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12–15 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Puppy

A Guide to Your Puppy's Second Round of Vaccines :: How to Navigate the Pet Health Insurance Maze :: Instructions for Beginning Obedience Training :: Tips for Dealing with Your Puppy’s Growth Spurts

Tips for Dealing with Your Puppy’s Growth Spurts

Your puppy’s first growth spurt will likely be around 15 weeks of age and halt for a while come 20 weeks. During this time, your pup may suddenly be all limbs and all tail, knocking over precious vases and glasses full of soda. Just how much a puppy shoots up at this time depends on his breed (or mix of breeds), his diet and his health. The growth spurt affects several things including his appetite (it gets bigger) and his sleeping patterns (he sleeps more).

You’ll find that it can be tough to keep up with some dogs’ growth spurts, like having a pre-teen who outgrows his shoes in a week. But there are ways to make the most of this gangly, awkward pup’s growth and save some money to boot.

Factors in Growth Spurts

Breed - Smaller dogs mature earlier than big dogs so you might see more of a spurt in a Pomeranian now than you would in a Boxer, who will continue to have periods of growth for several months.

Diet - Puppies need more food when they are in a growth spurt and the quality of food can make a difference in his size. Giving a pup a bowl of high quality kibble will help insure he is getting all the nutrients he needs and is growing as he should. Don’t be alarmed if your pup thins out a bit during this period despite extra food. Check on his growth stats and, once he slows down, he should fill out a bit again.

Health - A puppy’s overall health will affect how big he gets. If he had a disease such as Distemper earlier, his growth will likely be stunted. However, this does not mean he’ll necessarily have any problems with being smaller.

Ways to Adjust to the Growth Spurt

Collars - Your best bet right now is to purchase an adjustable collar that can grow as your pup grows. If, however, you have a dog who can wrangle out of those, try an adjustable harness.

Crates - Unless you bought your pup’s first crate based on his adult size, you’ll probably need to purchase a new one during this time. To prepare for future growth spurts, make sure this one is big enough for your adult pup. There are also wire crates that are adjustable in width and height but no such option in plastic crates.

Coats - If you live in an inclement climate and need to put a coat on your dog for walks, you do have an option so you don’t have to constantly buy a new one. Look for a fleece jacket or rain coat that has adjustable straps across the chest and under the belly which are usually velcro.

It’s easy to recognize a growth spurt if you keep a growth chart for your puppy. This should include weight and height at the withers (the spot between the shoulder blades). There are many ways to record this, from a simple entry in a notebook to fancy puppy growth charts found online. The important thing is to know when your pup is sprouting so you can adjust things and keep in mind natural changes, such as more sleep, that come with the spurt. Puppies grow in fits and starts, and this should slow down around your pet's first birthday. Expect him to keep growing until around two years of age, when most dogs reach their adult height.

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

How to Bond with Your Dog

Bonding is communication. The more you can effectively communicate with your dog in its language the stronger your bond. Your dog is studying you relentlessly and communicates to you with its body, face and movements. Talk to our dogs with your face, eyes, posture and movements and without words. Most importantly, don't make it a one-way communication!

In other words, don't always instigate the "conversation" and or be asking the dog to do something. If you want to strengthen the bond respond to your dog too. Your dog initiates conversations with you all the time, don't ignore it or stifle it, learn to recognize it and respond to it.

Let your dog instigate activities. Most often a dog will do this with body language. Acknowledge that your dog is talking to you and do what he's asking. You will be demonstrating to your dog that you understand what it's "saying" and take action. Do that and your dog will talk more and be more closely bonded to you because you will not only be sharing a common language but it will be TWO-way, that is the key.

You want to train your dog to follow your face and eye movements and respond to them then you need to do the same with him.

You don't want a dog that is just waiting around for you to initiate everything all the time. You want a really strong bond? When your dog "asks" you something, respond physically not verbally (if you want to add a few words fine but don't just sit there and talk) but do something. Pretty soon you will have an ever expanding language with your dog.

~Jeff J., owner of Golden Retriever mix

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