A German Shepherd puppy goes through many important behavior and development stages before reaching maturity at somewhere around 2 to 3 years of age.
We put this guide together so that prospective owners and new owners have some idea of where their puppy might be at physically/sexually, and mentally as they progress in age.
We’ve outlined the first few weeks, months and then years, and broken them down accordingly.
Let’s check out the stages!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
German Shepherd Puppy Behavior & Development Stages
Newborn Stage: 0 Weeks Old
Immediately after a puppy comes into the world, they are classified as a newborn.
When a German Shepherd is first born up until about 2 weeks old, they are entirely dependent on their mother.
They are blind, deaf and have no teeth, and have to huddle up to their litter mates to regulate their body temperature.
The mother might try to lick her newborn puppy to clean them.
Neonatal Stage: 0 to 2 Weeks Old
From roughly 0 to 2 weeks. This stage is purely for growth and development.
A puppy will spend most of it’s time sleeping
When it is awake it will usually be nursing or trying to move around but not yet walking (developing it’s co-ordination and muscles).
Puppy milk from the mother is encouraged as it contains antibodies that help protect puppies from disease.
Transitional Stage: 2 to 4 Weeks Old
The puppies change quite a lot during this stage including:
Eyes and ears opening – so they have more senses and know what other dogs and humans look like
Move from grunting, to very light growling and barking
Stand up for the first time and start exploring their immediate surroundings more
Puppies become more independent from their mother and begin playing with litter mates more
Puppies can some control over their bowels
Puppies might start tasting SOME solid food, but still mainly on milk or soft food
Teething starts as puppy teeth begin to grow in – read German Shepherd teething guide here
Socialisation Stage: 4 to 8 Weeks Old
At around 4 weeks old, the puppies begin to socialise more.
4 Weeks is also around the time that a mother’s milk production begins to slow, so between that 4 week to 8 week period, the puppy is usually weaned onto mushy or semi solid foods.
Weaning is usually complete by week 8.
6 to 8 weeks is when a puppy’s puppy teeth are all grown in, and a German Shepherd will start the teething process.
This 6-8 week stage is also when a puppy starts to make bonds and develop really quickly mentally.
The breeder (puppies are usually sold at 8+ weeks) should place an emphasis on socialising the puppy carefully but often.
Some puppies through a fear response stage around this time – which means they are temporarily wary of many new things in their environment.
By about the 50th day, a puppy starts showing signs of adult brain waves
So, it’s important the puppy is learning things like bite inhibition (biting with a soft mouth that doesn’t hurt), how to socialise safely with dogs and humans, and general canine behavior.
New Family, Training, Socialising and Bonding Juvenile Stage: 8 Weeks to 6 Months
Between 8 to 12 weeks is usually when puppies are picked up from a breeder by their new families.
This is generally safer as the puppy has learnt the basic behaviors it needs to adapt to a new environment and family.
This 8 to 12 week mark is also when a puppy might transition from semi solid or mushy food to solid puppy food.
When you first bring a German Shepherd puppy home, they will have just begun their teething stage at around 6 to 8 weeks.
Teething is almost like puberty for a puppy.
You’ll notice the following things occur:
The ears go up and down several times before settling into one position – read 12 commonly asked questions about German Shepherd ears here
The puppy will go through their biting and mouthing stage while teething
To have a puppy who grows up into a well behaved dog, it’s really important overall to be consistent with the following between the 8 week to 6 month period (this is the time when you can really stamp out negative behaviors before they become a habit):
Socialising your puppy with other animals and humans as often as possible, but in a controlled and safe way
Undergo puppy school
Teach them to walk on a leash
Do basic training with your dog – sit, stay/stop, come, drop, leave it etc. (when the puppy’s attention span has increased)
Spend time patting, cuddling, exercising/walking and generally bonding with your GSD so they know they can love and trust you
Be consistent with the boundaries and rules around the house, and in public
Teach your GSD how to interact with strangers and other types of things they could perceive as threats
Adolescent stage: 6 Months to 2 or 3 Years
The adolescent stage is when your puppy will begin to mature sexually – which means lots of hormones flying around.
Males may try to hump everything, mark their territory on everything by leaving their scent, and may try to establish dominance over other dogs.
Females may be inconsistent with their temperament, and might try to escape the yard.
15 to 18 months is also roughly the time when you puppy switches from solid puppy food to an adult dog food formula.
You can cross reference this by checking with your vet and checking the feeding guidelines on the dog food brand you buy.
Around the 16-18 month mark is when a GSD’s attention span has significantly increased – so people might like to begin more advanced obedience classes at this time.
Maturity/Adult Stage: 2 to 3 Years
Large breeds of dogs usually develop mentally and sexually/physically into adults around 2 to 3 years of age.
If you’ve developed a bond with your dog, and been consistent and patient with socialisation and training, you should have a loyal, noble, loving and intelligent/well behaved German Shepherd companion on your hands
Individual dogs can show different personalities and traits though based on things like genes and the environment of their upbringing.
More Information & Facts About The German Shepherd Dog Breed
German Shepherds as a breed have more aspects to them than the stages mentioned above.
If you want more information, we’ve put together this guide with over 100 interesting pieces of information and facts about the German Shepherd Dog Breed.
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