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First I will tell you the stages of a dog and then we will discuss all of it with goods and bads so you can decide if you will adopt a puppy, an adult or a senior dog.
Stage 1: Neonatal - 0-2 weeks
Stage 2: Transitional - 2-4 weeks
Stage 3: Social - 3-12 weeks
Stage 4: Hierarchical - 3-6 months
Stage 5: Teenage - 6-18 months
Stage 6: Adult - 2-3 years
Stage 7: Senior - 5-10 years
Stage 1: Neonatal
Neonatal stage start when the dog is born and ends when he is only 2 weeks old. At this level aren't any social habits, he does things by reflex without understanding why he does that and the real meaning of any gesture.
Stage 2: Transitional
This stage start when the neonatal stage ends and least until 4 weeks. Here the dog start moving (walking) to explore the environment or to search for his mother, also he start barking and crying. At the transitional stage the dog start his social habits. Now we can see physical changes too like: the teeth start to grow, the eyes are opening, he start hearing, the mobility increases and much more.
Stage 3: Social
This stage is between 3 to 12 weeks, depending on each dog. The transitional stage may end in just 1 week so the social stage can start at 3 weeks old. Here a lot of things will happen. This is also called "the childhood stage" when the dog learns to interact with other animals and humans, they use all their senses, start eating and biting objects and show fear and other feelings, reactions start to develop and they will explore larger territories. This is the stage when the dog develop good habits, but also here he can start behavioral issues.
From this stage up to adult, the dog can have childhood diseases like parvovirus, so you have to pay attention at his health. If is parvovirus you have only 24 hours that make the difference between life and death.
Symptoms that match parvovirus:
Stage 4: Hierarchical
This stage start at 3 months and it least up to 6 months. Here the dog is still in his childhood period that started on stage 3, also it appears the dominant or dominated status, the teeth are changing so he will chew almost everything, he experience a new level of fear, also at this age may appear the first sexual manifestations.
At the age of 6 months the dog can be trained if he develop bad behaviour, but you should understand his needs and his growing process.
Stage 5: Teenage
Your dog is now a teenager from 6 to 18 months. Here appears the sexual instinct, experience dominance, even against owner, the second phase of chewing, beginning his sexual habits, stabilizing his character and temperament. Expect your teenage dog to be like a teenage human, wild, crazy, playful, energetic, experiencing new things.
Stage 6: Adult
The childhood period is very important in socialization and getting used to things, if is done correctly, you can have the guarantee that you will have a well educated adult dog. If the socialization part is skipped or done wrong you can have an adult dog that may be anxious, scared and aggressive on unknown situations.
Puppies that don't spend enough time with their brothers won't know how to play, how much to bite during a play, how to react when they see other dogs, they might become aggressive when eating and they can attack. The psychic maturation can take 2 years or even 3 years on some dogs when is supposed to be fully social mature.
There are 2 stages of maturity on dogs that shouldn't be mistaken:
Stage 7: Senior
This might be the hardest stage of a dog's life when almost everything reverses. To understand what is going on with your senior dog just think at an old man and you will understand most of the changes. In the last stage we can see a regres of the psychical behaviour and also an alteration on particular behaviours.
This stage starts at 5-10 years, depending on dog's size and breed. Usually big dogs get old faster than small dogs.
Here is an example:
Senior dogs start losing mobility, hearing, visibility, teeth, he can develop allergies, sleep more, snore, the immune system decrease so he catches colds and different diseases easily, he can develop heart, liver, respiratory or kidney failure, he might paralyze and need life treatment and special care. But you shouldn't get scared by having an old dog, he might be 20 years old and still independent and in good health conditions.
As I said at the beginning of this stage, to understand your dog think at him as an old man.
Every stage need patience and understanding and don't compare a dog with another. Every dog is an individual and is unique.
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