Having a dog and watching it grow over time often brings a sense of fulfilment and happiness. Sometimes, this growth seems to happen quickly as time flies by.
While puppies are cute, funny, and a bundle of joy, they don’t remain puppies forever as at one point your dog becomes mature, having grown over time. Dogs become fully developed at various ages as their size and breed play a significant role in determining when they become fully grown.
Dogs are considered adults once they become a year old (a year and six months old for small breeds and between a year to 2 years old for large breeds), but becoming adults does not mean they stop growing, as dogs can take anywhere between 6 – 24 months to reach their full growth depending on their size.
Understanding the life expectancy of a dog
There is no common age at which all dogs die. Life expectancy amongst dogs varies according to the size of their breeds. Small breed dogs can usually live for between 15 and 16 years, while medium and large breeds have a life expectancy of 10 to 13 years, with some giant dog breeds such as mastiffs, often only 7 to 8 years.
A dog may live longer than the average life expectancy of its breed. For example, Beagles have an average life expectancy of 13.3 years but usually live for around 12–15 years, also the Scottish Terrier’s average life expectancy is 12 years, but it can live for up to 10–16 years.
Some dogs with the highest average life expectancy are the Bearded Collie, Dachshund and English Spring Spaniel, which can live for up to 13 years. But not all dogs might live this long as the life expectancy varies amongst breeds.
Apart from your dog’s breed, diet and spaying and neutering could also affect its life expectancy.
Changing the nutritional content of a dog’s diet as it becomes older to meet its higher protein requirement, help maintain bone structure and immune system health could go a long way in helping to prevent or slow some certain illnesses and side effects associated with old age.
Spaying and neutering refer to removing a dog’s reproductive organ, and this could be the removal of all of it or a considerably large part. Spaying involves removing the uterus and ovaries of a bitch while neutering removes a dog’s testicles. It helps prevent unwanted births, control behaviours that are associated with mating and could also protect against some serious health problems.
Stages of physical development in puppies
To help your puppy grow into a healthy dog, it is important to know and understand each stage’s growth, and what it needs for each of these stages.
- Newborns: Puppies are blind and deaf when given birth to. As newborns, they stay close to their mothers as they cannot keep themselves warm and could die from low body temperature (hypothermia).
- Neonatal Period: Birth to Two Weeks: In this stage, a puppy can only crawl slowly and is still heavily dependent on its mom. They spend most of their time sleeping, waking up to drink their mother’s milk. The mother’s first milk is called colostrum and helps keep them healthy as the milk is rich in antibodies.
- Transitional Period: Two-to-Four weeks: Puppies sense of smell, sight and hearing start to get developed in this stage. Their senses developing helps them interact with their environment, mother and other puppies in their litter. They also begin to work, wag their tail, mew, yelps, whine and bark. Weaning starts during this stage and puppies should be introduced to soft solid food as their baby teeth start to come out.
- Eight-to-Twelve weeks: Most of a puppy’s development happens from birth to this period. Puppies become fearful of new people and objects during this period. They become more cautious and could become frightened for life by anything that scares them during this period. Leaving them to interact with their litter and mom till they’re 8 weeks old helps them socialise. Once they can successfully eat on their own, they could be moved to new homes.
- Juvenile Period: They become extremely curious, affectionate and stubborn during this phase. Puppies spend most of their time playing during this stage, learning how to control; their bite by biting other puppies, and learning how to be dominant or submissive. This period lasts till they become sexually mature. You could begin training them during this phase, as they are more open to learning.
- 10-16 weeks: Juvenile Delinquent Pups: Puppies become rebellious during this stage, challenging authority and ignoring their training.
- Four to Six Months: You may notice daily changes in your puppy during these months. It is quite normal for some puppies, especially big breeds, to have another fear period that might last for a month. During this stage, puppies learn from older dogs, a puppy that hasn’t been neutered testosterone levels increase at around 4 to 5 months, making it necessary for them to be kept in check by older dogs. Puppies might also become aggressive for no reason and become extremely protective.
