During month four of a puppy’s life, a lot of exciting changes take place. In the normal run of things, the puppy has settled nicely into his new home and is enjoying spending time with his family, gaining knowledge of all kinds of novel experiences. Yet there is much yet for a four month old puppy to learn, and as the owner of a young puppy, it is always helpful to know what to expect and what your role is in helping your puppy to continue to grow socially, emotionally, and physically.
The Physical Changes in a Four Month Old Puppy
During the fourth month of life, your puppy will experience a large number of physical changes. One of the most significant physical developments at this time is the loss of puppy teeth which are then replaced by adult teeth. This process is known as teething, and it can be very uncomfortable for your puppy. Most breeders and veterinarians recommend providing your puppy with chew toys, bones, or even frozen Kongs to chew on to alleviate any pain as a result of the teething process.
Once all of the adult teeth are in place, you can then begin a regular practice of dental hygiene to ensure your dog has healthy teeth and gums for life. Many owners opt to brush the teeth of their dogs, but tooth scaling with an appropriate dental device for home use, dental additives for water, or even raw meaty bones can assist your efforts to keep your puppy’s mouth fresh and clean. As with all things, the younger you introduce them to your puppy, the greater the chance your puppy will accept the practice as normal thus minimizing any potential fuss.
It is at this time that many experts recommend teaching your puppy to accept basic handling. Learning to stand on a table and to allow people to touch them is a very important skill which will make many future life events for your puppy go much more seamlessly. These include visits to a veterinarian or even to a groomer. Learning to stand still on a table and to be touched will help your puppy to understand what is expected of him during these types of routine visits which he will have to undergo many times throughout his life. By teaching it young, you remove a great deal of the potential stress, trauma, and fear as your puppy will then have a greater understanding of the process and will readily accept it.
It is also important to note that at age four months, your puppy should be receiving a high quality nutritious food that is appropriate for his age and developmental period. Care should be taken to not feed a food that is too rich in protein as it can cause rapid bone growth. While this would seem to be an excellent thing; if bone is growing more rapidly than muscle, it can lead to future structural problems which are later impossible to correct without surgery and may lead to injury. Always remember that puppies are still growing and are very active. For this reason, it is often best to feed them three times per day to meet their demanding nutritional needs.
The Importance of Socialization
Though at 16 weeks of age the window for the most critical socialization period has now closed, it is still vitally important that you continue to introduce your puppy to his new world. You will want to be certain that all new experiences for your puppy end on a positive note as your pup will still be very impressionable, and things which happen during the puppy years can leaving a lasting imprint, whether positive or negative.
If your pup is shyer by nature, it is critical that you not force him to do things he is not comfortable with. A savvy owner allows a puppy to build his confidence by approaching when he is ready and lavishly praising the puppy for even the most minute amount of progress.
During this fourth month of life, your puppy is still very much learning how to behave appropriately in his new world. His manners will not always be one hundred percent nor will his ability to control his bladder. Patience is a great virtue during this training time.
A great way to help your puppy to learn appropriate doggy manners is to take him to a puppy socialization class. Here, you and your dog can work as a team to learn basic skills. The classes are fun for you and your pup and allow for additional bonding time. Though many puppy classes do allow a “free for all” play time, it is not recommended that you allow a young puppy to engage in this type of activity. Not all puppies play nicely in the sand box and others are still learning how to respond to correction well. A puppy socialization class is not the optimal time to be undergoing these types of experiences as you have no way to know where the other puppies are in their training nor how your puppy will respond to them. It is best to keep social interactions to dogs you know and trust until your pup is past his formative learning time.
At four months of age, puppies are still exploring their environment with their mouths, and this can land them in all kinds of hot water! You will need to supervise your puppy well, and if you are unable to provide active supervision, your puppy should be kept in a contained area with some toys or bones to keep him occupied. This is a very important safety measure as puppies do not sense danger and can get into things that could cause them irreparable harm such as chewing through electrical cords or climbing on tables or chairs that could fall on them, causing them serious injury or even death.
This is also the age to provide guidance to prevent unwanted, nuisance behaviors. You will need to be diligent. Remember that habits that might seem cute when done by a puppy are not so cute when done by an adult dog, so it is critical that you don’t ignore or giggle at things that could later turn into larger problems. Puppies respond exceptionally well to positive reinforcement, and they are masters at reading our expressions. If you show delight or even amusement at a naughty behavior, your puppy will soon come to realize that you found their antics entertaining, and they will trot the same action out time and again, hoping for the same reaction. Practice the art of the poker face for best results!
Visiting the Vet at Age Four Months
Typically, at 16 weeks of age or slightly before, your puppy is ready for his final set of vaccinations in his puppy series. It is highly recommended that the rabies vaccination NOT be piggybacked in along with the set of core vaccines. Some veterinarians recommend waiting a minimum of two weeks after the 16 week core vaccinations before administering rabies, but many breeders suggest waiting until at least six months of age.
Having a puppy is grand fun, and four months of age is a special time you will look back on with fondness. The chewed shoes of today become the memories of tomorrow. Enjoy Month 4 with your beautiful puppy!