How Old Is My Puppy?
How Old Is My Puppy?
Your dog is defined as being in "puppyhood" until he reaches 18 months of age, and it is during this first part of his life he will go through the most changes and development. While all dogs develop differently depending on their genetics and lifestyle, puppies have a very specific development time-line until they transition to adulthood.
Many puppies are rescued from the streets, or from shelters, and do not have a known date of birth. By understanding the different psychological and physical changes your rescue puppy will go through during the first year and a half of his life, you can make an accurate estimate of his age.
Psychological Developmental Stages in Puppies
- Neonatal Period (Newborn - 13 days)
At this age, the puppy will have closed eyes and ear canals. Puppies are born totally helpless, and their eyes and ear canals are not fully open until around 10-14 days old. They cannot see or hear well, and are unable to walk. Puppies of this age are completely dependant on their other or care-giver, and will require specialist care if orphaned or abandoned at this age.
- Transition Period (13 - 21 days)
As their eyes and ears open, pups start to become curious. They will start moving around a lot more and enjoy being held and stroked. While at this impressionable and harmless age it is the best time to introduce your puppy to any (friendly!) cats in your household and older children.
- Canine Socialization Period (21 - 49 days)
Your puppy is developing a sense of self-awareness and individual personalities amongst litter mates begin to show. Puppies of this age need to be around other dogs to learn discipline and species-specific behaviors, and dogs weaned during this vital time often suffer from a lifetime of behavioral problems.
- Awareness Sub-period (21-23 days)
There is a short, but nonetheless important, window of development in your puppies' third week of life. At this time, puppies will experience rapid sensory development and therefore all efforts to maintain a stable, peaceful and safe environment should be made at this time.
- Human Socialization Period (50 - 84 days / 7 - 12 weeks)
This is the age your puppy will really start to appreciate human company, and if socialized well up until this point, will actively seek out human companionship. At this age, younger family members can be taught how to handle and play with their new family members, and it is normally during this period that puppies move to their new homes, away from the mother and litter mates.
- Fear Impact Sub-period (8 - 10 weeks)
During this sub-period, a puppy is very sensitive to stimulus around him. Any traumatic experience at this age is likely to affect the dog somehow for the rest of his life. Responsible breeders will wait until a puppy is ten weeks before selling, so that this period has passed and the relocation will not cause the dog to become permanently fearful and withdrawn.
- Seniority Classification Period (12 - 16 weeks)
This period can be draining for new dog owners as their puppy pushes all boundaries. Some pups become mouthy, jump up and generally misbehave. Strong leadership skills (and lots of patience!) from you are vital at this point, your puppy is just learning where his place is in the family home!
- Flight Instinct Period (4 - 8 months)
During this age group, there is a brief stage which lasts approximately 2 - 4 weeks. Your pup will not want to listen and is likely to run away when called. Your best bet is to keep training consistent and avoid over-stimulating your puppy - don't get frustrated, the time will pass soon!
- Second Fear Impact Period (6 - 14 months)
Otherwise known as "puppy teenage years". Your puppy is starting to be influenced by his hormones more and more, and may develop irrational fears over items and scenarios that he was comfortable with before. It is important not to reinforce this behavior by praising your dog when he is scared or he may develop life-long phobias.
- Young Adulthood (14 - 18 months)
Dominance and territorial behavior often develop during this final stage of development, but with great patience, and positive training, your energetic puppy should grow into a well rounded, confident and friendly dog.
Physical Development of Puppies
Your puppy will develop and grow fast, so estimating his age using different markers can be fairly accurate. Examining which teeth have erupted is the favorable way to estimate a puppies age. However, various factors such as malnutrition or gum disease can sometimes make this difficult. Dogs with smaller mouths, such as bulldogs and chihuahuas, often have teeth come through irregularly, and therefore can be harder to estimate their age so accurately.
You could also weigh your puppy and compare her weight to the predicted puppy weight for the breed to get some idea of her general age.
At birth, dogs do not have any teeth. The first teeth to appear are the canine teeth, which will start to show at around 3 - 4 weeks.
Next teeth to erupt are the first set of incisors at 4 - 5 weeks, with the first two sets of premolars at 4 - 6 weeks. The third set of incisors appear at 5 - 6 weeks and the last set of premolars at 6 - 8 weeks.
Puppies and kittens do not have molars, so if your small dog has these then he is already an adult!
Between 8 and 16 weeks your puppy has all of his puppy teeth and there is no real change Your vet can tell if the teeth are erupting, established, or loose, to determine your puppies age during this time.
When puppies reach 16 - 18 weeks they are starting to get their adult teeth. Adult teeth consist of 12 incisors, four premolars (one set which will appear during this time) and four molars, of which two will grow in this period.
Then at 20 - 24 weeks your puppy will finally grow his own adult canine teeth, pushing out the much smaller baby teeth as it erupts. He will also get three more sets of premolars and one more set of molars.
Finally, at between 24 and 28 weeks, their final set of two permanent molars erupts, which are located on the lower jaw.
Exceptions to these rules are rare but of course, do happen. Dogs who develop gum disease early on may not develop teeth at the right time, or teeth may be missing. Your vet can help you more as they have seen many puppies, and have to accurately guess the age often!
Have you accurately identified the age of your dog using the information above? Does your dog have a problem with his teeth? Share your story with other dog lovers in the comment.