When Do Dogs Stop Growing? Puppy Development Stages
If you have a new puppy or young dog, you will probably be wondering when they will stop growing – and what size they will end up at. Of course, many puppy owners wish their little ball of fluff could stay the same size throughout their life, but this is obviously not going to be the case. Knowing the eventual size of your dog will also help out significantly when it comes to practical considerations like how much space your pooch will take up in your home, how much you are going to feed them, when you are going to need to buy a bigger bed for them etc.
As you will already be well aware, dogs vary significantly from breed to breed, so there is no single answer that will satisfactorily answer the question ‘when do dogs stop growing’. However, we can give you a better idea with some general stages of puppy development. As a rule of thumb, smaller dogs will reach their full adult size quicker than bigger dogs. So, let’s start by going into more detail about the variations between the different breeds.
Dog Breed Sizes and Growth
As we have just mentioned, smaller dog breeds reach their full size before larger ones. Taking chihuahuas as an example, they will reach their full size between 10 months and one year old – which obviously still won’t seem all that big! As for small-medium dogs such as beagles or poodles, they tend to stop growing between 12 and 15 months, reaching their full weight at around 18 months old. Moving onto medium-large dogs such as boxers and Labradors, they tend to reach full size at roughly 1 ½ years old, but their weight can keep changing until they are two years old.
Finally, we have the giant breed dogs such as Great Danes and Mastiffs, which can take as long as three years to reach their full weight. But they should also reach full-size at 18 months, which tends to be the maximum growth for the vast majority of dogs. If you want a better indicator of the eventual size of giant breed dogs, the size of their paws is a good thing to look at. Puppies of this variety tend to have paws which look huge in comparison to the rest of their body. Over time, they will grow into their paws and everything will look normal.
In terms of the ratio of growth, chihuahuas will increase their weight by a factor of around 15. Compare this to Great Danes, who can end up increasing their weight by a factor of 100 or more! This is certainly something to bear in mind if space is an issue in your home. After all, you need to plan for your dog’s entire life – not just the puppy years.
How Do Puppies Grow?
Now, you may well have some more questions about the specifics of how puppies grow in the first place. Anatomically speaking, you can closely compare the ways in which a dog grows to the ways in which a human child does. And just like humans, the muscles of your dog can continue developing over time depending on the amount and type of physical exercise they get. Some professional dog owners encourage their dogs to bulk up by putting them on a specific diet and organizing a specific exercise regime.
Obviously, unlike muscles, bones develop in a different way. Bones don’t grow at all during adulthood. Taking the legs of your puppy as an example, these develop from two growth plates, which are located at each end of the bone. During puppyhood, new tissue will continue growing, hardening, calcifying, and eventually becoming bone. Eventually, they will ‘close’ and reach their full size. As growth plates are delicate and have a higher potential for injury, you need to make a special effort to keep them protected in your puppy. This means not allowing them to exercise excessively and stopping them from jumping up or down from great heights.
Other Factors Impacting Growth Rate
Apart from your dog’s breed, there are a few other factors which can influence the eventual size they will reach. It is important that you know about these as well, so you have a full picture of how big your puppy is likely to get.
- Genetic Differences
Just like human being, each and every dog is born with a unique genetic code which can impact growth period duration, build, and eventual adult size. Some of these genes will be passed down from your puppy’s parents, but others are just the type of random variations which inevitably occur when DNA is recombined. If you have some information about your puppy’s parents, it is more likely that you will know about their eventual size. Generally speaking, you can expect puppies from larger parents to have a slightly longer growth period – meaning that their size will be eventually larger. Of course, we need to put in a disclaimer here that there are no guarantees. Sometimes, it will be the opposite too.
The type and quantity of food that your dog enjoys can also have an impact on the eventual size they grow to. If your puppy has a poor diet, there is every chance that they will not get enough minerals and protein to grow to their full potential. Obviously, you want your puppy to be as big and healthy as possible, so you need to take care to feed them a diet which matches their specific nutritional needs as well as it possibly can. There are plenty of specific puppy food brands on the market. These tend to have a higher protein content, as well as other nutrients which are specifically suited to growing puppies. Bear in mind that large breed puppies need to eat a diet which is specifically formulated for them. If they grow too quickly, they can end up suffering from orthopaedic issues later in life.
