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The life stages of dogs

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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.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall


    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.
     

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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