Puppies are adorable bundles of joy, full of energy and affection. The way their bodies move like wet noodles and their eyes stare up at you with unwavering love and curiosity makes even the frostiest hearts melt. But as any new puppy parent will tell you, raising a puppy is not all sunshine and rainbows. It is time-consuming and stressful, full of sleepless nights, pee puddles, and teething.
According to an article by treehugger.com, some of the biggest challenges that new puppy owners face are: socialization, basic training and exercise, housebreaking and crate training, chewing, teething, general destruction, separation anxiety, developmental fear periods, and getting the whole family on the same page with training.
As puppy parents, we know firsthand how exhausting it is to bring an adorable puppy into your life. They are cute, but their need for constant love and discipline can throw off your daily routine and cause you to have second thoughts. Many new puppy owners find themselves experiencing the puppy blues during those initial months.
We know you’re exhausted, but don’t worry, understanding key milestones and channeling that inner zen warrior will get you and your pup through this challenging time!
In this article, we will walk you through the four puppy stages:
At first glance, the term “puppy blues” sounds like doggy depression, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a common challenge most new dog owners face during the early stages of raising a puppy.
The first days of puppy ownership are filled with cuddles and cuteness. However, once the “honeymoon phase” has passed, you face the reality of caring for a puppy. The reality is full of frustration, stress, and overwhelming work, from cleaning up pee puddles to destroyed shoes and sleepless nights. Life with a young puppy is heartwarming but also stressful.
With training, consistency, and patience, you and your puppy will eventually find a routine that works for both of you. Puppies need love and discipline equally. You must be consistent to train them out of their unwanted behaviors.
Don’t worry; once your puppy has reached the five-to-six-month mark, they have lost most of their insecurities and inhibitions, making them much more obedient and easier to train. Focus on key milestones, build a routine, and remain patient. The puppy blues will pass, and soon you’ll experience the joys of having a puppy again.
The first few months of a puppy’s life are challenging. That little fur ball might be adorable, but don’t be fooled; this is the most difficult stage for dog owners. You can expect sleepless nights, loose bladders, and lots of biting like human children; not scary or aggressive biting, but rather playful biting. It’s just your new puppy’s way of feeling out their new world.
They know you are their owner and will start bonding with you when they are six-to-eight weeks old. At this point, your puppy shouldn’t be left alone for more than a few minutes. Your life will revolve around that precious fur baby, so be ready.
At this point:
- Start crate training as soon as they come home. They will need a safe space that is all their own to help them acclimate to their surroundings.
- Consider leash training after the eight-week mark. But don’t take them outside until they’ve received their parvo shots.
- Try to start potty training. They can’t control their bladder until after twelve weeks, but you should be able to begin the process.
- Provide positive and gentle exposure to a variety of people, animals, places and things, and avoid harsh corrections or punishments during their developmental fear period, which occurs around 8-10 weeks of age, and also again around 6-14 months.
You will notice a shift in your puppy’s behavior at around four to five months old. Your puppy’s brain is still developing, but they are beginning to adapt to the human world and their life with you.
They will be full of excitement and playful energy but also have more calm or quiet moments. You’ll find it much easier to train your puppy at this stage. This is the optimal time to form a good routine for both of you. Establish set mealtimes, play times, and exercise times.
At this point:
- You’ll notice their puppy coat disappearing.
- They will be more comfortable in their dog crate.
- You’ll gradually be able to start leaving your fur baby home alone. It’s suggested that you use their age as a guide. For example, you can leave your puppy alone for up to four hours if they are four months old.
- They will have more control of their bladder, so you can start consistently potty training your puppy.
- After at least two weeks of consistency, you’ll notice your pup sleeping through the night.
- You can start teaching them basic commands.
- They will need mental stimulation and appropriate chew toys for teething.
At around seven months, your puppy will enter their teenage phase. Much like human teenagers, their behavior will become unpredictable. You might notice a little attitude or rebellion. One minute, they’ll be licking you, and the next trying to bite your hand.
You’ll notice signs of a hormonal change in them. That might include chewing on anything and everything they can find or getting into other forms of mischief. The increased hormone levels will cause increased levels of fear in your puppy, caused by the increased sensitivity and reactiveness. For example, my puppy Ollie loves kids, but when they run around or make loud noises, he starts to bark and show slight aggression.
At this point:
- Your puppy should be mature enough to sleep outside the crate without issues.
- They will start calming down a bit but still be full of energy.
- They will have adult teeth, so excessive chewing should be reduced or nonexistent. Although, depending on the breed, you’ll still want to provide toys to keep them entertained.
Around the twelve to eighteen-month mark, you’ll notice your puppy becoming more independent and less responsive. Your once-infatuated pup will become less reliant on you and might even start ignoring you completely.
You might notice them ignoring your commands and outright disobeying often. Don’t worry; this behavior will pass as they mature. Remain consistent yet loving. Harsh discipline can cause trauma which makes the behavior worse. However, allowing the behavior to go uncorrected might also make it continue. So, provide discipline with love, and wait for maturity to kick in.
Every dog will behave a little differently during this phase. It depends on your dog’s breed and personality. But what unifies them all is a general maturity and sense of independence that forms.
At this point:
- Their energy level will go down.
- They’ll start to become less annoying.
- They’ll stop napping so much and switch to more adult dog sleeping patterns.
- Whining should decrease.
- Growth should slow down or halt altogether.
Every breed is different, but the puppy stage should generally end around twelve to eighteen months. At that point, they should have reached full emotional maturity and have an adult dog’s temperament. However, puppy-like behavior might last until they are two to three years old, depending on the breed.
The best way to prevent or reduce your dog’s barking when you are away is to plan. If you don’t give them a reason to bark; they are less likely to. Before you leave, make sure they have food, water, toys, and a place to pee. If they have a lot of energy, take ten minutes and play with them so they are tired when you leave.
You need to put in the time to create a safe space for them. If they feel safe, they are less likely to get nervous and start barking non-stop. Lastly, don’t reward barking! If you react to every bark, they will begin to associate attention with barking. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary.
Helpful tip: Sometimes puppies will do little things to grab our attention that isn’t barking. When they do, pause what you’re doing and ask them questions like “Are you hungry?” or “Do you need to go potty?”, and associate a signal (signal to the back door) or an item (their food bowl) with each question. This will help train your puppy to associate and respond to the one they want and need. Later, when they’re older than 1 year, whenever they need to go potty, instead of barking, they might learn to sit by the back door that exits to the yard so that you know they need to go outside.
Motion sickness is common for dogs, especially puppies since their bodies are still developing. Generally speaking, they should grow out of car sickness by the time they are a year old. However, you might still need to do some conditioning to help your dog get used to unusual movements and stimuli.
In our experience, most of our pups struggled with motion sickness when they were younger, but we started conditioning them when they were about six months old by taking them on short drives with the windows down. Now, as adult dogs, they enjoy car rides like champs!
You are not alone in this. Puppies are equal parts adorable and annoying. The first few months as a new puppy parent can be exhausting and stressful, but it will improve! Your little fur baby will grow out of all that energy with time, patience, consistent love, and discipline.
And don’t overlook their training routine! Check out our week-by-week puppy training schedule to stay on track.
You both will find a rhythm and routine, and life will get easier.