Stages of development of the dog
Just like in human life, in dog’s life we can distinguish stages. Their knowledge and respect for the principles of development of the dog’s psyche allows the proper arrangement of human-dog relationship from the moment of arrival at home of a small and delightful puppy.
The neonatal stage – the first 2 weeks of life
At this stage the senses are formed very intensively. Puppy is born completely "blind" but surprisingly quickly can orient themselves in the immediate environment. Although he moves helplessly and with difficulty, he unerringly reaches his mother’s nipples. They successfully use their developing senses (especially smell) to get to know the surrounding world through positive and negative experiences, learning to act in a way appropriate to their species. When, for example, after reaching the wall of the pen, a puppy tries to climb it, it always ends up falling on its back. This negative experience teaches the young dog that he cannot climb like a cat. The first contacts with siblings are the beginning of later play, although they usually end up with both babies falling asleep cuddled up to each other. At the end of this period, the puppy’s eyes open.
The stage of dog socialization – from 3 to 7 weeks of age
Puppies both in appearance and behavior increasingly resemble adult dogs. In play and "fights" use their pin-sharp baby teeth, learning how to bite to inflict pain, and by feeling the bite they learn what pain inflicted is. inflicting and feeling pain is one of the reasons why milk teeth are so sharp. Loud squeal of the brother bitten in the ear is a signal for the biting, that the grip was too strong, and a sharp bite, which he receives in return is a good lesson of what consequences can have too strong grip. At the end of this stage, mothers begin to wean their puppies from the breast. At the beginning, the bitch murmurs warningly at the puppy, and when, despite this, the puppy starts to suck, she growls with a piercing look. Sometimes he stands over a knocked over on his back puppy, who flattens himself to the ground squealing. The next time after such a lesson, a warning purr is enough to discipline the puppy. This is one way of instilling discipline at this stage of development and should not be seen as a sign of the bitch’s dislike of the puppies, as every bitch takes disciplinary action. It is extremely important that all puppies remain with their mother until the end of this phase of development. Only then their character has a chance to form properly. Unfortunately, it can happen that a so-called “bad” puppy is born. "puppy producers" out of the desire to make a quick profit they sell puppies too young (even 3-4 weeks), which had no chance to healthily survive this stage of life. This lack of socialization in the dog pack results in future over-aggressiveness and problems in relationships with other dogs.
Although the most important in this period is the contact of the toddler with the mother and siblings, we should not forget the importance of human contact. The breeder should as often as possible take the puppies in his hands, stroke them, check the state of eyes, ears, paws, watch the teeth, groom. During these activities, the dog not only learns that contact with humans is a pleasant experience, but also experiences – at least initially – a little stress. This allows for the development of appropriate resistance to stress, necessary in adult life. It goes without saying that puppies coming from large kennels focused on quantity, do not have the opportunity to gain this kind of experience, while the puppies, which in this phase were provided with both the warmth and security of maternal care, as well as the pleasure of contact with man, generally grow up properly adapted to life dogs.
The stage of socialization with a human – from 7 to 12 weeks of age
At this stage, the puppy learns how to adapt to life among humans. Ideally, after 7 weeks of age, he should be at home with his new owners. This does not mean, of course, that a puppy in a home kennel, having a lot of contact with people, staying with the breeder for a long time can do harm. It is good to carry out at this stage of development non-stressful tests of puppies character, allowing to determine the temperament and hereditary tendencies of the toddler very different in individual puppies in the litter. This knowledge will allow to choose a puppy according to the expectations of future owners (important especially if the dog is to be among children). Although it is most often the prospective owners who choose the puppy from the litter, an experienced and responsible breeder should suggest an appropriate choice, or at least inform them of the results of the test trials and his observations of the puppies.
The psychological tests carried out with 7 week old puppies are the most reliable, because at this age the puppy has few acquired behaviours and their reactions reflect mainly their inherited tendencies.
In the new home, contacts with family members and strangers should be as friendly as possible. You should avoid too harsh punishment of the toddler both by shouting and using physical punishment (this does not mean, of course, that you should not discipline the dog and allow him to do everything !). Between 8 and 11 weeks, a puppy becomes familiar with the feeling of fear, and if he experiences too much fear or pain during this period, he will become overly anxious, and it is usually difficult to bring him out of this state. The new owner must treat the puppy very gently during this phase of development, protecting it from any kind of trauma, while at the same time allowing it to experience a variety of positive experiences in many places and with many people (it is important to. the first visit to the vet around the 12th week, when the doctor, without unpleasant procedures, will look at the dog and stroke it).
Dogs with "industrial" kennels, kept in pens and deprived during this period of contact with people (sometimes also with siblings) coming to a new owner after 14 weeks of age show signs of kenelosis – a syndrome of deprivation of stimuli in puppyhood. They have great difficulty in establishing contact with people and are extremely unresponsive to stress. However, they feel good in the company of other dogs.
Closing stage – from 12 to 16 weeks of age
At this time, the dog ceases to be a puppy and becomes an adolescent dog, in human terms, a teenager. Feels confident enough and settled in his surroundings. Often in the human world, he is given no limits and privileges he would never have living with his siblings and mother among dogs. Looking from the human point of view, we still perceive such a twelve or sixteen weeks old dog as a puppy and we tolerate in his behavior things that we would never tolerate in an adult dog, forgetting that dogs develop immeasurably faster than humans. So it is the highest time when the dog should be taught the basic commands and rules of good behaviour, at the same time continuing the familiarisation with the environment and other dogs. You can use for this purpose the help and experience of other doggies or so called. doggy kindergarten – a place where young dogs meet regularly just to learn how to behave in a doggy company. During this phase of development, another very important thing happens. – The dog’s teeth change. It is always associated with excessive chewing and destruction of everything that pops up, and that the dog at this age must chew, you need to make sure that he had under his paw something that is suitable for chewing (chews of dried leather, a large calf bone or dry bread).
Escape stage – 4 to 8 months
Around this time, the dog feels what could be called the call of freedom. A dog that has obediently come when called suddenly becomes deaf and moves away in the opposite direction. This is normal behavior in a wolf pack. At this time, the young male begins to look around for a sexual partner and the young female has her first heat. It is also during this time that he separates independently from the pack to explore the area on his own. This is the age that corresponds to the age of fourteen or sixteen in humans.
It is not, of course, the case that the dog runs away all the time – sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes even a month, and further established problems with coming when called usually arise when the dog discovers that disobedience and going out on its own is great fun. It is important during this time not to punish a dog that has returned from such an outing. It also helps to walk in unfamiliar territory, where the dog feels less confident and does not move away from its master so readily.
Adolescence – from 6 to 14 months
Both in the body of adolescent bitches and dogs during this period there are large hormonal changes. Analogous to human teenagers going through their period "storm and thrust", dog teens have similar problems. As the body struggles to establish a new hormonal balance, exaggerated or even incomprehensible reactions and behaviors may occur. Previously indifferent objects or phenomena can cause anxiety or aggression. The behavior of the owner at this time can influence the later tendencies of the pet. Both punishing the dog and trying to embolden or reassure it can result in the perpetuation of undesirable behaviour, whereas calmness and ignoring such reactions show dogs that there is nothing to fuss about. As is often the case with teenagers, adolescence can pass without major manifestations.
Mature age – 1 to 4 years
Approximately until the age of 4 months, the various stages of development of dogs of different breeds overlap. Later there are some differences depending on the breed and size of the dog. As a rule of thumb, small breed dogs enter each phase faster than large breed dogs. Thus, the period of maturation to full maturity lasts from one to four years depending on the size and breed.