- Adolescence: Six to Twelve Months: It is important you continue to train and socialise your dog during this period as they might still be immature emotionally. Female dogs may go into heat during this period. Your puppy also starts growing an adult fur during this period, as their height stops growing and they begin to gain muscle.
At what age is my dog fully grown?
There is no universal age when dogs stop growing. The growth period for dogs differs according to their breed and size, as smaller breeds usually stop growing at a younger age than larger breeds. Other factors like genetics and feeding also play a role in determining the growth of your dog.
Small Breed Dogs
Chihuahua, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier and Toy Poodle, or other breeds that weigh less than 25 pounds when they are fully grown, are considered small breeds. They take typically between 4-6 months to grow rapidly, reaching their full growth at 6-8 months.
Medium Breed Dogs
Usually weigh between 25 – 50 pounds, like the Border Collies, Beagles, Basset Hound and Labrador retrievers. These dogs can take between 12-15 months to grow fully. They often have a rapid growth rate, doubling their size between 8-12 weeks.
Large Breed Dogs
Due to their larger bones, require more time to grow. They are dogs that weigh over 50 pounds when they are fully grown, like German Shepherds, Pit Bull and Golden Retriever. Large breed dogs often double their size between 8-12 weeks before their growth slows, with them reaching full growth at 18 months or more.
Although many medium and large breed dogs still keep their puppy looks and behaviour for the first a year or two years of their life, they are not precisely growing anymore and would lose those features over time.
Giant Breed Dogs like the Great Pyrenees, Great Dane and Mastiffs can take between 18-24 months to grow to their height fully. They often appear skinny for a while as they could take up to 3 years to reach their full weight.
How big would my dog get?
Dogs, very much like humans, stop growing in adulthood. However, muscles can grow throughout a dog’s life after bones have become fully developed, especially if you put your dog through an exercise and nutrition regime to get your dog to bulk up.
Bones don’t grow at all during adulthood; they play the most critical role in growth as they can determine your dog’s height and size.
How big your dog would get depends majorly on its size. Smaller breeds often become mature and hit their adult size before larger breeds do. This is because larger dog breeds need more time for their bones to grow.
What could affect my dog’s growth!
Some breeds of dogs like the German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers can suffer from an extremely rare disease called pituitary dwarfism that could affect their growth.
Asides from this which rarely occurs, a variety of other factors like malnutrition, a worm infection, strenuous exercise and spaying or neutering could affect your dog’s growth.
Malnutrition: switching from puppy food to adult food won’t affect your dog’s growth, although puppy food is made to support normal growth and development.
Over feeding and giving your dog supplements while it’s still growing could affect its health later. You should ask your vet on the ideal weight for your dog and the feed needed to keep it in its ideal shape.
Worm Infection: hookworms or roundworms in large numbers could affect your puppy’s growth, causing it to be stunted.
These worms steal nutrients meant for your puppy’s growth, making it look poor: a poor haircoat, diarrhea, an enormous potbelly, and being small and thin despite eating a lot.
Puppies could get worms from their mother or their environment. Following the deworming schedule given to you by your vet could help cure and prevent this.
Strenuous Exercise: the impact of excessive running could damage your dog’s growth plates, making it grow abnormally. This could cause joint problems later in its life. It is recommended that you let your dog be fully grown before taking it running.
Spaying or neutering: this would not affect your dog’s growth but could cause joint problems in large breed dogs as it affects the growth plate by delaying its closure and causing dogs to grow taller than they should have. Your vet is in the best position to let you know when spaying or neutering should be done.
What to feed a growing puppy?
Because they are still growing, puppies require more calories than an adult dog would. Foods made for puppies are usually richer in their protein content, as they are specifically made to provide puppies with the nutrients their bodies need as they grow.
Puppies, especially those of a larger breed, have special dietary and exercise requirements to consider while they are still growing. It is essential to take this into consideration as a large breed dog that grows too quickly has a high chance of suffering from orthopaedic issues later in its lifetime. It would be best to take your puppy to the vet regularly to check your puppy’s growth, weight gain and body condition.