Puppy Development Stages

Puppy Development Stages
When I brought Maggie home for the first time, I was overwhelmed with love and excitement.

I’d been waiting my whole life to adopt my first puppy, and she was a dream from the very beginning.

I’d grown up with other dogs who were brought home as puppies, so I figured that I knew what to expect.

It turns out, there’s a lot you have to learn on the go as you raise a puppy!

Here’s what I learned and experienced during each of the puppy development stages.

One Week

The first week is a big time of life for puppies. There’s a whole world waiting for them and they’re ready to start exploring.

What to Expectnewborn baby puppies eyes closed first week growth development

All puppies are born blind and deaf, so they won’t be able to see or hear anything for a while.

This is because the gestation period for puppies is only two months.

After their birth, their eyes and ears are still developing and need protection.

The puppies will spend most of their time with their mom, nursing, and sleeping.

Milestones at this age

One week old puppies learn to:

  • Nurse
  • Smell their surroundings
  • Taste their surroundings

Two Weeks

The second week of life is a big time for puppies, as they begin to grasp their senses and abilities.

What to Expect

Although they won’t appear much different on the outside, puppies are experiencing more of the world at two weeks old.

They’ll still be blind, but their hearing is developing quickly.

They won’t be able to hear perfectly yet, but they’ll try to mimic their mother by whining and grunting.

Milestones at this age

Two week old puppies learn to:

  • Smell better
  • Taste better
  • Mimic the muffled sounds they hear

Three Weeks

Three week old puppies undergo some of their most drastic developments yet, with a little support from their mom and caretaker.

What to Expectthree week old puppies open eyes drink soft food

Puppies up until the third week wiggle around to get where they want to go, but at this point, they’ll take their first wobbly steps.

Their eyes also open, so they can see a not quite fully developed version of their world.

Caretakers will also begin to wean puppies from their mother and introduce them to solid, soft foods.

This is because their milk teeth begin to develop, which can handle a bit of solid food.

Milestones at this age

Three week old puppies learn to:

  • Open their eyes (blurry vision)
  • Take their first steps
  • Chew with their first teeth
  • Begin to socialize with each other through their sight and hearing.

Four Weeks

The fourth week of life is when you’ll get to meet your puppy!

They’re slightly more playful and interactive with their environment.

What to Expectone month four week puppy walking exploring unstable wobbly steps

Puppies will take full advantage of their shaky ability to walk, even if their exploration is interrupted by frequent naps.

Gentle handling can begin now, since they’re able to see and hear their surroundings.

You may notice that puppies will try to gnaw on things like toys and fingers, but they won’t have much jaw strength. They’re just still trying to test out their new teeth.

When I met Maggie, she didn’t have much interest in chewing anything.

She mostly napped and bumped around the room with her siblings!

Milestones at this age

Four week old puppies learn to:

  • Have their paws handled
  • Be held
  • Be loved on by their future family members

Five Weeks

During the fifth week, the mother will take a step back and allow the puppies to become more independent, although a slight change in parenting is noticeable.

What to ExpectHill's science diet veterinarian recommended large breed puppy dry dog food

Your pup will play more with their siblings and eat solid food multiple times per day.

Their mother will only standby for the infrequent nursing session, teaching their pups not to bite as hard as they used to.

Puppies also need more human interaction at this point, so they learn that people are their friends and nothing to be afraid of.

However, they don’t have fully developed immune systems, so their environment should be clean, with no trace of contact from other dogs.

Milestones at this age

Five week old puppies learn to:

  • Eat more solid foods
  • Spend more time on their own
  • Interact with people daily

Six Weeks

During their sixth week, puppies would like to imagine that they can take on the world by themselves, but their moms know to stick around for important training.

What to Expectpuppy teething dog chew toy when start chewing

As long as they don’t interact with other adult dogs, puppies can go outside and run around on their own.

They won’t be as dependent on their mom, but she still has some lessons to teach them.

Puppies will chew harder on solid foods, so they think they have to chew that hard on everything else.

Their mom will step in when biting gets too rough, which is crucial for puppies to learn before they go home.

Milestones at this age

Six week old puppies learn to:

  • Play more with each other
  • Explore the outside world
  • Bite appropriately

Seven Weeks

The final week with their siblings reinforces what each puppy has learned before they go home.

What to Expectdog puppy crate potty pads training peeing inside outside

Your puppy will look less like a newborn and more like a dog now.

