The 7 Stages of Puppy DevelopmentWritten by Charlie Lafave
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 different stages, but before we do, keep in mind that these stages are generalizations – each dog will progress at its own pace.
Stage 1: The Transitional Stage 2-3 Weeks The Transitional stage generally lasts from age two to three weeks, and it’s during this time that your puppy’s eyes 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 in box (or wherever home is.) He’ll start to recognize mom and his littermates, and any objects you might place in box.
Stage 2: The Almost Ready To Meet The World Stage 3-4 Weeks The Almost ready to meet 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 you and other family members. It’s best to avoid loud noises or sudden changes during this period – negative events can have a serious impact on his 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 littermates.
Stage 3: The Overlap Stage 4-7 Weeks From 3-4 weeks your puppy begins 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 pups around this time, and will start teaching them basic manners, including accepting her as leader of pack. You can begin to introduce food to pups starting around 4th week – transition gradually as Mom weans them. Continue handling 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 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 7 weeks of age - and preferably a little longer - for optimum social development. Experts say that best time in a puppy’s life to learn social skills is between 3 and 16 weeks of age – that’s 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.
Stage 4: The “I’m Afraid of Everything” Stage 8 Weeks to 3 Months 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 dogs experience this, but most do, and they’ll appear terrified over things that they took 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 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.
Should You Correct A Puppy With A Pinch Collar?Written by Adam G. Katz
My husband and I recently purchased a white German Shepherd. She is 12 weeks old today and quite a handful. Sometimes she can be so sweet, but other times she is actually quite vicious. Well, I don't know if vicious is right word, but when I tell her “No!” she just gets more agitated and lunges at me with her teeth bared. I got a small pinch collar since she's a puppy but I have a question as to how it should fit. When I take 2 prongs out it is snug against her neck and I worry about it being too tight. When I only take 1 prong out, it sort of slides down her neck a little bit and she constantly scratches at it and it circles around her neck and doesn't stay put. Which is right fit? She is really a handful and I think pinch collar is a great tool, but I want to make sure it fits right so as not to cause her any discomfort. You say in book that you should be able to slide half a finger in there, but I guess I am just confused as to how you should judge fit. Please help! I'm afraid my time is running out to get her to start obeying me. She doesn't see me as Alpha dog quite yet and it is very frustrating to be with her for long periods of time. When I say "Duchess, come" she only comes when she feels like it. With pinch collar, what is best way to make sure she comes each time I call her? I don't want to go around yanking on her neck, but at same time she needs to respect me. Any tips you can give me on making sure she sees me as boss would be very helpful! Thanks, Cassidy
Dear Cassidy: When I refer to “half a finger space” in regard to proper fitting of pinch collar, what I mean is: - If average person’s finger is ½ inch wide, then there should be aproximately ¼ inch of space between end of prong and skin of dog’s neck. So, why don’t I just say, “1/4 inch of space”? Because it’s easier to judge by sticking your finger beneath prong than it is to break out your old high school ruler. Many of you (newsletter subscribers) are no doubt wondering why I would recommend a pinch collar for a puppy. And my answer is: I’m not. At least not for most puppies. But there are some puppies who will not respond to a simple diversion or verbal, “No.” They will bite and cause puncture wounds on your legs and arms if they are not corrected for this behavior. So, if you've tried other methods for dealing with “puppy nipping” that I’ve outlined in book, then you’ll need to progress to a small pinch collar. (Also described in book.)