While you want to give your puppy enough food for them to be healthy, you will want to avoid the common issue of ‘overfeeding’. Obesity is a very unhealthy state for any dog to be in. Some owners believe that having constant access to food is perfectly normal for puppies, but studies have shown that this is more likely to lead to overeating. Keeping an eye on your dog’s weight is a good way of ensuring that they stay healthy.
When your puppy is under six months old, you should not be able to see their ribs – unless they are from one of the racing breeds. As for overweight puppies, they should have the amount of food they are given reduced.
- Spaying or Neutering
Many dog owners choose to have their pet spayed or neutered, and it is important to understand the impact that this can have on growth rate. A lot of people believe that the action of spaying or neutering will stop their puppy growing sooner. In fact, the growth can end up being the opposite, and dogs spayed or neutered before 16 weeks old can end up growing a little larger than those who aren’t. However, more often than not, the growth changes are so small that they are barely perceptible. After all, hormones are not the primary driver of growth in dogs. It is all about genetics and nutrition. Whether or not you choose to spay or neuter your dog, it shouldn’t massively impact their eventual size.
Stages of Puppy Growth
In the next part of the post, we are going to look closer at some normal puppy development stages. We will talk about these in general terms to give you a rough idea of how your dog is progressing. It’s a lot of fun to tick these off week by week and month by month. And it also gives you the reassurance that everything is normal with your little ball of fluff.
- 8 Weeks and Younger – New Beginnings
Most puppy owners first take their little dog home when they are 8 weeks old, but let’s start with the development stages which occur before this. After your puppy is born, it won’t be until two weeks old until they fully open their eyes. This is something that occurs gradually over time rather than in one go. First, a minute gap will appear between their eyelids. Over the next day or two, their eyes will start to open fully. Sometimes, this occurs quicker in one eye than the other.
Around the third week of life, your puppy will start tentatively walking around. First, they will stand up, and later they will start wobbling their way around until they get stronger and more confident. Puppies will start to make recognizable sounds around their second or third week of life. Before this, they will tend to make small squeaking noises. As for sounds which can be classed as barking, this won’t start until the 8-week mark.
- Biting and Playing
Around 10 to 12 weeks old, puppies will make cute puppy woof sounds. Biting comes as part of their regular playtime activities as it helps to relieve the uncomfortable teething sensation. However, this shouldn’t cause you any pain before five months old. By six months old, they should have stopped altogether – but you need to take an active role in stopping them from doing this. Otherwise, this problem behavior could end up continuing into adulthood – and there is no doubt that this is going to hurt then!
- Socialization Stages
A central part of puppy development is how they socialize, which is crucial in domesticated dogs as they are learning to live in a very different world to the wild. They will face a whole host of new experiences, and it is important that they learn to deal with these in the right way. You will need to give them a helping hand. Puppies can feel fear about unfamiliar people or events when they are around three months old. So, before this stage, you need to be active in taking your dog around everywhere, getting them used to the world and everything in it.
There is another stage that you need to be aware of. This is the ‘teenage’ stage which occurs between six and 12 months, which is another phase of fear and wariness. Even dogs who were fully socialized may need to be refreshed during this time.
How to Tell if Your Puppy is ‘Grown Up’
There are three stages that your dog will need to reach, indicating that they are properly ‘grown up’ into an adult. These maturity stages are physical, sexual, and mental. However, these stages don’t all happen at the same time – or the same rate. They will also vary from breed to breed. We have already talked about physical maturity further up the page. Most puppies reach the phase of full sexual maturity before they are fully grown – often between six months and one year old. Birth control is one of the central responsibilities of a dog owner, and there are various different steps that you can take to ensure that you do this properly.
As for mental maturity, this often comes after physical and sexual maturity. Hyperactive and silly behavior can often continue into your dog’s second year. However, just because your dog is in an excitable phase of their life, it doesn’t mean that you can’t put them through proper training.
Like human beings, puppies are all different and grow at different rates. But it is still a good idea to keep up with your little dog’s development phases to ensure that they are growing into a fit and healthy adult. And you have a lot of impact into this. After all, you are the one controlling how much they eat and the type and amount of exercise they get on a regular basis. Also, you can make any adjustments as needed based on what you notice and/or what your vet advises.