Maggie had grown out her beautiful wavy curls and had perky ears at this point.

Their walking will be much more confident and their personalities will start to differ.

Depending on what breeder they come from, they may even be trained to go to the bathroom on potty pads at this point.

Milestones at this age

Seven week old puppies learn to:

  • Rough house with each other
  • Go to the bathroom in the right places
  • Play with the people around them

Eight Weeks

The big eight week mark is when you can finally bring your puppy home and spend your time learning about what they like and dislike.

What to Expect

Your puppy will want to alternate between playing and sleeping, and while they may seem grown up, they won’t like being left alone.when to start dog puppy crate training what age

Puppy anxiety from being alone for the first time while you’re out running errands or in another room may lead to chewing and bathroom accidents.

Maggie would make the occasional mess while I was gone and also tip her head back and howl. It was adorable, but also very sad.

Puppies at eight weeks will have to go to the bathroom frequently.

Puppies generally add an hour to their bathroom schedule for every month they get older. At two months old, they’ll be able to hold their pee for two hours tops.

Crate training can also begin at eight weeks, although puppies shouldn’t be left alone in their crate for long periods of time.

Puppy parents should also note that puppy eyesight is fully developed at eight weeks old!

They can see, smell and hear you with completely developed senses.

Milestones at this age

Eight week old puppies learn to:

  • Live in their new home
  • Adjust to a potentially new bathroom routine
  • Start crate training
  • See with clear vision

Three Months

Your dog graduates at three months old to being even more of a partner when it comes to adventuring through life together.

What to Expectpuppy exploring pet store aisles three months socialization schedule

Depending on how your vet schedules out your puppy’s vaccinations, they may be able to socialize with dogs in public spaces now.

I celebrated Maggie’s three month birthday by taking her to our local pet store, where she sniffed around excitedly and went home with new treats.

Puppies also need to wean down from four feedings each day to three.

This shift in eating could potentially cause upset stomachs, so be as gradual as possible when changing their eating routine.

Milestones at this age

Three month old puppies learn to:

  • Have fun in public spaces
  • Eat less frequently
  • Use the bathroom every three hours

Four Months

Some four month changes in your puppy may not be noticeable, but they’re still happening all the same.

What to Expect

At the start of their fourth month of life, puppies will begin to lose their milk teeth. Their adult teeth are beginning to develop and push their way through the gums, so a couple of things could happen.puppy blood bleeding on chew toy healthy safe milk teeth dropping out how old teething

Your puppy may chew on toys and leave a little blood behind. This is normal!

As long as the bleeding stops, it’s a normal part of dog’s roughhousing through their teething stage.

You may not notice any teeth fall out at all.

Maggie never had any traditional tooth gaps and I never found any in the carpet. She could have potentially swallowed her loose teeth while she ate, which is also normal for puppies to do.

Milestones at this age

Four month old puppies learn to:

  • Use the bathroom every four hours
  • Wiggle their teeth until they fall out
  • Chew with more force

Five Months

Your puppy will be getting much stronger during their fifth month, so it’s the perfect time to focus more on leash training.

What to Expect

Puppies may not be fully potty trained at this point, so don’t worry too much if they still make an occasional mess.puppy leash training pulling against collar should I use harness

When Maggie reached five months, she was fully potty pad trained, but still had an accident if people came over and she got too excited.

You might notice your pup tugging more on the leash at this age.

While it may have been cute when they were smaller, constantly being pulled by your dog while you’re out on walks isn’t fun.

Five months old is a great time to start leash training your pup. Come up with specific commands and bring treats on your walks to reinforce good behavior.

Milestones at this age

Five month old puppies will:

  • Hold their bladder for up to five hours
  • Love to tug and chomp with their new strength
  • Still be losing their baby teeth

Six Months

Six month old puppies are mini versions of their adult selves. Celebrate with a half birthday treat and a trip to the vet to get fixed.

What to Expect

Your pup’s six month birthday is a time to celebrate.

dog anti bite surgery recovery cone of shame prevent chewing healing

Time for the Cone of Shame!

By now, you’ll know their personality and what they like to do.

They should also be done potty training. Yay for infrequent messes!

One big adjustment your puppy will have to make is eating only two meals a day.

Their metabolism is slowing with their growth rate, so they just don’t need as many calories if they aren’t super active.

