Your puppy goes through the same developmental stages as children do. There's that innocent newborn stage, the toddler era, and of course, the awkward teens. Dogs just reach these stages faster than people. The exact age at which your dog is no longer a puppy depends on his genes. Generally, smaller breeds reach maturity sooner than larger breeds. Your veterinarian can advise you on when Rascal is nearing the end of puppyhood so you can know exactly what he still needs for proper development.
Defining the Puppy Era
During the puppy stage, your four-legged pal is growing rapidly, bonding with his human family members, developing his personality and learning about the world around him. He’s acquiring new skills, such as potty training and feeding himself. Generally the initial puppy stage is the first six months of Rascal’s life, although he's by no means mature at this point.
At 6 months of age, little Rascal is still a growing puppy, but he’s entering adolescence -- the dreaded teenage years. His energy level is high, and he needs lots of attention, socialization and exercise. He’ll have the urge to breed if he hasn't been neutered yet. Adolescence continues until he’s around 2 1/2 to 3 years old, according to the Cleveland Animal Protective League. During this time, he might be full grown and ready for adulthood, but his maturity is that of an older teenager or young adult, meaning he's still capable of getting into plenty of mischief.
Dogs who are supposed to reach a maximum weight of 30 pounds or less are generally full-grown by 10 to 12 months of age. If your fur buddy is medium-sized, reaching 30 to 80 pounds as an adult, he will probably be as tall as he's going to be at 12 to 16 months. Larger dogs -- those who will weigh more than 80 pounds as grown ups, such as bull mastiffs, rottweilers and Great Danes -- usually grow for up to two years. Even when your canine buddy is finished growing after a year or so, he can still be considered a puppy. He isn't quite emotionally mature yet and requires a little extra stimulation and playtime.
Proper nutrition depends, in part, on whether your buddy is still a puppy. If you feed him puppy food beyond the time when his growth needs require it, he’ll be getting too many calories in his diet and can gain too much weight, leading to obesity. Eliminating puppy food too soon, on the other hand, could deprive him of some of the extra nutrients he needs to grow and thrive. You'll need to start switching over to adult food as Rascal gets close to his adult weight. If you're not sure which type of food is best for your fuzzy friend, your veterinarian can help you decide.