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Dog 101: The Four Phases of a Dog's Life

Whether you adopt a dog in his senior years or raise him from a pup, your pooch's personality is partially determined by his current phase of life. While different dog breeds mature at different rates, they all go through the same four basic stages.

Precious puppies: Birth to 6 months

It doesn't get any cuter than this time in a dog's life. From birth, when puppies are blind and deaf, through weaning, teething, housebreaking and early socialization, up to the onset of sexual maturity, puppies need close monitoring. Work with your veterinarian to determine the right time for shots and spaying or neutering.

Adorable adolescents: 6 months to 2 years

This is when your pup is at his most unpredictable. He may know what's expected of him, but like all teenagers, he's going to test the boundaries. Channel your adolescent dog's exuberance and desire to please you into lots of exercise, training and playtime. Take an obedience class together or check out the local dog park!

Amazing adults: 2 to 7 years

The enrichment opportunities don't stop here! You might try agility training or earn a certificate from the AKC (American Kennel Club) in their Canine Good Citizen or Therapy Dog programs. Rescue dogs especially benefit from the time spent bonding with their new parents! Your healthy adult dog is at his best, but you still need to keep up with annual checkups, vaccinations, flea and parasite protection and dental care.

Sweet seniors: 8+ years

Small dogs mature faster than larger dog breeds, but they all experience similar changes. High-energy dogs begin to slow down, the hair on their faces turns grey or white, and health problems such as arthritis and vision or hearing loss may emerge. But with proper care and lots of love, your dog's life can be a long and happy one.

Each phase of a dog's life has its own special gifts and challenges, and each dog is unique. It's up to pet parents to give them the love and care they deserve—for life!