There’s a lot more to puppies than soft fur and sweet breath!

1. Puppyhood ends at approximately four months of age. After that, your puppy is an adolescent dog. He still has a lot of growing to do but his babyhood is over. “Puppies” between the ages of 4-5 months have even been known to sire litters!

2. Puppies have a “critical period” between the ages of about 5-16 weeks. This is when they are learning about the world and making decisions about what is safe and what is not. After that “critical period” ends, many of their feelings and opinions will not change. That is why it’s very important to get puppies out to see the world and have lots of different, positive experiences during their “critical period”.

3. Every puppy is unique. The same as with human families, no two puppies in a litter are alike. Each one has its own personality. There might be a wallflower, a go-getter, a bully, a shy pup, a strict follower of rules, a wild child…all in one litter of puppies. Of course lots of differences aren’t as obvious as those examples. But when choosing a puppy, remember to take this into account. Get the input of whoever raised them so that you take home the individual pup that suits your family best.

4. Puppies can be trained to respond to cues such as “sit” and “down” from the time they arrive at your home, ideally between 8-12 weeks of age. They have baby-length attention spans, so they need very short training sessions, lots of repetition, loads of your patience, and kind, treat-based training.

5. You can expect a very young puppy to need to eliminate around fifteen (15) times a day. Yes, I said fifteen times.

6. Puppies generally learn to get along well with other household pets if they meet them during their early puppyhood (while they are in the “critical period”) and if the interactions are well-managed and friendly.

7. Puppies are not blank slates. Different types of puppies come with different basic instincts built in. Retriever-type puppies will usually chase balls from infancy. Tiny Pointer or Vizsla puppies will point at a bird wing. German shepherd-type puppies may be cautious around strangers and need extra friendly exposure during their “critical period”. Beagle puppies or mixes will be easily distracted when they smell something interesting. It’s well worth your while to research the type of puppy you are considering and be certain that its natural instincts are ones that you want.

8. Mother is the primary influence on her puppies. While she contributes 50% of their genes just like their father, she is their example of how a dog should behave. If she is shy, they are likely to be shy. If she is aggressive, they may well grow up to be aggressive. If she is calm and friendly with people who visit, her puppies see that and are likely to be the same. My #1 rule when I choose a puppy is, if I don’t love the mother, I don’t take home one of her puppies.

9. Puppy brains are fully developed at 8 weeks of age. But puppy bodies and attention spans take much longer to mature. That is why you can teach a very young puppy to sit or lie down on cue, but should not expect it to be house trained, ask it to hold that sit position for more than a few seconds, or take it on a hike until it is quite a bit older.

10. There is nothing sweeter than a warm, sleepy, fuzzy, cuddly puppy. But I bet you already knew that.

This post was originally written for Rockin’ Book Reviews. Read the post and the review of How to Find Your Dream Dog here:

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