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New Puppy Care: 12-18 Months

Understanding Your Puppy’s Development: 12-18 Months

Welcome to the adolescent phase of your puppy's life! During this period, your puppy is transitioning from the playful, energetic ball of fur you first brought home to a more mature, well-behaved adult dog. While smaller breeds typically reach adulthood around 12 months of age, larger breeds might continue to grow and develop until they are about 2 years old. Let's dive into what you can expect during this crucial developmental stage and how to provide the best care for your growing pup.

Developmental Milestones In New Puppy Care

Physical Growth: New Puppy Care

For larger breeds, physical growth may still be ongoing between 12-18 months. Growth plates, which are areas of new bone growth at the ends of long bones, can remain open until about 20 months of age. This means that while your puppy may appear fully grown, their bones are still developing. Overexertion or high-impact activities can harm these growth plates, leading to long-term issues.

Veterinarian's Insight: Engage in controlled activities such as fetch or supervised play in safe, enclosed spaces. Avoid rigorous activities like long runs or extensive jumping until your vet confirms that your dog’s growth plates have closed.

Social Development: New Puppy Care

At this stage, your puppy is still refining their social skills. They may exhibit behaviors such as testing boundaries or occasionally ignoring commands. It’s essential to continue socialization efforts, exposing them to new people, animals, and environments in a controlled manner.

Real-World Example: Sarah noticed her 14-month-old Golden Retriever, Max, became skittish around new people. By organizing regular playdates with familiar dogs and gradually introducing Max to new environments, Sarah helped him build confidence and improved his social skills.

Behavior and Training

Behavioral Changes: New Puppy Care

Adolescent dogs may display behaviors such as marking, humping, or increased territoriality, especially if they are not spayed or neutered. Consistency in training and reinforcing boundaries is crucial during this time.

Veterinarian's Tip: If your dog starts to show signs of guarding objects or food, selective hearing, or having accidents indoors, it might be time to consult with a professional trainer. Early intervention can prevent these behaviors from becoming entrenched.

Training Focus:

Maintaining and reinforcing basic commands such as sit, wait, leave it, off, down, place, and recall is essential. This period is also an excellent time to introduce more advanced training techniques and activities.

Advanced Training:

  1. Retrieve Training: Teach your dog to fetch specific items, like a leash or toys.

  2. Agility Exercises: Use obstacle courses to improve physical coordination and obedience.

  3. Service Commands: Train your dog to perform helpful tasks, like picking up dropped items.

Real-World Example: Emily worked with a trainer to teach her 16-month-old Labrador, Buddy, to retrieve his leash and carry it to her. This not only reinforced basic commands but also provided Buddy with a fun and engaging activity.


Dietary Needs:

As your puppy transitions to adulthood, their nutritional needs change. It’s essential to switch from puppy food to adult food gradually over 7-14 days to avoid gastrointestinal upset. In some cases, the transition may take up to a month.

Veterinarian's Tip: Introduce probiotics during the transition to help mitigate digestive issues. Consult your vet for recommendations on the best adult dog food and portion sizes for your pet’s breed and size.

Treats and Caloric Intake:

Be mindful of the calories in treats and snacks. Adjust your dog’s main meals to ensure they maintain a healthy weight.

Weight Management:

Your dog should have an hourglass figure when viewed from above, with a noticeable waist and a slight tuck in the abdomen. You should be able to feel their ribs with light pressure.

Real-World Example: John noticed his 15-month-old Boxer, Rocky, was gaining weight. By consulting with his vet and adjusting Rocky’s diet, including reducing treat portions and increasing exercise, John helped Rocky reach a healthy weight.

Health Conditions

Common Health Issues:

Puppies at this age are still susceptible to common diseases, especially if they have not been fully vaccinated. Conditions like kennel cough, distemper, and leptospirosis can pose serious risks. Regular check-ups and vaccinations are crucial.

Veterinarian's Insight: Ensure your pup is on a regular schedule for heartworm and flea prevention. These parasites can cause severe health issues if left untreated.

Preventative Care:

  1. Vaccinations: Keep up with booster shots as recommended by your vet.

  2. Parasite Control: Use preventive treatments for fleas, ticks, and heartworms.

  3. Regular Check-ups: Schedule routine vet visits to monitor your dog’s health and development.


Vaccination Schedule:

By 12-18 months, your puppy should have received their initial series of vaccinations. Booster shots are necessary to maintain immunity.

Common Vaccines:

  1. Distemper

  2. Rabies

  3. Influenza

  4. Leptospirosis

  5. Lyme Disease

  6. Bordetella (every 6 months)

Real-World Example: Lisa’s 13-month-old Beagle, Daisy, was due for her Bordetella booster. By keeping a vaccination log and setting reminders, Lisa ensured Daisy stayed up-to-date on all her vaccines.


Q: How often should I feed my adolescent dog? A: Most adolescent dogs benefit from two meals per day. This helps maintain energy levels and supports healthy digestion.

Q: What should I do if my dog is still having accidents indoors? A: Continue reinforcing house training rules. If accidents persist, consult with a trainer or your vet to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Q: How much exercise does my dog need at this age? A: Exercise needs vary by breed and size. Generally, aim for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour of physical activity per day. Consult with your vet for specific recommendations.

Real-World Examples

Case Study 1: Bailey’s Growth and Development

Bailey, a 14-month-old German Shepherd, was still showing signs of growth. Her owner, Mike, consulted with their vet and learned that Bailey’s growth plates were still open. Mike adjusted Bailey’s exercise routine to include more controlled activities like fetch and agility exercises, ensuring her joints developed healthily.

Case Study 2: Luna’s Behavioral Challenges

Luna, a 16-month-old French Bulldog, started displaying territorial behavior and selective hearing. Her owner, Emma, worked with a professional trainer to reinforce boundaries and commands. Through consistent training and positive reinforcement, Luna’s behavior improved significantly.

Case Study 3: Max’s Diet Transition

Max, a 13-month-old Border Collie, had trouble adjusting to adult food. His owner, Sarah, gradually introduced the new diet over four weeks and added probiotics to help with digestion. Max’s transition was smooth, and he maintained a healthy weight and energy levels.

Case Study 4: Rocky’s Weight Management

Rocky, a 15-month-old Boxer, was gaining weight despite regular exercise. His owner, John, consulted with their vet and adjusted Rocky’s diet, including reducing treats and increasing daily exercise. Rocky reached a healthy weight within a few months.


Caring for a puppy from 12-18 months involves continuous attention to their development, behavior, nutrition, and health. By staying informed and proactive, you can ensure your puppy transitions smoothly into adulthood. Regular veterinary check-ups, consistent training, balanced nutrition, and appropriate exercise are key to raising a happy, healthy dog.

Veterinarian's Closing Tip: Each dog is unique. Always consult with your veterinarian to tailor care and training to your puppy’s specific needs. Your vet is your best resource for ensuring your dog’s health and well-being.

For more information on puppy care and to explore a wide range of grooming supplies and equipment for hobbyists and professionals, visit

New Puppy Care
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