What We Do

The Life Cycle of Dogs

A dog must be taken care of for the entirety of its life; therefore you need to know the following information:

  • The main stages of the life cycles of the dog from an embryo to old age.
  • The welfare needs of the dog at different stages of his life.

You must understand:

  • Like human beings, dogs demonstrate distinct behaviour and have different physical features during different ages.
  • There are some similarities and some differences between the life cycles of dogs and human beings.
  • The difference in the growth rate, development and ageing process between dogs and humans.
  • The responsibilities of the pet owner.
  • Take a look at the development stages of the dog from birth to old age. 
  • Look up the following words in your dictionary and find out what they mean:

Ageing.  Birth.  Bitch.  Neutering. Spaying. Puberty. Vaccinations. Worms. Responsibility.

Additional Information:

Pregnancy: You should pay attention to the bitch’s diet and provide her with a quiet place to have her puppies.  Dogs are continuously fertile and bitches have up to three seasons per year. Litter sizes vary from one or two to as many as twelve puppies but this is dependent on the breed of the dogs.  Pregnancy lasts for approximately 63 days.

Birth: You must be prepared to call a vet and check each puppy after they have been born. New born puppies are helpless at birth.  Although they are born with a sense of touch, taste and smell, they are blind and deaf.  They have no ability to thermo regulate and movements are limited to a very slow crawl. Puppies will vocalize in order to solicit care behaviour in their mother from birth and will be totally reliant upon suckling for their nutrition.

Four Week Old Puppy: Have puppies checked by a vet and treated for worms.  You must check the puppies are safe as they begin to explore at this stage. Their senses are developing and they learn about a wide range of experiences that will serve them well as they develop into a well adjusted adult dog.  They need to socialise as it is vital they interact appropriately with other dogs, species and human beings.  

Around this time the puppies will start to show facial expressions such as lip and ear movements and they can begin to learn what different signals mean.  Further social signaling, such as tail wagging and paw raising will follow in the next week or two.  Puppies also learn about other species of animals during this time – this is seen with dogs who will work with and guard livestock etc.,

Six Weeks: Puppies start to explore their environment by running, climbing and chewing everything in their path.  They play, sometimes boisterously and can yelp quite a lot if bitten by a sibling but this only goes to teach them to inhibit the intensity with which they, themselves bite.  This is important as they are less likely to cause an injury if they accidentally bite a human.

Eight Week Old Puppy: You must have the puppies vaccinated and start basic training and socialising.  At this stage you should also discuss with your vet, having your puppy neutered/spayed at around 6 months. Plans can be made at this stage for puppies to go to their new homes; if this is a possibility – they should not be re-homed for at least another two weeks – however, you should be putting some thought into this process now. The puppies will also begin to develop a preference for a location to go a pee and poo.

One year old: The juvenile phase. You must make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and eats a proper, nutritious diet and has regular veterinary check ups.  The dog should also be trained.  If neutering/spaying are not done by this stage then have it done now. Your puppy will become independent as his attention seeking behaviour is ignored.

Older dogs: 8 to 12 year olds. You should keep an eye on your dog for any health problems and have regular veterinary check ups carried out.  Your dog may need help exercising and feeding at this stage of his/her life. Large dogs age quicker and are considered senior at eight years old while small breeds are not considered elderly until they are about 12 years of age. Always consult your vet. Old dogs may slow down and show signs of stiffness; go grey around the muzzle and have reduced hearing.  Some dogs even suffer from age-related cognitive dysfunction and become confused.

For more information email me at miriam.kerins@dspca.ie



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