Your Puppy’s First Year Important Stages to Recognize

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By Melanie Barrett

This time last year Santa thought I needed a fifth dog…and a puppy at that! I had no idea this Hungarian Pumi would be coming to our home and to say I was surprised is an understatement! Although I train and rehabilitate dogs of all ages, I haven’t had a puppy since I was in my teens.

Puppy Stages

Now, to help others who may have received a puppy for Christmas, here are some milestones and a few tips to watch for.

From birth to seven weeks puppies begin to see, hear and smell. They become aware of their environment and begin interactacting with others. Around six weeks they’ll become very curious and that’s how they learn to lead and sometimes follow. Usually around eight weeks or so, puppies go to their new homes and leave mom and littermates behind. Be mindful to puppy-proof your home so there are no dangers, such as poisonous plants or electrical wires and outlets, pools or open doors. It’s a good idea to introduce your puppy to a crate and have him/her become comfortable with one. A crate should be viewed by a dog as their “safe” place; a place to relax and just chill.

After your new pup has had all his/her vaccines—your veterinarian will guide you here—and it is safe to walk outside your home, began introducing new places and experiences, but not too much at first. Puppies are all over the place when beginning to walk on a leash. They want to grab every leaf or twig they see, and can easily trip you up. However, if you stay focused and committed, you can master the pack walk quite easily.

During these weeks your once brave puppy may become more cautious and afraid of loud sounds and sudden movements. Just remain calm because your puppy will look to you for direction. Make sure you take the pack leader role, because if you don’t, your puppy will.

Avoid becoming overprotective or let him/her follow you around all day. This can lead to separation anxiety, which is one of the most difficult behaviors to address and resolve.

When you are working on potty training, prevention and patience are important. Give your puppy plenty of opportunities to go outside. Take him/her outside any time there is a change of activity…when she wakes up from a nap, after playtime, after eating or drinking or when there is a visitor to the home.

At 3-4 months teething will be underway. Puppies can chew on anything within their reach…

including that new pair of shoes. Give them appropriate chew toys or bones. Frozen chew toys help soothe aching gums, just like a baby. You will notice some play biting/teething. Correct this or it will turn into harder biting and mouthiness as your puppy matures.

At 4-6 months your puppy will need a lot of exercise because of developing bones and muscles; especially large breeds. When your puppy is between six and twelve months, he is full of life but still in need of guidance. Introduce them to more social experiences…think Lowe’s and Petsmart. The noises, smells and sounds are good to desensitize any apprehensions your Pup may have. Just remember the time and patience you extend now will pay off with a healthy, happy and well balanced dog in the very near future!

Melanie Barrett owns and operates Emerald Coast Dog Behavior and 30A Swim Dog in Santa Rosa Beach. Please visit www.,, She can be contacted directly at or at 850-218-0476.

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