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Doodle Development Stages

Toddler Stage (3 – 8 Weeks)
“Lessons from Mom

During the Toddler stage puppy will begin to venture into the surrounding environment. Lessons learned during the toddler stage are critical for healthy social development. Puppies removed too early tend to grow to be nervous, timid, bark inappropriately, or even bite. All these negative behaviors are a result of lessons a mother and littermates usually provide that were missed. Training problems and long-term behavior problems can often be attributed to a puppy removed from the litter prior to 7-8 weeks of age.

3 weeks of age development happenings: The first lessons learned –

  • Bite inhibition- how to bite and what it is like to be bitten

  • Various postures and their meanings

  • Vocalizing- barking and other vocal sounds

  • Learn how to establish social relationships with other dogs



5 weeks of age development happenings:

  • Dog manners are learned

  • They will learn and refine acceptable interactions

  • They will learn submission

What Mom will teach-

Mom’s job is to guide, teach, communicate and redirect. Often mom will growl, snap or snarl to communicate with the pup. The young puppy will learn quickly to stay in line. Littermates also learn clear signals of communication with each other.

Socialization Stage (7 – 12 Weeks) and First Fear Imprint Period (8-11 Weeks)
“Rapid learning with a lasting impact”

This is the optimum time period that puppy will need to be positively socialized to new dogs, humans, other species, and new environments. All experiences need to be positive experiences. They need to be introduced to new things and begin the groundwork to a happy, well-adjusted dog.

7 weeks of age development happenings:

  • Education transitions from mom to human

  • Puppy will be eager to please

  • Puppy will be eager to learn

  • Puppy’s temperament traits and personality more apparent

  • Short attention spans

  • Learned behavior will transition over into adult years

  • Education transitions from mom to human


8-11 weeks of age development happenings:

  • Puppy is capable of experiencing true fear

  • Any traumatic, painful or frightening experiences can have a lasting impact


What You Can Do:

  • Be your puppy’s voice and strong leader/protector

  • Slowly introduce your puppy to new things, environments and people

  • Make ALL experiences positive (provide treats or toys)

  • Don’t push your puppy into fearful situations – take things slowly and allow him to adjust and get use to the situation

  • Do not let others push your puppy or be forceful with them

  • Provide a secure comforting demeanor


Pecking Order (12-16 Weeks)
“Defiant Little Bugger”

Puppy has now adjusted to your home. Attention has been on you and the family. He is picking up on human behaviors and reactions. He is learning the pecking order of his pack. As he observes and learns, he will then attempt to figure out where exactly he stands in the order. He will attempt to see if moving up in the pack will work. After all, he knows who the “weak links” are and will start at the bottom and try to move right up the pack. That cute little puppy turned into a defiant little bugger!

12-16 week developmental happenings:

  • Puppy can become overexcited easily

  • Puppy may growl and put his mouth on you

  • Puppy obedience tricks and listening have gone out the window

  • Puppy will begin to question authority

  • Puppy will attempt to move himself up in the pack order

  • Puppy will try to dominate

  • Puppy will bite at leashes

What you can do:

  • Learn how your actions and body language communicate to your dog

  • Do not play aggressive games during this phase. (No tug-of-war or wrestling)

  • If puppy becomes over excited, growls or mouths you, you stop all activity

  • Be very aware of how the puppy interacts with children – do not leave children unattended with the puppy

  • Enroll in a puppy kindergarten class to redirect some of the energy

  • Evaluate the whole family’s methods of interactions and corrections and make sure that all are consistent and clear


Flight Instinct Stage (4 – 8 Months)
“Recall Mr.  Independent”

Your puppy wants to spread his wings and venture further out. During this time, teaching the puppy that he must stay close by or come when called (recall) is critical. The failure to do this will result in a dog that will not be reliable to come or to stay close by as an adult and very well could lead the dog into a life or death situation.

