Surviving your puppy’s first year: A guide to puppy life stages

Surviving your puppy’s first year: A guide to puppy life stages

Learn the dates, milestones, and tips you need to welcome a new member to your family and crush your first year as a pup parent.

Written by Christine Caplan

— Medically reviewed by Dr. Erica Irish


Updated December 5, 2023

The essentials

  • Puppy stages of development are often marked by milestones — Puppyhood is a delightful time full of cuddles and growth but requires extra patience and commitment.
  • Expect a lot of growth at first — Puppies grow rapidly during the first 30 days of development, gaining physical and psychological capabilities.
  • Socialization during the first few months is important. — Puppies develop basic behaviors and learn social cues and commands during the first six months of life, setting the foundation for a well-mannered companion.

So, you’ve decided to get a puppy. While welcoming a new furry friend into your family may seem daunting, it should also be exciting. With the right advice, pet parents should be eager to take on all the challenges and milestones puppyhood has to offer.

Our helpful guide covers all the steps, milestones, advice, and information you need to prepare you and your home for a furry new addition.

Puppy stages of life

Puppies develop rapidly during their first year and experience various changes. Here are some of the most significant stages they pass through:

Puppy developmental stages chart

Stage name Age Description
Newborn 0-3 weeks At this stage, they will spend most of their time sleeping and nursing from their mother.
Early socialization 3-12 weeks This is one of the most critical stages for puppies when they learn how to interact with people and other animals. This period is when owners should introduce puppies to social experiences.
Juvenile 12-24 weeks During this period, puppies will become more independent as they explore their environment, play with other dogs, and learn basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, come, etc.
Adolescent 6-18 months During this stage, puppies will reach sexual maturity, which can cause changes in behavior, such as increased energy levels or aggression toward other dogs and people. Training during this period is essential to ensure proper socialization skills are developed.
Adult 18 months+ At this stage, puppies have almost reached full size, and their behavior should be relatively consistent, but training and socialization should continue throughout adulthood.

Preparing for your puppy

Puppies typically stay with their mother until they reach 8 weeks, a crucial time in their development. During this time, puppies learn important lessons from their mother, such as interacting with other animals, the beginnings of potty training, and an understanding of proper social behavior. Through learning these lessons from their mother, puppies develop the skills necessary for living in a loving home.

After leaving the litter, puppies are ready to explore and discover the world around them. During this growth period, your puppy must have plenty of opportunities to safely explore its environment and be exposed to various stimuli to help them build confidence  and trust in humans.

Surviving the first night

Puppies typically go to their new homes between the 8-10 week range. During this time, puppies reach a certain level of development and build a bond with their littermates and humans.

By 8-10 weeks, many puppies have developed basic obedience skills such as coming when called  and socializing well with both people and other animals in the home. This is also the ideal age for housebreaking as they become more aware of their environment.

The first 30 days with your puppy

The first month of puppyhood is exciting, but try not to overwhelm your pup. These first 30 days should be about introductions, firsts, and a smooth transition for your puppy as they adjust to their new home and family.

Establish house rules

House rules are important for your puppy just as they are for human children. Set up a routine for them to follow and gain confidence around the house. Start establishing verbal cues to regular activities (using the potty, calling them by their name, praise, etc.)

This is also where boundaries can be set up. Will your pup be allowed on the furniture? Are they allowed in certain rooms? These are all things to consider when creating your house rules.

The first six months with a puppy

In the first six months of a puppy’s life, they are undergoing a rapid period of growth and development. During this time, puppies learn to play, interact with other animals and people, and develop social skills.

As they near the end of their first six months, most puppies have started to emerge from puppyhood and become more independent. They can now recognize basic commands and have begun to explore their environment more confidently.

This stage is important for ensuring that puppies become well-adjusted, healthy dogs capable of forming strong relationships with their owners and other animals. This is the stage when puppies develop essential life skills!

A year old and beyond

When your pup hits a year old, the adventure is just beginning! Bringing home a puppy is exciting but also confusing, and there are ways to ensure all your hard work helps your relationship flourish. Training is still crucial as your pup may decide that selective listening is sometimes part of the agenda on a walk or hike.

It’s amazing to watch a puppy’s life evolve, but puppyhood is not for everyone.

Every development phase has challenges and behavior changes throughout your pup’s life. The transitional stage, or the teenage phase, is the most difficult. This stage of puppy development is when pet parents grow frustrated. But once you work past the roadblocks, you’ll have a well-adjusted adult dog to love for the rest of their lives!

Frequently asked questions

What is the hardest puppy stage?

The hardest puppy stage is usually the adolescent stage. From about six months to 18 months, puppies can become unpredictable and test their boundaries. This is when they need the most supervision and training to ensure that they develop good habits and behaviors.

Where should a puppy spend the first night?

A puppy should spend the night in a safe, comfortable place such as a crate or bed. It should be located in a quiet area of the house away from loud noises and distractions. The area should also be free of hazardous materials that could harm the puppy. Many owners place their pup’s bed next to their own bed.

What should you not do with a new puppy?

There are several no-nos owners should be aware of when it comes to new puppies. These include not leaving the puppy alone for extended periods of time, not ignoring signs of distress, and not using punishing or negative reinforcement to train your pup.

How do you calm an overstimulated puppy?

To calm an overstimulated pup, it is important to be patient and understanding. Start by giving your pup some time and space to relax. Take them for a walk or play a quiet game, such as fetch or tug-of-war. Give your pup plenty of snuggles and praises during this time to help them destress.

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