Puppy Milestones: What to Expect During Your Puppy’s First Year

If you’re lucky enough to meet your new puppy shortly after birth, you may be astounded at how much development occurs in those first weeks of life. The newborn puppy you first meet and the puppy you take home at 8 weeks are very different! In this article, we’ll explore what to expect from your puppy during the first year of its life, by age of development and milestones, including:

  • Newborns: Mother dependent
  • Neonatal: Senses, growth, weaning
  • Pediatric: Teething, socialization, vet visits, house training
  • Juvenile: Training, spaying and neutering

Newborns: Dependent on mom

Dogs usually give birth to an average of 5 to 7 puppies per litter, depending on the breed.When born, puppies are 100% dependent on their mothers for food and warmth, and even need help urinating and defecating for the first three weeks of life.

Neonatal development: Up to 8 weeks


Puppies are born with their eyelids sealed and ear canals closed, rendering them virtually blind and deaf at birth. Sense of smell is not fully developed, but present at birth. By 10 to 14 days, eyes and ears open4 and puppies start responding to auditory and visual stimuli.

Puppy Growth

Puppy growth varies by breed and weight at birth, but in general, puppies gain about 10% of their body weight per day and are double their birth weight by the 10-day mark.5

Most puppies can stand without support by 2 to 4 weeks, but don’t start having normal ambulation until 6 weeks.

Puppy Weaning

Neonatal puppies nurse every 2 to 3 hours at birth, increasing the amount consumed and decreasing the frequency up until 3 to 4 weeks of age.Most puppies are ready to be weaned at this time, as their deciduous (“milk”) teeth are starting to erupt and their GI tract is developed enough to handle solid foods.

Related Article: Everything You Need to Know About Puppy Teeth

Pediatric Development: Up to 6 months

When Do Puppies Lose Their Baby Teeth?

Dogs have 28 deciduous teeth. They start to come in around 3 weeks of age and generally are fully erupted by 6 weeks. All those razor-sharp baby teeth are eventually replaced by 42 permanent adult teeth by 6 to 7 months of age.You’ll want to be sure to brush those pearly whites to help keep them healthy!

Retained baby teeth that don’t fall out appropriately or adult teeth that come in abnormally and cause a painful or incorrect bite are two common pediatric health problems that should be addressed by your veterinarian.

Dog Behavior: Socialization

Based on early behavioral development, puppies should be socialized early in the pediatric timeline. Hopefully, your breeder has already started this process, but it is critical to continue to expose puppies to all the things they need to be comfortable with in their new lives. This includes children, cats, people with hats, people with beards, bicycles, cars, loud noises, etc.

Allowing young puppies to have these experiences in a safe and controlled manner will help ensure they are not fearful of them as they age. The window for socialization is never completely closed but gets more challenging to achieve when a dog is full grown.

Veterinary visits with your puppy

This is the time most puppies see a veterinarian for the first time. Typically, the vaccination series in puppies starts between 6 and 8 weeks of age and visits should be repeated every month until 4 months of age.

These veterinary visits are a crucial time for your veterinarian to ensure your puppy is fully vaccinated against common puppy diseases and is growing and developing properly.

House training your puppy

Most puppies are learning to urinate and defecate outside by this time. Some puppies catch on very quickly and can be house-trained as early as 3 months, but it can take up to 6 months for some to be completely trustworthy.

House training will be MUCH more straightforward with a puppy that is kennel trained. Consider providing a small space for your puppy to rest and be comfortable in (never a punishment!). Dogs are clean creatures and don’t like to make a mess where they eat or sleep.

Reducing the space puppies have access to while potty training will help them to learn where is appropriate to urinate and defecate. Frequent trips outside and lots of praise when they get it right, as well as consistency, is the key to successful potty training.

Juvenile Development: up to a year

While there’s no arguing that puppies are absolutely adorable, after 6 months is when the fun really starts! Your dog is usually fully vaccinated at this point, mostly potty trained and eager to explore the world.

Puppy Training

This is a good time to really hone in on training and manners. A well-behaved dog will ALWAYS be a better house pet and companion. Consider enrolling in puppy classes to help increase accountability (for you, the owner!) and to give you access to helpful tips and training advice. Consistency and persistence are crucial to a well-behaved and well-trained dog.

Spaying and neutering

In the juvenile development period, many dogs, depending on breed, will start to reach sexual maturity as well. In general, smaller breed dogs reach this milestone sooner. A Chihuahua will be fully mature well before a year, while a Great Dane may still be growing and developing up to 18 months!

Sexual maturity does come with behavioral changes, and the majority of the time a spayed or neutered dog makes a better house pet. There are a variety of health implications that make discussing the timing of spaying and neutering with your veterinarian crucial.

From Pets Best

This is when your newly adolescent dog’s personality will really shine through! Time never flies as fast as it does in that first year of your dog’s life. Knowing what to expect and when to intervene will undoubtedly help you guide your puppy through its first year and on its way to a happy healthy adult life.

And having Pets Best Pet Insurance can help with those unexpected puppy vet bills!

1Fiszdon, K., & Kowalczyk, I. W. O. N. A. (2009). Litter size, puppy weight at birth and growth rates in different breeds of dogs. Ann Wars Univ Life Sci46, 161-8.

2Legendre, L. F. (1994). Dentistry on deciduous teeth: what, when, and how. The Canadian Veterinary Journal35(12), 793.

3Millburn, N. (2021, November 20). How long do newborn pups suckle? Dog Care – Daily Puppy. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://dogcare.dailypuppy.com/long-newborn-pups-suckle-2702.html

4Moxon, R., & England, G. (2012). Care of puppies during the neonatal period: Part 1 Care and artificial rearing. Veterinary Nursing Journal27(1), 10-13. Moxon, R., & England, G. (2012). Care of puppies during the neonatal period: Part 1 Care and artificial rearing. Veterinary Nursing Journal27(1), 10-13.

5Schrank, M., Mollo, A., Contiero, B., & Romagnoli, S. (2020). Bodyweight at birth and growth rate during the neonatal period in three canine breeds. Animals10(1), 8.

The information, opinions and recommendations expressed in the article are for informational purposes only. Information has been obtained from sources generally believed to be reliable. However, because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by our sources, or any other, Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including Pets Best, (collectively, “Synchrony”) does not provide any warranty as to the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of any information for its intended purpose or any results obtained from the use of such information. The data presented in the article was current as of the time of writing. Please consult with your individual advisors with respect to any information presented. ©; Synchrony

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