This guide to puppy development stages will show you what to expect from your puppy as he grows. We’ve included helpful growth charts and a detailed week by week guide.
Many people worry about whether their puppy is getting enough to eat, or the right kind of food.
They worry about whether he is growing at the right speed, whether he weighs too much, or too little.
People also want to know that their puppy is developing normally in every respect, and they love to record their puppy’s progress through various developmental milestones.
Normal puppy developmental stages
The information in this guide to your puppy’s developmental stages, will support you on your puppy’s journey to becoming an adult dog.
It will reassure you when his development is healthy and normal, and alert you to any problems if it is not.
There is a lot of information here so use the pink menu to jump to the bits that interest you. You’ll find helpful puppy growth charts and a week-by-week guide to puppy development as you scroll down.
Your puppy development questions
We’ll look at some FAQs first, addressing issues like how much your puppy should weigh, and what to do if he is too fat or too thin.
Then we’ll give you a fascinating week by week guide to your puppy’s growth and development.
Differences in puppy growth rates
People often write to me and say “I have a 3 month old (or 4 or 5 months) Cocker Spaniel (or Labrador, or Springer), how much should he weigh?”
As you have probably guessed, there isn’t an exact answer to a question of this nature.
However, we can and do give you some rough guides in the charts and graphs you’ll find in this article.
The most important thing, is to give you the tools to recognise when your own individual puppy is growing and thriving, and when things are not right.
Growth rates in different breeds of dog
The reason we can’t be more exact, is that dogs vary in their growth rates, as well as in the final size that they are likely to reach.
There are not just differences between breeds, there are differences between individuals of each breed, and even between littermates.
Development in dogs of different sizes
The most significant differences in growth rates and patterns though, is between dogs of different sizes.
We’ve divided the dogs into five groups
When will my puppy be a grown up?
It seems crazy doesn’t it. But one of the first things we think about when we bring a new puppy home, is when will he be grown up?
What divides an adult dog from a puppy? At what age does a puppy finally become an adult?
You want to know how much time you have left to enjoy this precious little creature.
And to know that your puppy is developing as he should.
Puppyhood disappears all too quickly.
But the question of when will a puppy be grown up, is not clear cut.
It also depends to some extent on your puppy’s breed.
There are actually three aspects to puppy development that all need to come together in order for him to be truly an adult dog.
- Physical maturity
- Sexual maturity
- Mental maturity
Your puppy needs to reach all three aspects of maturity before he is an adult dog.
When Do Puppies Stop Growing?
Physical maturity is reached at different ages, depending largely on the size of your dog. Little dogs stop growing much sooner than big dogs.
So the answer to the question at what age do dogs stop growing, varies from dog to dog.
The chart above will also give you an idea of what you might expect your puppy to weigh at different stages in his development.
Again, this is closely linked to the size of the breed he belongs to.
But if this is just a rough guide, how will you know for sure if your puppy is underweight or overweight, or just right?
And what exactly do I mean by Toy, Small, Medium, Large and Giant. Let’s look at the size categories first. I’ve picked examples of a well known breed in each category to give you an idea.
The example given here is based on the growth rate of a Toy Poodle.
Dogs of this kind of size and weight typically stop growing somewhere between 6 and 8 months of age, but the vast majority of their growth is complete by around six months of age.
Small and medium dogs
The example given of a small dog is based on a Miniature Schnauzer. The medium dog is an English Springer Spaniel.
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Bear in mind that Springers come in a wide range of sizes
From very small working bred dogs to the larger chunkier show type.
We’ve picked a moderately sized Springer for the purposes of this illustration.
Small to medium sized dogs tend to have completed their growth by around the end of the first year.
With close to their adult height reached by around nine months.
Again, this is not set in stone. Just a rough guide.
In this example the growth rate of the large dog is based on the growth rate of a moderate sized German Shepherd Dog.
Most larger breeds will finally complete their growth somewhere between 18 and 24 months, though they may be close to their adult height by their first birthday.
