There are few things more exciting as a dog parent than that first year with your puppy, when everything is new and your puppy is growing and learning at an almost unstoppable pace.
From the day you bring your puppy home to the day it officially crosses over into adult dog territory, each milestone you hit is a reminder of the joys of life with dogs and the exciting transitions that make all those late night potty breaks (and early morning potty mishaps) worth it.
The exact age your puppy hits each of his major milestones in the first year depends on a couple of key factors, but by the time he turns about two to three, he should have all of them under his belt. So what are these milestones? Here are nine puppy milestones you’ll have to look forward to.
1. “Gotcha” Day
Gotcha day—also known as adoption day—is one of the most important milestones for both your puppy and for you. Give his time to explore his new home, and provide plenty of toys and chews so he doesn’t look to things like your furniture, shoes, and electrical cords for entertainment.
Be patient during these earliest days of your puppy checking out his new home. He won’t know what’s expected of him yet, and may be a bit stressed by being in an unfamiliar environment. However, with plenty of love and attention, it will start to feel like home in no time.
2. Meeting the Vet
Your new pup will need to meet his vet soon, since puppies need a lot of vaccinations in their first year. It’s also a good idea to have your puppy established with a vet as soon as possible in case you ever have any questions or mishaps.
Bring along any medical paperwork that was provided to you when you adopted your puppy. Dogs get their first vaccinations at roughly eight weeks of age but will need boosters within the next several weeks. The next booster typically is administered at around 12 weeks of age, and the third and final set at 16 weeks (this puppy vaccination schedule can give you a good idea of what’s needed when).
3. The End of House Training
With consistent house training your pup shouldn’t be having accidents in the house once they’re two to three months old.
To ensure you don’t have any setbacks, take your puppy out on a regular schedule, staying outside with him until he goes potty and giving lots of praise and treats. If he has an accident in the house, clean it up without talking or looking in their direction—that way, he won’t associate going to the bathroom in the house with getting your attention. And when he finally does ask to go outside, celebrate!
4. Starting to Interact With Other Dogs
The first 12 weeks of a puppy’s life are crucial when it comes to socialization, so it’s important that your puppy gets a chance to meet other dogs before he turns three months old. Start after week seven, since that’s when your puppy will have his first round of vaccinations.
Puppy classes are a good way to start, as are puppy play groups and bringing your puppy to meet the dogs of your friends and family members. Hold off on dog parks for now, until your puppy learns a bit more about dog manners.
5. Responding to His Name
It can take a few weeks for a puppy to learn his own name, depending on how consistently it's used and what sort of training techniques are used. So that your puppy doesn’t get confused, only call him by his full name for these first several months and wait to try out all of his many nicknames until he's got the basics down.
6. Losing His Baby Teeth
Yep, puppies lose baby teeth, too! Your pup’s baby teeth (sometimes also called milk teeth) will start to fall out around month four, and they should have a new set of adult chompers by month seven. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find any puppy teeth around the house, since most puppies just end up swallowing them; they are very tiny!
Once your puppy’s adult teeth are in, start getting him used to regular brushings, since the earlier you acclimate your pup to the feel of a toothbrush, the better.
Puppies can be spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks old, but between months six and nine is more common and preferred to allow for adequate skeletal growth and maturity, especially in larger dog breeds.
8. Training Classes
Puppy class is mostly about socialization, but by the time your puppy is seven or eight months old, he should be ready for training class. There, he’ll learn crucial obedience skills like “sit,” “stay,” leave it, heel, and “come.” Note that you can train at home too, but make sure that your puppy is still getting plenty of outside socialization with other dogs.
9. First Birthday
Here’s a milestone that’s definitely worth pawty-ing over! By your puppy's first birthday, he should have met all of the milestones on this list and be well on his way to being a loving and well behaved adult. Do be prepared though for what comes immediately after: your dog’s teenage years! There will be some acting out, but with patience you’ll get through it together.
So what now? The milestones your dog hits in his adult years vary. Maybe it’s his first trip to the beach, his first human sibling, or his first time running a 5k with you. Whatever the milestones are, celebrate both the big stuff and the little stuff, and be grateful for the time that you have together.