Canine Stages of
Development
Canine Behavior: Stages of Development

Neonatal Period: Birth through 14 days.

1.   Limited motor ability. Righting reflex is present.
2.   Sensitive to touch, taste, and perhaps smell.
3.   Eyes and ears are closed and nonfunctional.
4.   Short periods of daily handling have marked long-term effects on later physical and behavioral development.
(They Grow and develop faster. They are more confident, exploratory, socially dominant, and friendly towards
humans.)

Transition Period: 10-16 days through 18-20 days.

1.   Begins with opening of eyes and ends with opening of ear canals. (‘Startle’  response to loud noises.)
2.   Begins to stand and walk. (Clumsily)
3.   Begins to eliminate outside nest. Licking by dam not necessary in order to stimulate elimination.
4.   Starts to play-fight and display social signals. (Growling and tail wagging)

Socialization Period: 3-12 weeks of age

Week 3-8 Sensitive period for socialization to own species:
1.  Optimum time for dog-dog socialization.
2.  Puppies identify selves as species with which they have primary contact during this period. (Dog,human, cat,
sheep, etc.)

Week 7-12: Sensitive period for socialization to other species:

1. ‘Other’ species being humans, cats, etc. ( Can mean dogs if puppy was not raised     with other dogs)
2.  If no exposure during this period, puppies will always remain fearful of and perhaps hostile to ‘other’ species.
3.  Avoid traumatic experiences associated with humans (especially children) during this period.

Optimum time for adoption is 6-8 weeks. This is good timing for house training: Puppies form substrate preferences
for elimination at about 8 ½ weeks. A 1993 study indicates that puppies experience less stress if adopted at 10-12
weeks of age if the mother dog is a good role model.

Adolescent Period: 12-16 weeks of age

1.  Sensitive period for being able to adapt well to new situations.
2.  Flight instinct develops- need to teach puppy to come when called
3.  Dominance challenges to other dogs and human family members begin.
4.  Reinforcement of socialization needed periodically until 6-8 months, or preciously well-socialized       puppies will
become fearful again.

Puppies at risk for permanent behavior problems:

1.  Feral puppies- fearful of humans
2.  Hand-reared puppies- may develop inappropriate dog-dog social behavior.
3.  Puppies that stay with breeders until 3-4 months of age-may not adjust to non-kennel environment or respond
appropriately to strangers.
Used with permission from Avimark.
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Cambridge VetCare
Animal Clinic, PA
Cambridge, MN