Our Giant Dog is a Great Dane. Some giant breeds reach even greater weights than this and grow for even longer.
Some giant breeds will continue growing for up to three years.
Again, these are general guidelines. For more information on your specific breed, visit our breed review page. But the general rule is this: the larger the dog, the longer he grows for.
Breed size is not the only factor influencing growth. Gender has a role to play too.
Differences between male and female puppies
Our graphs and charts show an average dog. Male dogs are usually a little heavier and larger than female dogs of the same age and breed.
So females may be lighter than our chart suggests, and males may be heavier.
These differences can be quite substantial in adult dogs from the larger breeds, but are less noticeable in smaller breeds and in very young puppies.
Piling on the pounds?
Remember also that some dogs will carry on growing for a little longer than the guidelines above.
But if a dog is still piling on the pounds long past the point where other dogs of his size has stopped growing, you need to ask yourself some questions, such as “am I overfeeding my dog” and maybe get him a check up with your vet.
While gender may affect your dog’s final size, there is nothing you can do about it.
- General health
How neutering affects growth
Neutering affects the final size of your dog because your dog’s sex hormones are involved in telling your dog’s body to ‘stop growing’.
A dog neutered before he stops growing, may carry on growing for longer because he lacks the sex hormones to switch off that growth. So a neutered dog may end up taller than his entire brothers or sisters.
This continuation of growth is not to the dog’s advantage and may predispose the dog to joint problems. Several quite large recent studies have shown that neutered dogs are more likely to suffer from cruciate ligament tears and from hip dysplasia.
You can find out more about this in my articles on neutering.
Many experts believe that neutering may also impact on your dog’s appetite, though not everyone agrees on this.
I found my own male dog required less food after neutering, but that my female dogs did not seem to be affected. But I have only neutered a few of my dogs so it isn’t a good sample.
Feeding and growth
Despite the fact that the impact of neutering is not relevant if you adjust your dog’s food intake accordingly, many people really struggle with this.
Which brings us to the role of diet in your puppy’s growth and development.
Not many puppies are underfed these days, but it does happen. More often, puppies are malnourished because people are feeding them inappropriately, rather than simply not feeding them enough.
Sometimes this is a cultural thing. For example, in some societies people eating vegetarian diets for religious reasons are reluctant to feed their dogs any form of meat.
This can lead to puppies being fed an inappropriate diet of vegetables and grains. Poor growth and other health problems are likely if puppies are not fed a balanced diet suitable for a carnivore. Check out the information here in order to find out how to feed your puppy a healthy balanced diet.
We tend to think of malnutrition as being feeding the wrong things or starving a puppy, but overfeeding is a form of malnutrition too.
Speeding up your puppy’s growth rate
Sometimes people ask me if it is possible to speed up their puppy’s growth rate or make him grow bigger.
The answer is yes, it is, but it is not necessarily a good thing.
An underfed puppy may benefit from overfeeding for a while, though this needs to be done with care if you want to avoid digestive problems.
But a healthy puppy that is fed more than he needs will simply get fat.
Overfeeding of both puppies and adult dogs is very common, and obesity is a significant and growing problem in dogs all over the world.
The end result of overfeeding a small puppy is not just one of obesity – overfeeding can actually speed up the puppy’s growth rate and this in turn can be harmful to his joints.
Ad libitum feeding
Many people think that if a puppy is allowed constant access to food, he will eat what he needs and no more.
Based on this idea, for a time, it was popular for breeders to ‘hopper’ feed puppies. This is called Ad libitum feeding.
A study carried out on 48 Labrador Retrievers compared dogs fed ad libitum, with puppies that were fed on a more restricted diet. They found a significantly greater incidence of joint problems in the ad libitum fed puppies.
So what should MY puppy weigh exactly?
We’ve looked at some charts which give you rough guides to weight at different ages, for dogs of different sizes. And we’ve noted that male dogs will be a bit heavier than average, and females will be a bit lighter.
