“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” -Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
We train puppies too! The LCDT works for all dogs, including young puppy dogs we simply spread out our sessions while your pup is developing so they have a chance to grow into what we are teaching them. Puppies are like babies until they start processing emotions at 6 months of age, so we take our time working with them to ensure they understand what we are teaching them while we work through fear periods and all the other issues that arise with our new four legged family members. Every dog is created uniquely by God, but He did give them all certain traits, and gave us the wisdom and knowledge to help steward them, so I am accessible to you by phone or email should issues arise that you have questions about.
The Bible says if we raise children in the way they should go, they will not depart from those ways and the same goes for puppies. It may seem like puppies leap from early puppyhood to doggy adolescence in the blink of an eye, but if you pay close attention, you may notice that growing doesn’t happen all at once. Regardless of breed, all puppies go through several developmental stages starting from their first days on earth up to maturity, when they reach their full size potential. Consider though that these stages aren’t exclusively dictated by physical changes but also mental ones too. Behavior professionals often refer to some of these stages as “critical” because of their lasting effect on the puppy’s future behavior. Learning more about these stages paves the path towards a better understanding of your puppy and gives you an important head start on what to expect in the weeks and months to come.
Stage 1:The Neonatal Stage 0 to 2 weeks
As the name implies, this is the very first stage of puppyhood and begins from the day the puppies are delivered as gifts from God. We are to be stewards of these small creatures. Born blind, deaf, without teeth and unable to regulate their temperature, puppies are quite vulnerable creatures the first days after birth. Thank God He created mother dogs to be protective of her litter and to take good care of them. She warms up the puppies, feeds them, cleans them and elicits them to eliminate by licking their bottoms. Puppies at this stage do a whole lot of sleeping, they’re estimated to sleep about 90 percent of the time and they twitch a lot during sleep. The remaining 10 percent is spent feeding. Their immune systems are boosted by the ingestion of their mom’s first milk, a gold fluid known as colostrum, which is very rich in antibodies. This immunity will protect them from disease during their first weeks of life. Despite being blind and deaf, puppies at stage are capable of using their sense of smell well enough to detect their mother so they can crawl their way to nurse.
Stage 2: The Transitional Stage 2 to 4 weeks
At this stage, puppies become explorers as the world unveils before their eyes like we are as baby Christians learning to walk with Jesus, crawling and falling on our faces over and over again. Indeed, during this time, the puppies’ eyes open and their sense of hearing develops. Since puppies can now see their mother and litter mates, they start to learn how to live in the world with other dogs and humans. During this time, puppies also gain more strength in their legs and they are capable of standing. As they stumble around, play behavior starts to bloom and puppies learn to communicate through new vocalizations. While during the neonatal stage puppies were totally dependent on their mother, in the transitional stage they start gaining a bit of independence. They start to eliminate on their own and their very first teeth erupt. It’s not unusual to see some puppies already interested in the mother dog’s food bowl and some may even take a sample or two.
Stage 3: The Socialization Stage 4 to 12 weeks
At week four, the critical window of socialization starts opening, like when we are exposed to the things of this world and the church on a larger level and the body of Christ as a whole. During this time, the puppy should start to be exposed to many positive experiences that will have a lasting effect on the puppies’ future behaviors. Now that the puppies are capable of walking around more, they’ll continue to play, and through play with their siblings, they’ll learn valuable lessons about bite inhibition. When a puppy is too rough, his playmate squeals to tell the puppy to be more gentle with his teeth. Around 4 weeks, the mother dog will start producing less milk. With the development of sharp teeth, nursing becomes painful for mother dogs and her reluctance to feed her pups kick-starts the weaning process. The puppies can now start sampling new food sources. Once the puppies are 10 weeks, they should be fully weaned and ready to go to their new homes. However, certain small breeds of dogs are better off staying with mom and siblings for up to 12 weeks.