4-8 months developmental happenings:

  • Becomes very independent

  • A puppy that previously would never go very far, will venture off

  • Will ignore commands

  • How you handle refusal to come or stay will affect future reliability off leash


What you can do:

  • Never allow dog loose in an unconfined area. Leash on 100% of the time in an unsecure location!

  • Enroll in a training class that utilizes positive training techniques

  • Reinforce and continue to train your puppy recall “come”

  • Only recall with a positive reward



Adolescence (7 – 10 months)
“The Teen Years”

Your little angel has now turned into a devil. This teen stage is one of the most difficult times for a pet owner. This often is a time when many families start to regret their decision on adding a dog to their home. Invest the time now to teach manners,

Developmental happenings:

  • Puppy revisits the defiant stage

  • Challenge the pack order

  • Energy burst

  • The puppy will be exuberant and enthusiastic

  • They turn into goofy clowns that like to show teeth

  • They will delight in learning new and fun things


What you can do:

  • Reaffirm the family pack order

  • Appreciate your goofy dog

  • Continue to invest time into training and positive learning experiences

  • Reinforce the things you do want him to do

  • Ignore the bad behaviors

  • Be realistic about expectations (still very much a puppy in a big boy body)

  • Continue with training classes; explore options for additional training opportunities



Second Fear Stage (6 – 14 Months)
“Yikes, no way Jose!”

You thought you conquered it all. But all of sudden your once confident dog, is now startles by a door slamming, afraid of walking down the stairs, or not sure about going for a car ride. This is all normal, but you must help your dog figure out how to deal with his fears or concerns. The skills of learning how to “shake it off and keep going” will be valuable to him for the rest of his life. It will also reduce the chances that the things he fears will not be permanently imprinted for life.

Developmental happenings:

  • Once confident, now suddenly become reluctant to new things

  • This period can be subtle

  • This period can come and go several times over this entire period

  • It may appear to be unprovoked or unrelated to any specific occurrence

  • Puppy can become frustrating to owners

  • You may notice this behavior more in males


What you can do:

  • Avoid extremes in your response (no anger or forcing or coddling)

  • Be patient

  • Become aware of surrounding and potential triggers

  • Work on desensitizing him with gradual introductions with rewards

  • Avoid too much reassurance or coddling (which is a reward for this behavior)

  • Don’t over react or correct

  • Praise with grand rewards for his attempts

  • Your dog will take his clues from you, if you act frightened or concerned he will too


Maturing into Adulthood (1 – 3 Years)
“I’m on guard duty!”

Your puppy is now fully grown and an integrated member of a pack. He now begins to find that his home is worthy of monitoring and protecting. Sort of sounds nice to have a guard dog, but don’t fall for it. You do not want your dog to take over these responsibilities because in no time you too will be under the rule of the King. This can lead to aggressive behaviors, protective to the point of creating fear or actually harming someone or another animal as he protects. This is bad news, and often a reason a dog is taken out of the home or euthanized. So, don’t allow your dog to be the King of the Castle, assign him the role of court jester – he will be happier and so will your family and visiting neighbors.

Developmental happenings:

  • The dog may become more turf protective

  • Strangers may be greeted with barking

  • Barking at noises, birds, cars, butterflies, pretty much everything he believes worthy of attention

  • Playing with other dogs may escalate to fighting

  • Same sex confrontations of other dogs can occur

  • Once again, checking the pack order to see if he can move up


What you can do:

  • Reinforce how to greet strangers into your home

  • Teach your dog to ignore dogs he cannot be nice to

  • Practice or reinforce dog manners (utilizing no threatening dogs)

  • Learn to read your dog and other dog’s body language. (Circling, walking on toes, stiff tail wags, tense facial expressions – are the signs of aggressive behaviors)

  • Rally your family to review that the pack order is clear and very one is consistent with training and corrections

  • Reward him for good behaviors

  • Give that dog another job, therapy work, obedience classes, agility



Adapted and shared from Beth at IDOG

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