But if these are rough guides, how are you supposed to know exactly what your puppy should weigh?
Well, the truth is no-one can give you an exact weight for your puppy. Remember how even puppies from the same litter can vary?
How to tell if your puppy is too thin or too fat
Because actual bodyweight is not a reliable guide to whether or not a puppy is too thin or too fat, you need another way of estimating whether or not your puppy is growing as he should.
And the correct way to do this is with your hands and eyes. To help you, we’ve given you a handy puppy weight guide checklist. It’s very simple.
Healthy weight puppy guide
1 No visible ribs
When you look at a puppy under six months old, you should not be able to see his ribs.
Some of the racing breeds may have visible ribs as they mature but this will normally be just the last two or three ribs, no more.
2 Ribs can be felt
When you run your hands down your puppy’s sides and press gently you should be able to feel his ribs.
They should be covered with a thin layer of fat, but you should still be able to feel that they are there. If you cannot feel your puppy’s ribs at all, he may be too plump.
3 Puppy has a waist
Look down at your puppy from above. His sides should go in at his ‘waist’ just before his hips and rump.
4 Puppy has a tuck
Look at your puppy from the side. His tummy should slope gently up so that it it highest just before it disappears between his back legs.
If you can see ribs in a young puppy, feel the knobbles on his spin, or see his hips, he is too thin. If he is being fed a balance diet, you can increase his daily ration.
Adding in an extra meal, rather than making his existing meals bigger, is always a good idea.
If you are not sure what a balanced diet is, check out our feeding section. Very thin puppies should always see a vet, in case there is a physical problem.
Overweight puppies should have their daily ration reduced. Puppies that are getting fat need their food measured accurately, and a small amount deducted from the normal ration for a few days.
Don’t forget your puppy is growing, so provided you don’t increase his rations until his weight is under control, he will soon slim down.
We’ve looked at some of the more obvious physical aspects of your puppy’s growth and development, but what is going on behind the scenes?
Let’s take a look now at sexual maturity.
Sexual maturity – when will my puppy be able to breed
Most puppies reach sexual maturity before they are fully grown, especially with larger breeds. So it is quite possible for your puppy to breed while he or she is still very much a puppy.
Obviously this is not a good thing.
A female puppy will come into season for the first time, any time in the second half of her first year. Somewhere between six and nine month is common, but it is not unusual for the first heat to appear after the first birthday.
What this means is that your female dog will be able to mate and have puppies at some point after she is six months old. Breeding at such a young age could harm your puppy so you need to make sure this cannot happen.
Many male dogs will also start showing an interest in females in the second half of that first year, and once they are interested, you can assume they can breed. And again, it is your responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen.
There are various ways to achieve birth control in dogs, and we’ll look at this in more detail in our section on neutering.
Mental maturity- when will my puppy calm down!
While a puppy may be sexually mature at 8 or 9 months old, and physically mature a few months later, he will still be a puppy for a while longer.
This is because his brain needs to grow up too!
Puppyish behaviour, including ‘silliness’ and ‘excitability’ can persist well into the second year, and many dogs are not fully mentally mature before they are two.
So the second birthday is a major milestone in this respect, and the point at which you can consider your puppy to be a fully grown up dog.
Be careful not to confuse puppyish behaviour with lack of training though. Even quite young puppies can be trained to behave nicely.
PUPPY DEVELOPMENT STAGES WEEK BY WEEK
This is your window into the world of puppy growth and development. We begin on the day your puppy is born.
Your puppy is born fully furred but with his eyes and ears closed so he cannot hear or see. His front feet are strong and he can pull himself towards his mother with them.
He can cry if he is uncomfortable and his mother will respond to his cries by moving him towards her and licking him.
Your puppy spends most of his time sleeping or suckling. If orphaned he’ll need feeding by hand every two hours!
He cannot regulate his own body temperature and needs his mother for heat, or an artificial heat source.
