you pass the test and show him there are consequences for his actions. Never hit or yell at your dog. Learn how to provide constructive corrections. Remember dogs do not plan, premeditate or reason out situations like humans do so they did not plan to be bad. Stick it out and you will get past this stage and be so relieved you never gave up.

Dogs do not have the same sense of logic that humans have. The dog may start to relate that you are angry after he jumps through a screene, but he will not reason that if he just does not jump in the first place you won’t get mad. He just knows you are mad after he does it. The only way to make the dog realize this is to catch him in the act. Punishing a dog after the fact is one very good way to confuse a dog.

More information on corrections vs punishment

Congratulations! You’ve raised your puppy through the 7 stages of childhood, er, I mean puppyhood, and now you have a grown-up, dog! Almost feels like you’ve raised a kid, doesn’t it?

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