Your dog’s skeleton is usually fully developed by twelve months of age, most toy, small and medium size dogs are fully grown at this point. In large and giant breeds, there may still be some expansion and further muscle development for the next six to twelve months.
By twelve weeks of age, a puppy should have a full set of needle sharp baby teeth, which he will want to use on everything. Starting at about five months of age, the puppy should start losing his baby teeth. Puppies usually swallow the teeth as they are worked loose. The teeth in the front of the mouth are usually out be the incoming adult teeth. The molars, or chewing teeth, in the back of the mouth, sometimes fall out prior to the adult teeth breaking the gum line. This can cause the puppy some discomfort and difficulty chewing but should correct itself within a week.
During this period, if your puppy is not eating the amount of food you’re used to, it may help to wet his food and allow it to soften before serving. The last teeth to come out are usually the canines or fangs. Don’t be alarmed if you look in your pup’s mouth during this time and see double canines. It can take a week or more for these baby teeth to be pushed out.
Note. If the baby canines are not out in a week’s time or the gum becomes inflamed, see your vet about having them removed.
A puppy’s toenails need to be clipped starting around ten to twelve weeks of age. How your pup’s body processes calcium along with the types of surfaces he goes for walks on, or where he runs and plays, will determine how often this has to be done. This can range from every five days to just one every six weeks. As your dog gets older, this process will slow somewhat, and again, surfaces and activity level will play a part.
I refer to mental growth as decision making ability, choosing between positive and negative reinforcements, and environmental learning. For all intents and purposes this begins at eight weeks of age, although I don’t recommend being real demanding until twelve weeks.
From twelve weeks of age, a puppy’s mental ability is approximately equivalent to that of a human child twelve to thirty months of age. Learning ability is determined by communication techniques used, keeping the dog’s interest and the individual dog’s attention span.
A puppy will usually bond to humans instantly. For up to sixteen weeks of age, you will be the centre of the puppy’s little world. I call this the duckling syndrome. During this period the puppy will follow you everywhere, indoors and out, so take advantage of this early off-leash experience by teaching the dog its name and to come when called. The puppy will also respond attentively to food, squeaky toys, hand clapping, and making kissing sounds with your lips; these are all referred to as enticement. A puppy this age will also react to sudden loud noises with surprise or mild fear. Use this knowledge to get the pup’s attention, as a negative reinforcement, when he is misbehaving or simply not listening. A sudden noise correction (negative reinforcement) can be a single hand clap, slap on a tabletop, stamp on the floor, rattle of a can etc.
The dog has instinctual ‘needs’ and ‘drives’ that govern its behaviour, which are in place from the start. The ‘needs’ are basically the same as our own, oxygen, food, water and companionship.
‘Drives’ in dogs are similar to ‘motivations’ in humans, such as sex, money and power. With a dog however, the drives are innate; the dog has no control over them. The drives are prey, pack and defence (fight and fight). Prey drive controls the behaviours associated with hunting, such as chase, pounce, ripping and tearing, digging and stealing.
Pack drive controls the behaviours associated with bonding, such as following you around, soliciting petting, humping and jumping up to greet people.
There are two defence drives. One controls assertive behaviours such as standing their ground and barking or growling, playing tug-o-war, defiant barking or snapping, guarding food or toys, and posturing. The other is self defence behaviours such as running away from new situations, submissive or excitement urination, crawling or exposing the belly, and barking or showing teeth while in retreat. Every dog and puppy will exhibit any or all of these behaviours to varying degrees and in different situations. A dog will also exhibit these behaviours either instinctively, or can actually learn to use certain behaviours to their advantage.
Sexual behaviour or puberty, can begin as early as four months of age, and sexual maturity as early as six months. Both males and females may exhibit humping behaviour; it may be tried as a display of dominance, excitement or sex. The targets of their affection or excitement, can be anything or anyone. The humping behaviour can be both irritating and embarrassing but should not be corrected harshly, nor should it be encouraged.
Sexual maturity in males may be signified by masturbating, or by leg lifting, in order to scent mark objects or territory. In females it would be the onset of estrus (heat cycle or season). This can occur monthly or as little as once every couple of years. The average is twice a year. Estrus is indicated by a swollen vulva and light to heavy blood spotting. Dominant females may also urine mark and along with dominant males, scent mark with their stool or kick scratching the ground.
Train – Don’t Complain.
At six to seven months of age, the dog can begin its ‘terrible twos’, an approximate equivalent to that of human children. This period can last up to thirteen months of age and can range from relatively uneventful to complete hell. This is also the period that can permanently instill learned behaviours into the dog’s adult personality.
By the age of 5/6 months, your dog should have been trained to walk to heel, sit, down, stay, come when called, and have began basic tracking.
Communication techniques used up to and during this stage of learning, can mean the difference between a well-behaved dog and a dog that ends up in a shelter or being put to death. About half of all dogs born, do not live to the age of two years. They either grow too big, out of fashion, or have such behavioural problems they are put down.
Dogs have an innate need for structure. If you make few demands and do not set parameters, you will be creating a dog that is destructive, demanding, and defiant in an attempt to establish structure. Human structure is to believe that bad behaviour is ‘just a phase’ or ‘he’ll grow out of it’ or make any number of other excuses for the behaviour. This way of thinking will inevitably make the problem behaviour worse.A Man’s Best Friend