When you come to the sixth month of your puppy’s life, you’ve reached a milestone. Your pup is now halfway through his first year of life, and many families take advantage of the date to celebrate. Though your puppy has already gone through a number of different phases physically, developmentally, and socially, this growing period is not done yet. At six months of age, your puppy has gained some maturity and is no longer considered a juvenile though he is still very much a puppy with lots yet to learn. Six months marks the period commonly referred to as the adolescent phase. If your pup is six months of age, what can you expect during this time period?
The Adolescent Phase
Though much of the learning process occurs during the first six months of life, you will still notice many changes in your puppy in the period from age six months up to a full year.
One of the biggest differences you will notice is a marked change in appetite. Your puppy’s energy levels may increase at this time since he now possesses the stamina to back up his bursts of activity. If your puppy is particularly active, it may be necessary to increase the amount and/or frequency of his meals to provide him with the fuel he needs to match his physical exercise.
By age six months, the growth rate begins to slow. Small breed puppies have typically reached their adult size and will only “fill out” rather than make advances in height. Medium sized puppies continue to grow for several more months though at a decelerated rate. Large breed dogs are slightly different, requiring up to 18-24 months to reach full maturity.
- Physical Maturity
You may notice that your six month old puppy suddenly has a case of what is known as the “puppy uglies.” Of course, your puppy isn’t ugly! But six months of age marks a time period for some puppies where they need time and maturity for all of their parts and pieces to fit together in a cohesive whole. You may discover that your puppy seems to be all head or ears or seems to have legs that are too long for his lean, lanky body. This is a normal part of the developmental process and will level out over time. Most people find this period of life the time when their puppy looks his absolute cutest. You’ll want to take lots of photos to remember this special time, for sure!
- Bladder Control
By six months of age, your puppy should now have full control over his bladder and be fully house trained or well on his way to becoming a canine citizen who seeks to do his business outdoors. Of course, your puppy may still find himself caught short and will have the occasional accident in your home. For best results, continue to remain patient with your puppy, not scolding him and instead making an effort to praise him each time he chooses to go outside to do “his business.” Focusing on positive reinforcement techniques will speed the housetraining process dramatically and will support the behaviors you wish to see repeated.
It is also at age six months that your puppy should have a complete set of adult teeth. This marks the end of teething, meaning you should see improvements in the amount of chewing your puppy has been doing. Good news for your furniture and shoes, indeed! You may find that your puppy still likes to wreak havoc on your home with his teeth. If so, be certain to provide him with lots of chew toys, bones, and other treats to satisfy his natural desire to exercise his jaws.
- Sexual Maturity
During the period from six to eight months, puppies reach sexual maturity. It is at this time that many families begin to consider when to spay or neuter their puppy. Your veterinarian and your breeder can assist you with making the decision as to what time is the right time for your puppy to undergo this type of surgery though many owners are opting to allow their pups to remain intact.
While there are many health benefits to keeping your pup reproductively intact, it does add an additional layer of responsibility on you that must be taken very seriously. With the United States experiencing a large pet overpopulation problem, it is important that each pet owner do their part to prevent accidental breedings which contribute to the current epidemic of unwanted pets in need of good homes.
If your puppy is a male dog, it is at age six months that he will start to notice girls. He is capable of siring a litter even at his young age, so you will need to take care to keep him away from females in heat.
Another indication your little boy has become a man is he will now lift his leg to urinate instead of squatting in the fashion he was accustomed to as a baby puppy. If you have a male dog who still prefers to squat, take heart; some male dogs do opt to do that for the remainder of their lives. It is not an indication that anything is wrong with your puppy. It simply has become an ingrained habit that your puppy is not interested in changing.
Some males will start to “mark” in their homes, around your yard, and on walks at this age. Marking occurs when a male lifts his leg and leaves a small amount of pungent smelling urine to denote spots that he is claiming as his own. This is typically done to leave his scent for other dogs to find, a canine calling card of sorts. Since this behavior is undesirable indoors, you can curb it by making use of a belly band. Belly bands are wide strips of fabric you wrap around your dog’s waist to cover his genitals. They secure in place via Velcro strips. The theory behind the belly band is that since dogs do not like being wet or dirty that the feeling of urine against his skin is enough of a reminder to eventually curtail the behavior entirely. This method is not always effective but does offer some form of protection for your house.
If you are the proud of owner of a female puppy, it is most often between ages six to eight months that she will experience her first heat cycle. Larger breed puppies often take longer to undergo their first heat. There is no predictable pattern, so if your little girl shows no signs of her first season, do not worry. It will happen when her body is ready for it.
The six month old puppy’s puppy license is running out of time, and you may discover that older dogs exercise less patience with annoying habits. Puppies at six months of age can be quite independent and stubborn, so it is important for you to run interference with adult dogs as well as to be certain to teach your dogs appropriate manners and house rules.
At this time of life, puppies like to test the boundaries and will often seem to regress in their training. Be consistent in your expectations and don’t allow your puppy to blow you off; otherwise instead of you training him, he will be training you! Now is the time to remain vigilant, so that new bad habits don’t creep up.
- Health and Veterinary Care
By six months of age, your puppy should have received his entire puppy series of vaccinations. Still, regular veterinary care is an important part of maintaining excellent health. Your pup will need to visit the vet at age one year to receive a booster shot to complete his puppy vaccinations, but should any concerns arise prior to that, be sure to make an appointment for your puppy right away. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Yes, month six of a puppy’s life is an exciting time indeed! Do something fun with your puppy today. The puppy months pass by so quickly!