By Jessica Remitz
Puppy Physical Development
This is a very high period of growth for your puppy, making them a little clumsy as they explore their environments. Around this time, most of your puppy’s baby teeth will have been replaced by adult teeth, and if any have not fallen out despite the presence of an adult tooth, they will need to be removed, says Louise Murray, DVM and vice president of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. Removal of any remaining baby teeth can happen when your puppy is spayed or neutered, which should happen this age as well, Dr. Murray says.
This is also a good age to expose your puppy to grooming and handling, Dr. Murray says, from regular teeth brushing to nail trimming, brushing and bathing.
While puppies between the ages of four and six months are out of their first socialization period, they’re still learning a lot about the world around them, according to Pamela Barlow, an animal behavior counselor at the ASPCA. Because of this, care should be given to continue socializing your puppy at this time while teaching them how to become polite adult dogs, Barlow says.
Depending on their early life experiences, your puppy’s behavior will vary at this age. A well-socialized pup should be outgoing and uninhibited while meeting new people, animals and being introduced to new places and will likely be very active and exploratory, Barlow says. If they they’re not given proper direction with this energy, puppies at this age may be prone to unwanted, destructive behavior. Direct this normal puppy energy away from bad behaviors by providing them with a variety of appropriate outlets like sturdy chew toys, long walks and frequent games of fetch, Barlow says.
At this age, your puppy’s diet should consist of high-quality food specifically formulated for puppies, Dr. Murray says. They’ll still need to eat more frequently than an adult dog, but not as often as when they were very young. Be sure to discuss your puppy’s diet and feeding schedule with your veterinarian to determine the right amount of food for your pup.
Puppies at four months should receive their final set of vaccine boosters, with vaccination protocols tailored to the puppy’s lifestyle as well as the location where he or she lives, Dr. Murray says. As mentioned, puppies at this age should also be spayed or neutered. According to petMD, spaying greatly reduces the chance of mammary cancer and eliminates the possibility of uterine or ovarian cancer, while neutering will decrease the possibility of prostate disease and eliminates testicular cancer in your dog. Spaying and neutering can also help to lessen the development of certain behavioral issues in your puppy as he or she continues to grow, Dr. Murray says.
Now that your pup is a little older, they will begin to benefit from being taught basic commands including “sit,” “down,” “stay” and how to walk nicely on a leash, Barlow says. They can be taught these behaviors through reward-based training sessions that utilize treats, praise and play to encourage good manners.
“Owners can also begin incorporating these behaviors into impulse control exercises such as waiting at the door, doing ‘sit’ and ‘down’ for access to toys, and waiting to be fed,” Barlow says.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to enroll your pup in a group training class that uses positive reinforcement and rewards to give your puppy lots of opportunities to practice their manners in a different environment.
“Puppies that are trained only at home only learn to be well behaved in the home,” Barlow says. “Practicing manners in distracting environments will help your puppy to become a polite adult dog while at home and in public.”
A Few Other Puppy Care Tips
Puppies at this age are learning how to share things with people and other animals for the first time. It’s important to teach yours to share their dog toys and other possessions now to help prevent them from becoming possessive of objects and food as adult dogs. Train your dog to share by asking them to sit and wait to be fed, never teasing your puppy by removing a toy and not returning it and teaching your puppy to “drop” items by using treats, Barlow says.
If you find that your new puppy is fearful or aggressive towards new people, other animals or in different environments, don’t try to force them into these situations as it can make the issue worse, Barlow says. Help your little one by following a gradual socialization and desensitization plan, she says, which can be given to you by a professional. Find a certified dog trainer here.
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