The Stages of Life of Your Dog
By Oak Park Animal Hospital
September 15, 2014
Category: Pet Care
Similar to people, dogs’ behaviors and health change through different stages of their lives. Puppies are demanding and energetic, while adolescents are often unpredictable.  Adult dogs are eager and self-assured, and by the time they’re seniors, they will have slowed to a comfortable lazy pace.  As with human relationships, ups and downs are guaranteed throughout your years together, but knowing what to expect will keep you one step ahead of the pack.  Your veterinarian in Oak Park gives a rough breakdown of the stages of canine life:
  • Puppyhood ends between six and 18 months of age
  • Adolescence starts between six and 18 months of age
  • Adulthood starts between 12 months and three years of age
  • The senior years begin between six and 10 years of age

All About Your Puppy

Puppies are unbelievably cute, and you can literally watch them grow.  Your puppy begins learning at birth, with research suggesting that they are most receptive to learning between eight and 16 weeks of age.  This is also an important time to begin their socialization in order to avoid creating fears. In many communities, socialization of puppies can be completed through classes that are available for pets as young as eight to nine weeks old.  Plan on beginning their training from the first minute you take charge, and use lots of praise to teach your puppy the behaviors you want it to learn.  
Your puppy will need a lot of attention—especially during the first few weeks you bring him or her home. According to your Oak Park veterinarian, you may need to take your puppy outside as frequently as once an hour plus immediately after feeding.  Typically they will learn to hold it and get down to about five to eight times a day after a few weeks.  Be sure you have lots of treats on hand form the start to reward and train new behaviors, but use other rewards as well, like positive comments, petting and cuddling.  


Adolescence is as physically and mentally challenging and confusing for dogs as it is for people.  Both male and female dogs go through hormonal changes that can be disturbing.  Dogs reach adolescence between six and 18 months, during which your dog will go through rapid growth spurts, which may cause some mild pain.  When permanent teeth come in, your dog will need chew toys to relieve the pressure on the jaw.  Be careful about any extreme activity, because growth plates are fragile and susceptible to injury.  During this period your dog’s baby coat falls off and the adult hair comes in.  If your adolescent dog exhibits destructive behavior, it is likely a sign of boredom or anxiousness.  Your Oak Park veterinarian recommends giving your adolescent dog more exercise to help counter all their physical changes, provide the mental stimulation they need and tire them for calmer times at home. 

Old Age

A dog’s senior years are golden, as they tend to be happy because they are settled into a familiar routine and become particularly affectionate during this time in their lives. Different breeds reach this phase in life at different times, but it is important for you to know when your dog reaches this advanced stage of life because of the changes needed to its diet, nutrition, exercise and health.  Your veterinarian in Oak Park can help you identify when your dog needs to make these adjustments. 
  • Some common problems dogs may develop as they age, include:
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Orthopedic problems in joints and bones
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Eye problems
  • Cancers
Bottom line:  Dogs age at different speeds, with large dogs generally maturing more slowly than small dogs.  However, timing aside, dogs all go through the same stages – puppyhood, adolescence, adulthood and senior years.  Talk to your veterinarian in Oak Park today for more information on your dog’s stages of life and how proper care can ensure more quality time with your pet.