Growth Stages: What Puppies Learn

Many of us have a good idea on how puppies grow from a new-born pup to a fully-fledged adult, but it’s rarer to know what each puppy learns and is able to do at each growth stage.

That’s why we wanted to go into more detail about what each growth stage provides in terms of a puppy’s learning and behaviour. Find out more about what puppies learn, and when, as we chronicle each growth stage from new-born to weening.

Growth Stage: 0-4 Weeks

At birth, your puppy’s nervous system is still developing. However, puppies already have a number of intrinsically learned reflexes that enable them to survive, these are known as the “primary reflexes”: the burrowing reflex, the suckling reflex, the perineal reflex and the carrying reflex.

During the first two weeks, puppies are blind and deaf. They don’t have teeth and can’t regulate their own body temperatures.

Puppies tend to sleep almost constantly whilst their mother will take care of everything, keeping them warm, feeding them and cleaning them.

At week four, their senses will develop as they learn to be fully alert and aware of their surroundings – meaning they may even recognise you and other people in your home.

By week four, your puppy will learn to walk. They should still be with their mum most of the time because they are still learning to how to “be a dog” and how to interact with other creatures.

They will start to open up their eyes and respond to sounds, light, and movement around them. This is why it’s important to avoid loud noises or sudden changes as it can affect their development and personality traits.

Find out more about the reflex systems and a puppy’s needs during their growth stages here.

Growth Stage: Weeks 5-7

At about five weeks old, your puppy will be playing with their fellow pups as they develop social skills and learning how to play through gaining physical coordination.

Your puppy will be learning how to recognize their siblings and mother, and they’ll be ready for consistent human interaction, too. However, they should only be handled for approximately ten minutes each day, as they will need the rest of their time with their mothers and siblings.

Once they reach 7 weeks, your puppy will start to learn some of the most important aspects of social development, such as discipline, via their mother – you should not discipline them yourself until later in their life.

During the second month of their life, your puppy is also ready to start learning the basics of toilet training. However they’ll still be too small to “hold it” for long, so they will need hourly toilet breaks.

Growth Stage: Month 3

The third month of your puppy’s life is the most important stage for bonding, brain development, and training.

During this stage, puppies will go through a “fear imprint stage” and traumatic experiences can have a lasting impact. Therefore, it’s important to give them lots of comfortable, positive experiences with human contact, such as praise and petting, to help them learn that the world is not as scary as it may seem.

By 12 weeks old, your puppy’s personality should be pretty clear, and they will learn to better control their bowels and bladder so that they can sleep through the night before going to the toilet in the morning. They will also have the capacity to learn simple commands such as sit, down, stay and come.

Growth Stage: Months 4-6

Your puppy will learn to test their flight reflexes as they get more brave and exploratory in the world and, at this point, they aren’t quite yet ready for off-leash play unless you are in a safe, confined space.

They are more likely to test limits with play-biting and trying to assert dominance. They will naturally learn to understand ranking, authority and their place in the pack.

They will also be teething, so they’ll learn that chewing toys will help to relieve pressure and pain.

Growth Stage: Months 6-18

After six months, your pup will be in its final stage the final stage of puppy development but is still young. During this period, they will be full of energy and learning tremendously.

During this time, it is important to remember that even if your puppy now has the appearance of an adult dog, they are still a puppy – mentally and emotionally.

During this final growth stage, your pup will have the capacity to learn how to be calm and amicable with other animals following the right methods of training.


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