The notion of your tiny and sweet puppy entering into puberty might seem distant and whimsical, but it's not so far off. Canines develop into sexually mature individuals relatively quickly, in most cases before they're a year in age.
Puppies usually reach "puberty" or the beginning of sexual maturity starting at 6 months in age. Most puppies usually are sexually mature by the time they're a year old, whether they're male or female. By this point, dogs typically exhibit clear indications of hormonal behaviors.
Dogs come in all different sizes and breed types, and they don't all grow and develop at the exact same basic rates. Little dogs usually, but not always, hit puberty quicker than the bigger guys, according to the American Kennel Club. Do not expect a huge German shepherd puppy to necessarily become sexually mature at the same time as a small toy poodle or Lhasa apso, for example. One female dog might display all of the indications of raging hormones at a mere 6 months old, while another might not show any until 16 months old.
Easily enough, not a lot of guesswork is usually necessary in determining whether or not a specific male puppy has gotten to puberty. Canines often make it obvious with behaviors such as urine marking to attract female mates, acting fiercely around fellow male dogs and constantly trying to break out of their residences to go outdoors and wander. Male dogs also often do things more on their own when they're sexually mature.
The signs of puberty in female puppies are not 100 percent different from those of male puppies. When female puppies get to puberty, their heat cycles begin. Female dogs who are "in season" tend to display uneasy, unfocused and antsy behavioral patterns. Like the boys, they frequently mark urine to draw attention from the opposite sex. They also frequently try to go outside to look for mates. Apart from those elements, you might notice some physical hints of puberty and heat, including urinating a lot and the presence of blood-tinged genital discharge.
If your wee puppy hasn't arrived at puberty age yet, you might want to start a conversation with your veterinarian about neutering or spaying procedures. If a dog gets fixed before reaching puberty, not only does he lose the ability to ever reproduce, it also stops him from behaving hormonally -- think urine marking or overall vexation. Vets are neutering and spaying dogs as early as 8 weeks now, some as early as 6 weeks.
- The Kennel Club: Puberty
- A.D.O.P.T. Pet Shelter: Enduring Your Dog's Adolescence
- ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs; Sheldon L. Gerstenfeld
- ASPCA: How Will Spaying Change My Dog?
- ASPCA: How Will Neutering Change My Dog?
- DogChannel.com: Spay and Neuter Facts
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Canine Breeding and Reproduction
- American Kennel Club: A Guide to Breeding Your Dog
- Russell Illig/Photodisc/Getty Images