One thing I am constantly amazed at is how FAST puppies change and then change AGAIN around that 2/3 year mark.
Basically their baby, toddler and adolescent years are all balled up in the first 2-3 years of life. This makes life for the owner of the puppy quite the roller coaster and challenging! Let’s go down this bunny trail with the understanding that there are many exceptions of course, but i’m going to keep this short and simple, haha (it’s funny because I rarely keep things short and simple)
You bring home your new puppy 8-12 weeks. They might be driven, but they are still really getting to know the family and YOUR routines so they can take advantage of your weaknesses very soon. They are also feeling very vulnerable and all of the family fawning over the puppy cuteness is making the puppy big headed (to be used against you in the near future) OR feeding into their vulnerability in a bad way (potentially creating anxiety you will deal).
This is also the time for them to learn all of their basics except heeling with distractions.
12-16 weeks old – You may start to see the benefits or the serious fall out to how that first month went because they are now quite comfortable in the home and ready to try some manipulation tactics, do more exploring and are still very much a cute little puppy. This is often when we train pups for board and trains because they can be held more accountable and it’s often the time owenrs have two modes…they want more advanced training or work on common biting issues after they did some basics with their pup OR they desperately need help because they fell into the spoil rotten and gave lots of freedom group, lol. We often start to see some behaviors at this age we don’t love. Puppies might be going through a fear stage at this time and testing out their bark that could be demand barking or from insecurity. Also common for puppies to be getting too much freedom after showing good behavior during that precious, sweet first stage and now the potty issues are WORSE!!! Think three year old toddler running around the house and able to take diapers off.
16-24 weeks is a great stage in my book! I love this stage. Even more accountability for puppies as they really start to hold on to understanding the boundaries I’ve so painstakingly been trying to make stick the first two months. I can now take them in public more around distractions and help them understand expectations in more difficult environments. All of this while they are still cute puppies. They do get REALLY wild at this age though. Basically, if you have had kids, it’s the stage where they can reach door handles easily, sneakily get into things, and have boundless amounts of energy, yet need constant supervision…good luck.
6 months to 1 year old…devil dog. LOL
This age is always hit or miss as far as how it goes, haha! They wildly get into and feed off of EVERYTHING. They have temper tantrums. They test you constantly. You can hold them more accountable, but the second you take eyes off of them they have completely given into their natural instincts to jump 3 fences over to visit the neighbor dog, bark their head off at birds that fly away, clobber the mail man in an attack of kisses (if your lucky) and don’t listen to you unless you are fully focused on them. Super fun right?!?!
This can also be a tricky age where we see SO many dogs start to develop behavioral issues that are more serious. A little bit of barking becomes full blown reactivity, even aggression by 1 year old. A timid dog as a puppy becomes very anti social and growly. Dogs that are more territorial type breeds start to play around with those instincts, often confused how to handle most situations because they need a lot of guidance and structure. If you feel you are drowning in these issues with a young dog…you are not alone.
1 year to 2 years old it can be much of the same as those things that were creeping up a few months earlier become an ingrained habit. You definitely need to seek some guidance if dealing with behavioral issues, but many don’t have to worry so much about that. They rode out a lot of the puppy storm and were lucky their pup is easing into some more adult like attitude of retaining more information, even if you aren’t so consistent. Many dogs just start to settle and mature more and more, while others will worsen if they are not worked with. I know Dakota, the german shepherd in the picture, she sure seemed to change overnight. She started to mature beautifully, while still maintaining a high tolerance for things around her like kids crowding around, playing with other rowdy dogs, dogs barking at her, etc. She was a champ through it all.
Enter the start of adulthood…more change. We have actually seen Dakota get a little less tolerant and we have had to adapt. She no longer has this puppy like happiness with every single thing and able to tolerate lots of stimulation with a smile on her face (metaphorically). She can get more annoyed if she’s been playing with dogs too long and they still want to play. She sometimes has had it with a lot of noise in busier areas and we have started to work with her more on this, though she never minded before, etc. She has become more independent, which has its negatives and positives. My point is just that your puppy is not a puppy for very long. Then, even when they are full grown around a year old they are likely to change more and more so you must continue to work them and have them around different settings and in different situations. You must be in it for the journey. Watching them change and adapting to it. It’s like your kids sometimes. They might drive you up a wall and you might even have some rough years, shed some tears, but it’s part of them growing up, you raising them and you wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world as you see them grow into adults. Take those first 21 years and condense them into 2-3 years and that is your puppy. For those unfortunately dealing with serious behavioral issues, have some consideration for what they are going through, because it is likely very different then your own experience with puppies.