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Pet Life Stages

Canine Life Stages

A chubby chocolate lab puppy lies next to a pot of purple flowers


The puppy stage begins at birth and ends at the end of the rapid growth phase. Depending o the breed and size, the end of the puppy stage happens around 6-9 months of age. During this time, puppies are undergoing critical behavioral development. This begins long before most puppies reach their permanent homes. Dog breeders and shelters can have a significant influence on the behavioral development of a puppy in the first few weeks of your pet’s life. Research shows gentle handling and structured environmental exposures on a daily basis during this time period can have significant benefits later in life.


Sometimes you have no control over where your pet comes from but that certainly does not mean that you won’t have a significant impact on your pet’s development. As soon as your puppy comes home, it is essential to begin the socialization process. Puppies should have exposure to a variety of people, dogs, and other situations outside of their home routinely during this critical stage of development. These experiences should ideally always be positive and structured to help your puppy gain life skills for their future. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), there is no medical reason to delay puppy classes or social exposure until the initial puppy vaccination series is completed as long as basic hygiene is practiced and exposure to sick animals is prohibited. As you socialize your puppy, be alert for signs that your puppy may need more help with a particular situation. Puppies rarely outgrow their social problems. Instead, they rely on our help to teach them how to respond to social situations that make them uncomfortable.

Feline Life Stages

Orange and white tabby kitten lies on it's back with paws tucked up


The kitten stage begins at birth and continues until the kitten is 1 year of age.  For kittens, the most sensitive socialization period for new experiences, people, and other animals begins as early as 2–3 weeks and may be closing by 9–10 weeks. While this stage is fluid and can vary for each individual, it is important for every kitten to have valuable life experiences during this time. Social interactions with littermates provide important bonds but kittens should also have many pleasant interactions with people several times throughout the day. Kittens should be gently, gradually, and positively acclimated to things they may encounter in life such as strangers, children, loud noises, other animals, carriers, car rides, and vet visits. They should also be introduced to procedures like nail trims, grooming, and medicating in a positive way.

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