The Developmental Stages in Dogs

People always tell you to socialize your puppy, and you should. But have you ever wondered why? I am taking a deeper look into why that socialization is just as vital in puppies as it is in human babies and children.

My dog trainer, a fabulous woman, always talks about the different stages of development in dogs (for example, the fear stage). I want to take a closer look at the stages, and see what the best things are to do with your puppy at depending on their age.

I will also take a look at what happens if your dog missed out on those stages and how to overcome the resulting issues later in life.

The Stages:

The Neonatal Period (0-2 weeks)

Right after the puppies are born before they open their eyes. They mostly eat and sleep.

The Transitional Period (2-4 weeks)

The puppies eyes open and they begin to gain control of their motor skills. Tails will wag and they will start to bark.


My parent’s border collie Fergus in the transitional period. 

The Socialization Period  (4-12 weeks)

Keep in mind most puppies are picked up in between week 7 and week 9. In this stage puppies begin to explore the world around them. Their curiosity is piqued. Socialization during this period is extremely important.

This socialization begins with the litter mates and mothers and for the second half of the stage extends out to humans. When looking at breeders, it is essential to ask how they will go about socializing the puppies.

During this period, the puppies can start to be house broken and learn simple commands such as sit. Boundaries are developed during this period along with learning the strength and pressure with which they bite. The inhibited bite is the dogs ability to control the pressure of his mouth when biting to cause little or no damage.

Fear Impact Period (8-11 weeks)

This falls at the end of the socialization period. It is also right as puppies are coming home to new surroundings. Puppies will find things to be more frightening during this period. This period can lead to long term behavioral effects. Keep socializing and ensure that the puppy is viewing its surroundings in a positive manner during this time.

Puppy classes are a great tool during this period. Look for a trainer that takes a positive reinforcement approach with a heavy focus on socialization. Remembering that your puppy is extremely impressionable at this age.

People often skip the socialization period due to their puppies not having their vaccines completely done. I usually er on the side of preferring the socialization in a safe contained manner.

Ranking Period (3-6 months)

The puppy begins to think in terms of submission and dominance. This is when they will figure out the hierarchy of the pack that is your household. Positive reinforcement works well during this period. Advice I often give people is that nothing should be free.

If your dog wants dinner, they should sit and wait first. Does your dog need to go outside, then they sit before the door is open. Treats are always used as a reward, especially during this period.

Adolescence Period (6-18 months)

Social behaviors are already developed. During this time, energy levels will increase so structured exercise and socialization are important.

This is the time it is usually recommended to spay or neuter your dog. You will begin to see sexual behaviors and the lifting of the leg while peeing.

Unfortunately during this period, your puppy will get its adult coat.

How to Socialize Your Adult Dog?

As some of you may know, Emmett is very nervous of people. He loves other animals, but would rather live in a world sans humans.

When I adopted him, I did a lot of research into socialization for adult dogs.

The first thing I always recommend is a trainer. If you are having serious problems, seek out help. Ask the trainer questions and listen to their responses. There are many different approaches and what works for one dog will not always work for another. Do your research and then pick the one you feel is right for you and your dog.

Emmett has been enrolled in classes since the week I brought him home, that is 7 months of continued classes. We still have so much more work to do, but the classes help with the socialization so much. It also ensures I carve time out every week to help him.

When socializing an adult dog, your are not starting at scratch as with a puppy. You have to take the time to over come their fears. Work with your dog on becoming comfortable in situations they find scary. Treat or a toy can help with this.

One step at a time. Pick one new thing and work on that. I live near a college, so sometimes I will take Emmett and we will go sit on a bench and just watch the people go by for 10-15 minutes. Feeding treats while doing an exercise like this helps to reinforce to your dog that the situation is a positive one.

If your dog shows his or her fear in an aggressive manner, then it is time to reach out to a trainer. If you aren’t sure where to start, reach out to your local rescue groups and explain your problems. They should know a trainer in the area they would recommend for you.

Be relaxed, be positive, and be consistent.




Jordyn & Emmett

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