Another important part of becoming six months old is getting fixed. Male and female dogs will reach sexual maturity at six months old, which is why breeders and adoption centers will advise you to get them fixed no later than this stage.

Taking your dog in for surgery may seem scary, but it’s a safe procedure with a quick recovery time.

Your pup will be just fine with a little extra love.

Milestones at this age

Six month old puppies will:

  • Eat twice a day
  • Be fully potty trained
  • Need to be spayed or neutered

Seven Months

Seven month old puppies will be hitting adolescence, so they’ll want to test boundaries and act out a little more.

What to Expect

orthocomfort dog couch sofa bed sleeping pad puppy no longer snuggling cuddling

“I’ve got my own couch now, mom!”

Around seven months old, Maggie began to act like I was old news.

She preferred to sleep on the floor instead of in the bed, or chew on her toys instead of snuggle on the couch with me.

This is totally normal, since adolescence begins around the seven month mark. They’ll want more independence, but they’ll still need you at the end of the day.

This phase will pass and soon they’ll find a middle ground between depending on you and wanting space.

They could also act more forgetful, like not sitting or holding still when you tell them to.

This behavior, added to their increased desire to explore and destroy their surroundings, will also pass. Be patient with your pup and always remember the tricks you used to train them up until this point.

Milestones at this age

Seven month old puppies will:

  • Want some personal space
  • Potentially destroy more things around the home
  • Be generally more playful by themselves

Eight Months

Brace yourself—eight month old puppies are officially teenagers.

What to Expect

teenager puppy adolescence punk goth dog spiked studded collar

Your dog may start listening to Punk Bark. This is normal!

The typical bad teenage behavior we see in humans is also exhibited in puppies at this stage.

Their focus will decrease, so don’t be discouraged if they won’t fetch for very long.

They may act bratty by barking and whining more, or even nipping outside of play.

Your pup might even be more selective about how friendly they are with other dogs at the park.

Don’t worry! These are all temporary and will pass with time.

Milestones at this age

Eight month old puppies will:

  • Have less ability to focus
  • Be more moody
  • Potentially not be as friendly towards other dogs

Conclusion

Every puppy will act a little different as they grow.

I never noticed any of these negative puppy-teenager symptoms in my family’s dogs, but Maggie definitely showed attitude and independence.

It’s good to be aware of what changes your dog will be facing during their first year of life. They grow at a super-fast rate, so things will change a bit every week.

When Maggie turned one years old, it’s like a switch turned off.

Her moodiness and desire for destruction stopped completely and she was back to her old self.

Remember these stages when your pup goes through them and above all, have patience with them.

You’re both going to be doing your best and everything is going to be okay in the end.

puppies spilling out of dog crate napping exploring how old development stages

FAQs

When Do Puppies Open Their Eyes?

Puppies will first open their eyes at two weeks old, although their vision will be blurry and not fully developed for another four to six weeks.

At What Age Do Puppies Start to Walk?

Around three weeks old, puppies will go from wiggling around on the ground to trying to climb. Their steps will be shaky at best, but by four weeks they’ll be able to run and play.

When Do Puppies Start Barking?

Puppies will try to make noises between weeks two and three, but they won’t be able to bark like adults until their fourth month.

Can You Tell How Big a Puppy Will Get?

Sometimes it’s easiest to guess how big your puppy will be by looking at their parents, but if that’s not possible, you can do some math.

Adult dogs are generally four times the weight and height that they were when they were four months old.

What Age Does a Puppy Stop Biting?

Biting and nipping will begin as soon as six weeks old, but it could continue throughout their first year.

With gentle training, the chewing can be reduced to a minimum and focused on only their toys.

When Do Dogs Stop Growing?

It depends on their breed.

Smaller breeds will stop growing around six to eight months old, but medium to larger breeds could grow up to 18 months old.

What Are the Puppy Socialization Stages

Puppies have two socializations stages—the canine and human stages.

The first is the canine stage, which begins with their mother and siblings at birth.

The human stage begins at four weeks old.

When Will My Puppy Be an Adult?

Again, this depends on the breed.

Smaller breeds can reach adulthood as early as nine months old, and larger breeds may take until they’re 16 months old.

Puppy Development Stages Explained

About the author

Emily Pierce

Emily Pierce is a self-published novelist, award winning short story writer, and freelancer. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking and making clothes for dogs.