Stage 4: First Fear Period 8 to 11 weeks
When puppies are taken from their families, it may feel similar to how we become adopted by God as a son or daughter into the body of Christ but our families may not be, which can induce fear in some people. The fear period slightly overlaps with the socialization stage when puppies are sent to their new homes, around the age of 10-12 weeks, they’ll go through their first fear period, taking place between 8 and 11 weeks. During this time, the pups can become fearful and shouldn’t be exposed to scary events such as being shipped across the world or undergoing elective surgeries. With gentle exposure, taking care in not over stimulating them, puppies can be continued to be successfully socialized. Avoid frequented areas though that are highly frequented by stray or unvaccinated dogs as your pup at this age is vulnerable to potentially fatal infectious disease. This is a good time to start puppy classes or private sessions with a reputable dog trainer.
Stage 5: Seniority Classification Stage 12 to 16 weeks
When we hit pre-adolescent stages walking with Jesus we may think we have things figured out, only to test boundaries and find out we will never have things all figured out, only God does which is why we need Him to guide us daily. This is a pre-adolescent stage where the puppy may engage in testing behaviors to ascertain what he may and may not get away with. Puppy nipping and mouthing behaviors are very common during this time and you must provide clear, consistent rules about what is allowed and what is not. Puppies at this stage need a structured environment but must be treated with kindness. Nipping behaviors should be immediately corrected and directed to appropriate toys. Handling exercises will help the puppy learn to enjoy touch for those future vet and grooming visits. Praising and rewarding appropriate responses will help shape a positive attitude.
Stage 6: Flight Instinct Period: 4 to 8 Months
God sets rules and boundaries for us because He loves us not because He is mad at us. He wants us to stay in relationship with Him, despite all of the things of this world that try to pull us away from Him. During this time, puppies start testing their wings to “take flight” as they become more independent and may wander to sniff around totally oblivious to your requests to come back to you. This is a good time to polish the recall command by making coming to you extra appealing. Always keep your puppy on a leash or long line when you are not in a confined area. During this time, you may notice as well an increase in chewing behaviors. Make sure to have several durable chew toys on hand. This is why it’s important to control space and resources for your puppy during this time, so they look to you for these things, just as we should be looking to God as well.
Stage 7: Adolescent Stage: 6 to 18 months
We will face many challenges in life, and there are times when we challenge God and His ways thinking our ways are better, only to be crushed and find out that His ways are always better than ours. As the name implies, you can expect more testing behaviors from your adolescent dog during this stage. This stage may be considerably shorter in smaller breed dogs and considerably longer in the larger ones. When dogs reach this stage, they’re usually reaching sexual maturity and urine marking begins in intact males. Female dogs may go into estrus and male dogs may start roaming in search of a mate. Some dogs at this stage may also start being less friendly to other dogs and the first squabbles may erupt in the dog park. Don’t get discouraged by all these changes. This is a good time to enroll your big puppy in obedience training to keep him active and stimulated. After the adolescent stage, your dog will have reached social maturity and will become an adult generally between 12 mos and up to 3 yrs of age.
Stage 8: Second Fear Period 6 to 14 months
Again throughout our life we will face challenges, setbacks and struggles. Jesus said in this life we will have trouble, but do NOT FEAR because He has overcome the world! This fear period for our puppies coincides from the beginning to middle of the adolescent stage and usually has a bigger impact than the first fear period. Dogs by now can be quite large and their fearful behaviors may appear more worrisome. Affected dogs may be reluctant to approach novel stimuli or they may show concern towards familiar ones. These dogs can be helped by not forcing them to face their fears at least until they’re ready to, God doesn’t force us but He requires that we trust Him to guide us through our struggles. Same goes for our puppies, that desensitization to scary situations along with counter-conditioning will help.
Even though all dogs go through developmental stages, it’s important to note that developmental stages tend to slightly vary from one puppy to another and not all will exhibit the behavior changes listed above. As with people, dogs are individuals and just like God has an individual relationship with each of His children, this is the same we should be having with our dogs! Stay on track with your training and you will have a long happy life with your dog, raise them up in the way they should go and they will not depart from this!
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