As a puppy approaches twelve weeks of age, he becomes ready to go to his new permanent home. If you're considering getting a new pet for the family, this is around the age at which puppies become fully weaned when done responsibly, and are ready to go out into the world on their own. You will likely have already visited your potential new puppy a couple of times before you go to collect him, and have all of your provisions in place in terms of what you will need to buy and do for your new pup before bringing him home for the first time.If you've never owned a dog from puppy-hood before, or if you've never owned a dog at all, it can be helpful to make yourself familiar with the stages of development which your puppy will go through on their journey from three months old up to one year, when a dog is classed as a fully grown adult.
Between three and four months of age, your dog's behaviour and development can best be described as akin to a toddler in human terms. He will be absorbing stimulation like a sponge and developing on a daily basis. At this age he is most receptive to being trained, and learning to obey commands. If you are planning to crate train your dog, now is the perfect time to introduce the crate gradually.Much like a human toddler, puppies at this age have a very self-centric view of the world about them, and have not yet learned about their place in the pecking order of your pack- of which you should be at the top. It can be rather infuriating to find that a puppy which is clearly intelligent and receptive to learning may suddenly one day without warning decide to ignore any commands you give them and appear to have unlearnt everything that you have done with them so far, but this is a normal stage of puppy development, and your new dog will almost certainly go through a stage of testing you out.It's very important at this point to be firm but not threatening with your dog, to repeat commands which you know your puppy understands until they comply, and not to reward bad behaviour. It is also vital that you do not lose your temper at any point during this stage of training, or act and speak in anger to your pup or give them any cause to fear you.Daily play, interaction, handing and training progression is very important at this point, and you should begin teaching your dog appropriate behaviour and play early on. It might be very cute to have a puppy climb onto your lap, jump up at you in excitement and growl and play bite as part of rough and tumble- but remember that the same acts and behaviours that may seem cute now will be annoying, inappropriate and even potentially dangerous when the dog is older. Teach them the appropriate behaviour patterns when young, to prevent potential problems in later life.
At between four and six months old your dog will enter the 'teenage' phase of their development- with all of the associated moods, bad behaviour and wilfulness that can accompany this! He will probably try to test out the limits of your commitment to the role of pack leader, and learn about his place in the pecking order of the family. Take special care of your puppy around your children at this stage, as smaller, younger family members can seem like easy targets for a puppy keen to raise their standing within the pack! At about six months old you will need to consider having your pup neutered or spayed, as this age also sees the onset of sexual maturity.During this phase of development your pup will begin to lose his baby teeth and develop his adult ones, and so biting and chewing behaviour may become more marked at this age. It's important to be able to identify the difference between biting and teething, and know the signs of a pup trying to relieve the pressure and possible pain of teeth growing in. Make sure he has plenty of appropriate toys and chews which he can gnaw on freely during this time, and is able to identify what is yours and what is his!
From six months up to a year old is the young adult stage of your dog's life, and he'll be most receptive to training and learning all about how to interact with his world and developing into the fully grown adult dog that he will soon become. He'll be full of beans, need lots of stimulation, and be open and responsive to new situations and change. Make sure you cater for his changing needs and outlook on the world and that you can spend enough time with him to keep him entertained and counteract boredom. From six months onwards, the basic training commands which your dog has already mastered can be advanced, and if you are considering showing your dog, working with your dog or taking up a sport such as flyball or canine agility, now is a great time to get involved.Make sure he receives plenty of contact with other dogs as well as people at this age, to teach him how to play and interact with other dogs successfully. Remember that towards the end of the first year of your dog's life, he may begin to look fully grown but he is still very young, and as such you must make some allowances for mistakes along the way and how fast your dog learns the skills and training which you are teaching him.Once your puppy reaches a year old, he is considered to be an adult dog, although he may continue to grow and develop up until eighteen months of age.Congratulations! By this stage you will have raised a happy, obedient, sociable and well balanced dog- albeit likely prone to the odd fit of loopyness and crazy and often hilarious puppy-like behaviour which if you're lucky, he will never grow out of. Well done!