Your puppy’s first year of life is full of milestones to celebrate. From completing their vaccinations to sleeping through the night, we round up everything to expect during your first 12 months with a young dog.
Your first year with a puppy is a time like no other. Each month brings exciting developments and new experiences – and a few challenges along the way! But what should you expect when? And how long does it take to train a puppy? Read our timeline to find out…
2 months: first night in their new home
A puppy will be ready to leave mum and come to live with you once they’re fully weaned at around eight weeks old. They may be super-cute, but your young pup will also be pretty demanding at first. They’ll need four small meals a day and, although they’ll sleep a lot, expect them to wake you at night for the first few weeks.
2–3 months: friends and familiarisation
Your puppy is at their most impressionable during their first 12 weeks. This is when they form attachments and start making sense of the world. Introduce your pup to everything important in your life during this time – family and friends, other animals and favourite places, but don’t let them meet other dogs until they’re fully vaccinated. Get your puppy used to the sights, sounds and smells of everyday life too, from vacuum cleaners and hairdryers, to different types of weather, to their first bath and ride in the car.
2–3 months: vaccine protection
A puppy needs two or three jabs, usually given at around 8 to 12 weeks. These combined vaccines protect your dog against devastating diseases including canine distemper, leptospirosis and canine parvovirus. The vet will also give your dog a nasal spray vaccine to prevent kennel cough.
3 months onwards: training time
Once fully vaccinated, your puppy can mix freely with other dogs. While it’s best to introduce simple commands like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ from day one with you, three months is the perfect time to start puppy training classes and teaching skills like walking to heel, fetching and dropping, and behaving appropriately around other dogs.
3-4 months: sleeping through
By 12 to 16 weeks, your puppy will probably be able to sleep for six to seven hours at night. If the early weeks of puppy ownership have left you bleary-eyed, try to have your longest stretch of sleep when your dog does.
4 months: professional grooming
Puppies whose hair grows continually – Poodles and Shih Tzus for example – will likely be ready for their first trip to the groomers at about four months.
Around 6 months: neutering
Neutering is a safe, routine operation that permanently prevents your puppy having babies. Getting your female dog spayed or your male dog castrated has numerous health benefits, can prevent straying and challenging behaviour, and means you won’t be adding to the crisis of dogs needing rehoming. Your vet, breeder or rescue centre can advise on the best age to have your breed of dog neutered and on aftercare too.
6–7 months: adult teeth
Puppies are adorable, but their habit of chewing everything is less appealing. So puppy-proof your home, teach your puppy not to bite, and provide dog chews and gnaw-able toys to direct your teething puppy away from chewing your footwear, furniture and fingers. Puppies’ baby teeth generally fall out at 14 to 16 weeks. By six to seven months they should have a full set of adult teeth and the biting behaviour should subside.
6–12+ months: adolescence
Sometime during their first year, your puppy's adolescent hormones will start to flow. It happens at five to six months for small breeds and closer to a year for bigger dogs. Just as in humans, adolescence can be a challenging time for canines. Your dog is likely to have endless energy but a short attention span. They’ll push at boundaries and sometimes disobey you or act aggressively. Males, whether neutered or not, may start scent-marking, and intact dogs will display sexualised behaviour. Teenage dogs get bored easily, so give them plenty of exercise, play and mental stimulation. Never punish your dog, but maintain firm boundaries, reward good behaviour, and be patient – adolescence doesn’t last forever.
8 months: bladder control
Young puppies have tiny bladders, so need to be taken out to go to the toilet every hour or two, even through the night. You want your puppy to achieve two toilet training milestones. The first is letting you know they need to go to the toilet, which they might do by pawing or barking at the door. The second is controlling their bladder through your entire night’s sleep. If you’re wondering 'how long does it take to house-train a puppy?’ Well, by eight months, many dogs can hold their bladder for around eight hours and also let you know when they need to go.
12 months: happy birthday!
By their first birthday, your puppy will be well on the way to adulthood. There’s huge variation between breeds, however. Toy dogs may be fully mature by six to seven months, while big breeds keep growing for 18 months or more. Once your dog has come through adolescence and stopped growing, you can start feeding them adult dog food.
Your dog’s first birthday is a cause for celebration. You’ve come through every stage of puppyhood together. Congratulations!
As your puppy approaches their first birthday, you can be proud they’ve hit all their milestones! If you’re having a party for your pup, we’d love to see a photo – use the tag #PethoodStories on social media.