If he is going to be docked, this procedure will take place in the first two to three days. In the first week to ten days of his life your puppy grows rapidly and will double his birth weight.
During this week, your puppy’s eyes will start to open. He probably can’t see very much yet. His forelegs are getting much stronger. He’ll continue to grow rapidly, adding 5-10% of his body weight.
The puppies’ mother is constantly attentive, only leaving her babies to eat or for toilet purposes.
She licks the puppies bottoms to stimulate a bowel or bladder movement and eats the result. There is no cleaning up to do yet.
The breeder will begin to handle the puppies more though, and get them used to human contact. She will worm the puppies for the first time at the end of this week.
During this week a lot happens. Puppies begin to get their personalities.
Your puppy can stand and sit up by the end of the week. Tails can be wagged, ears will be completely open and puppies start play growling and interacting with their littermates.
Your puppy can regulate his body temperature more effectively and will start to cut his first teeth in preparation for weaning.
The front teeth, canines and incisors are cut first. Toward the end of the week he may have his first tiny taste of puppy food.
This is the week that puppies become really active and strong on their legs, and play actively with one another. They also start to move away from the sleeping area to empty their bowels and bladder. They may try to climb out of the whelping box.
The puppies’ mother will start to spend more time relaxing away from the puppies. She will gradually stop cleaning up after the pups, that is now the breeder’s problem!
If she lives indoors, she may rejoin the family for more of each day.
Your puppy will cut his back teeth and the breeder will get weaning underway this week and by the end of it, your puppy will be getting quite a bit of his nourishment from puppy food. She will also worm the puppies a second time.
If the mother is allowed near the puppies after she has been fed, she may regurgitate her dinner for them. This is completely natural and normal.
Your puppy can now really run and play. He is a proper little dog. Rolling around with his brothers and sisters and playing with toys.
He can bark too and some puppies can be quite noisy at this age! He chases after his mother whenever she appears and suckles hungrily, but she is starting to get fed up with it, and may be reluctant to feed her brood for very long.
His mother is teaching him not to bite too hard. And his breeder is introducing him to lots of new experiences so that he won’t be afraid of them later.
If he lives in outdoor kennels he should spend part of each day indoors with the family.
By the end of this week most puppies are fully weaned, and eating five or six little meals of puppy food each day.
Your puppy may still suckle from his mother, but he doesn’t need to.
From now on, a small breed puppy may gain around 5 ounces a week in weight, whereas a large breed puppy puts on a massive 21/2lbs.
Some puppies go to their new homes towards the end of this week – many puppies show the beginnings of fearfulness at this point and will startle or jump at strange sounds an sights.
Socialisation must begin in earnest. Your puppy’s mother continues to teach him bite inhibition when she visits him to play.
This is normally the week when your puppy leaves his first home and joins his forever family.
From eight to twelve weeks is a very important period for puppies. It is the time during which they become fearful of anything unfamiliar and need to be thoroughly socialised.
It is also the time during which most puppies get to grips with housetraining, learning to wait before eliminating and start sleeping through the night without a potty break.
It is a busy time for new puppy owners. Your puppy will have his vaccinations during this month.
Biting can be a big problem during this stage and you need to be patient and consistent in order to teach the puppy not to hurt people when he plays.
Provided you use force free methods, this is a great time to get puppy training under way, and especially to teach a puppy recall, and to get your puppy used to working with food. You’ll be feeding him four times a day, and/or using much of his food in training
Handle your puppy all over, every day. If he is a long coated breed he will need regular grooming and although he won’t have much coat yet, now is the time to begin.
Most puppies can drop down to three meals a day at twelve weeks old. This means slightly larger meals, so watch your puppy doesn’t get an upset tummy.
And at twelve weeks, if you take a small breed puppy’s weight in pounds, divide it by his age in weeks, and then multiply by the number of weeks in the year, you will have a rough idea what your puppy’s final weight as an adult will be.
