There are few things more exciting as a dog parent than that first year with your puppy, when everything is new and your dog is growing and learning at an almost unstoppable pace.
From the day you bring your puppy home to the day they officially cross over into adult dog territory, each milestone you hit is a reminder of the joys of life with dogs and the exciting transitions that make all those late night potty breaks (and early morning potty mishaps) worth it.
The exact age your puppy hits each of their major milestones in the first year depends on a couple of key factors, but by the time they turn two, they should have all of them under their belt. So what are they? Here are nine puppy milestones you’ll have to look forward to.
1. “Gotcha” Day
Gotcha day—also known as adoption day—is one of the most important milestones for both your puppy and for you. Give them time to explore their new home, and provide plenty of toys and chews so they don’t look to things like your furniture and electrical cords for entertainment.
Be patient during these earliest days of your puppy checking out their new home. They won’t know what’s expected of them yet, and they may be a bit stressed out by being in an unfamiliar environment. With plenty of love and attention though it will start to feel like home in no time.
2. Meeting Their New Vet
Your new pup will need to meet their vet right away, since puppies need a lot of vaccinations in their first year. It’s also a good idea to have your puppy established with a vet as soon as possible in case you ever have any questions or mishaps.
Bring along any medical paperwork that was provided to you when you adopted your puppy. Dogs get their first vaccinations at seven weeks of age, so if your puppy is older than that they will already be good to go on their first set, with the next set to follow at 10 weeks (this puppy vaccination schedule can give you a good idea of what’s needed when).
3. The End of Potty Training
With consistent potty training your pup shouldn’t be having accidents in the house once they’re two to three months old.
To ensure you don’t have any setbacks, take your puppy out on a regular schedule, staying outside with them until they go potty and giving lots of praise and treats. If they have an accident, clean it up without talking or looking in their direction—that way, they won’t associate going to the bathroom in the house with getting your attention. And when they finally do ask to go outside, celebrate!
4. Starting to Interact With Other Dogs
The first 12 weeks of a puppy’s life are crucial when it comes to socialization, so it’s important that your dog gets a chance to meet with other dogs before they turn three months old. Start after week seven, since that’s when your puppy will have their first round of vaccinations.
Puppy classes are a good way to start, as are puppy play groups and bringing your puppy to meet the dogs of your friends and family members. Hold off on dog parks for now, until your puppy learns a bit more about dog manners.
5. Responding to Their Name
It takes a dog about four months to learn their own name. So that your puppy doesn’t get confused, only call them by their full name for these first several months and wait to try out all of their many nicknames until they've got the basics down.
6. Losing Their Baby Teeth
Yep, puppies lose baby teeth, too! Your pup’s milk teeth will start to fall out around month four, and they should have a new set of adult chompers by month seven. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find many milk teeth around the house, since most puppies just end up swallowing them.
Once your puppy’s adult teeth are in start getting them used to regular brushings, since the earlier you start the better.
Puppies can be spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks old, but between months six and nine is more common and preferred.
8. Training Class
Puppy class is mostly about socialization, but by the time your puppy is seven or eight months old, they should be ready for training class. There, they’ll learn crucial obedience skills like “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” Note that you can train at home too, but make sure that your puppy is still getting plenty of outside socialization with other dogs.
9. First Birthday
Here’s a milestone that’s definitely worth pawty-ing over! By your puppy's first birthday, they should have met all of the milestones on this list and be well on their way to being a loving and well behaved adult. Do be prepared though for what comes immediately after: your dog’s teenage years! There will be some acting out, but with patience you’ll get through it together.
So what now? The milestones your dog hits in their adult years vary. Maybe it’s their first trip to the beach, their first human sibling, or their first time running a 5k with you. Whatever the milestones are, celebrate both the big stuff and the little stuff, and be grateful for the time that you have together.