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24 Aug 2000

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What is Puppyhood?

Puppyhood is the period when your dog is immature, physically, mentally and emotionally. It lasts until he reaches adulthood at about 24 months, although this can be even later in some large breeds. Here’s what to expect in those 24 months, and how to bring out the best in your pup.

Day 1 to 6 weeks
A pup needs his mother’s care and the company of his littermates. At four weeks, he needs about 10 minutes a day outside the puppy pen, being handled by a human to develop his individuality. At around six weeks, he will start to learn about his pack place in the pack pecking order. Mom teaches him to respect authority, which will make him more trainable later. Roughhousing with his brothers and sisters makes him less sensitive to body contact and noise, teaches him to behave socially in the pooch world, and also to keep his aggression in check.

7 to 8 weeks
This is the ideal age for a pup to move into your home and start finding out what goes on beyond the puppy pen. After he has had his temporary immunizations, take you pup to all sorts of places. Put him down, walk away and let him follow you. This will teach him that you’re the leader of his pack and he’s a faithful follower. Set up situations where he can follow every family member, including the kids. This is the critical time for human socialization, it won’t come again, don’t miss it.
Puppies this age can learn what simple commands such as “Sit” and “Come” mean. You can also start gentle leash training. But these lessons can wait a week or two, if necessary.

8 to 10 weeks
More than anything, your puppy needs to feel secure right now. This is the ‘fear imprint period’, when puppies can easily be traumatize and may never forget what frightened them. Some pups are more affected than others, but this is not a good time to take your puppy to a rock concert in the park.
At this age, puppies love to learn, as long as the teaching is gentle and consistent. Knowing how to please you by coming when called will bolster his confidence, and sticking to a schedule will also make him feel safe. Continue socializing him: eight weeks is the ideal time to enrol him in puppy-training classes.

10 to 12 weeks
Now’s the time to add your pup’s social activities and continue gentle training. If he has not been leash trained or learned his puppy ‘Sit’ and ‘Come’, start now. He should accompany you to new places, both indoor and outdoor, meet friendly people of all ages, other puppies and gentle adult dogs.

12 to 16 weeks
During these weeks, your bundle of fun will continue to need a heap of attention and plenty of social activities. Keep up the training with your puppy, but be gentle. Some pups go through an “avoidance” period at this age, peeping from behind your legs when you go out, or crawling under the couch when company arrives. If he’s been okay around people and other dogs until now, his shyness will probably be short-lived. Keep his social life low-key but regular for a while if he keeps hiding.

16 weeks to 6 months
The juvenile begins at 16 weeks. While your puppy is fully developed mentally, he still has some physical and emotional growing to do, and he won’t have an adult attention span. The name of the game is consistency---keep your expectations the same from day to day so he doesn’t get confused. Take him out to meet humans and other dogs, and have short, upbeat training sessions. Integrate training into everyday life, for example, by having him sit while you prepare his dinner. He may be clumsy now, but that’s just adolescence. He’ll be graceful when he’s grown.

6 to 12 months
Your puppy reaches puberty, or sexual maturity, during these months, and male youngsters may try out being pushy, you’ll notice that your pooch’s attention span has improved. Training of some kind should be ongoing, whether it’s for obedience or just tricks for fun. Some dogs are through a second avoidance period at around ten months of age, but they are usually happy-go-lucky again by one year old.

12 to 24 months
This is when your youngster becomes an adult, although some dogs won’t reach emotional maturity until they are about 30 months old. Congratulations to you both!

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