They are fuzzy, they are adorable and then they grow up. No, not kids…we are talking about puppies! Buying a puppy is just the first step of a lifetime of commitment, care and joy with a dog. What can you expect to deal with through the lifetime of your dog? Keep reading to find out.
Life Stages of a Dog
Puppyhood is the stage from birth to 12 months old. During this time, you can expect the most physical and mental growth. Just like a human baby, puppies need to be nurtured during their most formative early years. Any abuse or neglect during this time will definitely shape the dog for the rest of their life.
Around three to four weeks of age, puppies will start transitioning from drinking their mother’s milk to eating solid foods. Puppies usually aren’t sold until after the weaning process, so most owners never have to think about it. Only in an emergency situation like their mother being killed or missing would you have to step in and make sure they get the milk they need.
By the time they are seven or eight weeks old, puppies should be fully switched over to solid foods. They still have special food considerations, though. Find a good brand of puppy food that your puppy likes and is good for them. Regular adult dog chow won’t have the vitamins that they need. Puppies also need to be fed several times a day depending on their age.
- 2-3 months old = 4x a day
- 3-6 months old = 3x a day
- 6-12 months old = 2x a day
- 1 year and older = 1x a day
This helps them develop healthy eating habits and gives them consistent energy.
If you plan on letting your dog live inside, you will have to bear the dreaded house training stage. Some breeds and temperaments are better with house training than others. In general, be prepared for accidents in the house and some late night potty walks. Have patience with your puppy and remember that this stage won’t last forever. By the time your puppy is four to six months old they should be well capable of being house trained.
Get your puppy started with good dental cleaning habits. Gum disease, abscesses and cavities are painful for dogs and costly for their owners. Maintain dental health with regular brushings using a doggy toothbrush or a piece of clean gauze wrapped around your finger. Never use your own toothpaste for dogs (it is poisonous to them), instead use a little baking soda and water. (And don’t forget those dental check-ups at the vets!)
Spaying and neutering
At six months old, your puppy is ready to be spayed or neutered if you so choose. These operations are very routine and prevent your dog from reproducing. It’s best to have these operations done when they are puppies to prevent issues like breast cancer and testicular disease when they get older.
Just like children, puppies will need several rounds of vaccinations during their first year of life. You will need to be prepared to schedule for these shots in order to keep your dog healthy. Also, many dog parks and locations require proof of shots if you want to take your dog out in public.
The teenage years for dogs are considered to be between six and 18 months. They are able to reproduce, unless you have them spayed or neutered, but they are still growing. The adolescence stage can vary depending on the breed of your dog. Basically, whenever they are finished growing they are considered an adult.
Adolescent dogs need good exercise to keep them from developing bad habits. When they were smaller, they could get their exercise in smaller places like running around your house or yard. Adolescents have longer legs and need more space to exercise properly. Take your teen dog on a walk or let them run at a local, enclosed dog park. Hiking, biking and running with your dog are also wonderful ways to exercise their body and keep their mind healthy too.
Your middle-aged dog is house trained and, with your help, has developed some healthy habits. The biggest issue for middle-aged dogs is weight gain. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise will save your dog from experiencing joint problems and other health concerns. Don’t forget to stay up to date with any vaccinations or medication they need.
Once a dog is in the last quarter of their life expectancy, they are considered a senior citizen. That age varies a lot based on their breed. For example, a Great Dane will live eight to ten years, but a chihuahua will live 15 to 17 years. A Great Dane is a senior at about eight years old, but the chihuahua won’t be a senior until about 12 years old.
Health issues start piling up as dogs get older. Arthritis, kidney disease and dental problems can develop quickly. It’s important to get your dog checked out regularly, and definitely get them to the vet if you notice any changes in their behavior.
As dogs age, they develop cataracts and aren’t able to see very well. Be aware that your older dog may be easily surprised by you or anyone who walks up close to them. If you know your dog’s sight is getting worse, you can clear a path or place for them so that they don’t bump into things in your house.
If you are planning on a new puppy in your household, please let us know if you have any questions. Our team will be happy to provide additional guidance on what you can expect! Receive 50% off your pet’s first physical exam with our client coupon.