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The life stages of dogs

side profile of puppy

This article guides you through the life stages of dogs, so you'll know what to expect.

Right after a puppy is born, he can't walk, hear or see; however, his sense of smell is already fully developed. He instinctively finds his mother's teats and will firmly suck on them. In the first three weeks, his mother's milk will provide him with all the nutrition he needs

The first weeks

Beginning in the third week, a puppy's senses begin to awaken. His eyes and auditory canals open so he can communicate with his brothers and sisters for the first time.

At around the 21st day he'll make his first attempts at walking and barking. Within the safety of his family circle, he'll have his first experiences and get to know the complex social behavior of his species.

By the fourth week, the senses of the puppy are fully developed so that he is able to carefully observe his environment. He will examine and sniff everything. At this stage of life, his ability to learn is as great as it will ever be. So this is the stage where you should spend a lot of time with your puppy to help him grow up to be a sociable dog. However, an intense relationship with his brothers and sisters is just as important. He can begin to eat solid food from the fourth week on. We recommend PEDIGREE PUPPY™ Food.

Between 8 and 12 weeks, the puppy is in the socialization stage, and can move to a human pack. The best time for the separation from mother and brothers and sisters is at 10 weeks of age.

The first months

If you adopt a puppy at about the 10th week, take him to the vet immediately. He/she will check his health status and will advise you on the right timing for vaccinations and worming.

Your puppy now needs a lot of loving attention to be able to cope with the new environment and the loss of his brothers and sisters. You should praise him often and say his name at the same time. Also, you should set his boundaries with a stern "no" and begin with house training.

The puppy's development until the 16th week is called the "phase of hierarchy" by dog researchers. Now your dog will need a "leader of the pack". This is also true for his diet. It is your decision what and when your dog is fed and what he is not to eat. So make sure your puppy's special requirements for nutrients are met in this phase of quick growth. Give him a variety of experiences such as riding in a car, riding in a bus or on an elevator, visits to restaurants, gatherings of people, and contact with children, other dogs, and other animals. This way he'll be an agreeable, strong-minded companion as an adult dog.

Puberty

The phase of puberty is usually rather short and will last from between one month and six weeks. It starts around the sixth month, and can manifest itself in many different ways: often your dog will behave badly and won't want to learn anything new. Sometimes he may forget what he has learned so far, or at least pretend to. In this phase, you should be persistent and keep on with his education program.

The adult dog

A male has finished puberty when he starts to lift his leg to urinate. A female will be out of puberty when she goes into heat for the first time; this may happen between the seventh and eighth month, but may take up to one year.

You should not have your bitch mated or bred when she is in heat for the first time because her organs are not yet fully developed. After her first heat, her diet should be changed to that of an adult bitch. You can feed her PEDIGREE® food for dogs in many different types and flavors.

The senior dog

Different breeds of dog are considered senior at different ages. It may also depend on the individual dog. The process of aging will begin slowly and nearly imperceptibly. Your dog will become less active, his metabolism will slow down, and he might put on weight. At this time, it's important to change his diet and give him smaller portions two to three times daily. This will relieve his digestive system and ensure an even intake of nutrients. Your dog might need a special diet, which you can get from your veterinarian.

In general, the first signs of old age will appear between the eighth and tenth year. The head and muzzle might become grey, and he may experience a deterioration of sight and hearing. His sense of smell is normally not affected too much by aging.

Your senior dog will still love to play - even if his fitness level has declined somewhat. And if he has some little house training "accidents", he'll be quite embarrassed. So it's best not to scold him.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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