Dog Life Stages – Dealing with Milestones in your Dog’s Life
Each stage of a dog’s life is characterized by different milestones. Being familiar with a dog’s life stages will help you know what to expect and be prepared to deal with the different needs and behaviors as your dog develops from being a puppy, to an adult, and finally to being a senior dog.
During the first month
A puppy is born with his eyes and ears closed. By the third week, his eyes and auditory canals start to open and his sense of sight and hearing begin to develop and sharpen. He will now start to interact and communicate with his mother and the rest of the litter.
During the third week, he will begin to take his first steps and communicate by barking. It is during this time that social behaviors unique to the species are learned and developed.
By the fourth week, a puppy’s senses are fully developed and he is now able to observe and interact with his environment. You will find him sniffing and examining everything. Socialization should start at this time. You should also find time to spend with your puppy to help him develop his social skills. During the fourth week, he will also begin eating solid food. You can ask your veterinarian for recommendations on what’s best for your puppy’s first solid food.
On the second and third month
As your puppy continues to be more aware of his surroundings, socialization with the human members of the pack should be undertaken as much as possible. Puppies can be weaned and separated from their mother and the rest of the litter when it is around ten weeks of age.
If you are bringing home a newly weaned puppy, it is good to bring him to the veterinarian for a health check. Your vet is a good source of valuable tips and important advice on your pet’s worming and vaccination schedules.
To cope with his new environment and the stress of being separated from his mother and siblings, your puppy needs utmost care and attention. You should also start house training and setting boundaries for proper behavior.
As a puppy develops, he will need an “alpha dog”, the leader of the pack, whom he will look up to for guidance and leadership. This should be the person who will be spending the most time with, and feeding, him. Socialization should continue to ensure that your pet will be exposed to different situations, people, events and other animals.
At this stage, adequate and proper nutrition is very important to ensure that your puppy receives the nutrients which are necessary to support optimum growth and development.
Around the sixth month
Puberty is said to start around the sixth month of age. This stage is accompanied by physical and physiological changes that signal your dog’s entry into adulthood. A male dog will now start to lift his leg when urinating while a female will start to manifest signs of heat.
If you are planning to have your dog bred, never permit mating during the female’s first heat because her reproductive organs are not yet fully developed. You should also ask your vet for the best type of food fit for your dog’s age.
A dog’s senior years
The onset of the aging process will begin gradually and almost discreetly. You will notice that your dog is less active as his metabolism slows down. Senior dogs may also tend to put on weight. He will need a special diet specific for senior dogs to ensure that he will still have an adequate nutrient intake to fulfill his dietary and nutritional requirements.
Early signs of aging are usually noticeable between the dog’s eighth and tenth year. His senses slowly deteriorate particularly his sight, hearing, and sense of smell. The dog’s head and muzzle may also turn gray.
In order to make your dog’s twilight years as comfortable as possible, make sure he has adequate exercise, a time to play, and lots of love and care. A good massage can also go a long way in easing his joint pains.
At this stage of life a dog can develop health issues. Be aware of any changes in behavior and eating habits that can indicate problems. If you notice any issues take you dog to the vet for an examination.