So, for a 2.5lb puppy at twelve weeks the formula will be (2.5/12) X 52
Calculate the bit inside the brackets first. You can do the same calculation for medium pups at sixteen weeks and large breed pups at 20 weeks – just divide his weight by his age in weeks before you multiply by 52.
From twelve to sixteen weeks puppies start to lose that very young puppy ‘look’ and more closely resemble a miniature version of their adult selves. Medium to large pups will reach about half their adult height by the end of the month.
If the weather is warm you can get your puppy swimming now.
Most dogs swim instinctively, but don’t allow brachycephalic puppies to swim unsupervised – some are not able to swim at all.
You’ll enjoy training your puppy now as he is getting more attentive and can concentrate for longer. He should be able to come when he is called, in and around your home, provided there are not too many distractions.
He’ll probably understand sit, touch your hand on cue, and perhaps be able to sit in his basket for a few seconds when asked. It all depends on what you have taught him.
Your puppy will start losing his baby teeth from around four months of age. He’ll probably have a more adult coat by the end of this month.
He may still be chewing a lot and biting too. Use frozen kongs to help him and give your furniture and fingers a break.
Puppies can go for short walks now. By the end of this month your puppy could have a twenty minute walk each day. He may also enjoy fetching a ball and playing with other dogs, but take care to stop before he gets very tired. And don’t walk brachycephalic puppies very far, or in warm weather.
This is the month during which some puppies start to become less dependent on their humans for security. Keep your puppy close to you outdoors by changing direction frequently so that you puppy has to keep coming to find you. And engaging him in games.
Reward your puppy generously for ‘checking in’ with you on walks. The foundations of a great recall are often build or spoilt during this month.
If your puppy knows how to sit or lie down at home, start some simple proofing exercises with him in public places. And start teaching him to ‘stay’ for short periods of time
A healthy puppy can usually manage on two meals a day from around six months. During this month a Retriever, Spaniel or GSD puppy will reach around two thirds of his adult weight.
A Great Dane and other large breeds will have reached about half their final weight and little dogs will have almost completed their growth.
Some female dogs will come on heat for the first time during this month, or the next, so keep an eye open now for swelling of her vulva and any discharge.
Your dog will become increasingly confident over the next few months so practice, practice and practice that recall! Make it a habit he cannot break. And be generous with your rewards.
By the end of this month, your puppy will have all 42 of his adult teeth and be looking quite grown up. Small breed pups may now be more or less mature.
Your puppy will enjoy half hour off lead walks now, and should be able to walk on a loose lead for short periods with plenty of encouragement and rewards.
Keep practicing that recall! Teach your dog to recall away from all kinds of interesting things such as ‘other people’, other dogs, frisbees, etc.
Unless you have had your puppy neutered he now has plenty of sex hormones zooming around his system.
These help to slow his growth further and to build his confidence.
Make sure you practice good outdoor management on walks to maintain the good recall you have built and work hard on thoroughly proofing all his obedience skills.
Nine months and beyond
Many female dogs will be neutered once they have completed their first season. Read our information on neutering before you take this important step, for dogs of either sex.
Once your dog is a year old he can participate in more strenuous activities and sports.
Now is the time to think about the kinds of activities you would like to do with him – go jogging together for example – and if necessary, to start to get him fit.
There is huge variation in the way in which dogs develop and mature. The ages and stages outlined above are a rough guide.
We hope you enjoyed them and found the information interesting.
When it comes to training, you get out what you put in. Your progress depends as much if not more on you rather than your puppy.
If you train your puppy five times a day, six days a week he will learn many, many times faster than a puppy that is trained once a day at the weekend.
Enjoy watching your puppy grow and develop. Puppyhood doesn’t last very long in the grand scheme of things, so make the most of it. And have fun!
If you enjoy Pippa’s articles, you’ll love The Happy Puppy Handbook.
Packed with helpful information and advice
It contains everything you need to raise a happy, healthy puppy
- Body-Weight Changes during Growth in Puppies of Different Breeds by Hawthorne et al