Stages of Maturity for a German Shepherd
- After the birthing process is complete, at two to three weeks of age, pups begin to open their eyes and move around the whelping box. At this point, they recognize their mother and litter mates. By the time pups reach week four, they are able to recognize family members and are alert to their environment. Between weeks four and seven, pups are taught social skills from their mothers; owners can begin to remove them from the litter for up to 10 minutes at a time for socialization with family members. However, do not attempt housebreaking or command training until after the eighth week.
- By their eighth week, pups are frightened of everything as they are learning about the world around them. At this time, it is appropriate to begin lead training along with teaching them basic commands such as "sit," "stay" and "down." At this point, however, do not leave the pup alone to prevent it developing nervous disorders. Between eight and 10 weeks, the pup's bladder should be healthy enough for it make it through the night; therefore, you can begin to house train the puppy. However, since the pup is still developing mentally, house training should be a gentle and consistent transition.
- The juvenile stage of maturity for German Shepherds can be broken down into two phases. The first phase occurs between six weeks and three months of age. At this stage, most German Shepherds attempt to demonstrate their dominance; this is the time to employ constant and consistent training to develop good lifelong habits in your dog. Between three and six months, the juvenile is still learning routine discipline and is likely to make mistakes. Keeping dogs on a leash while out in public, exercising them daily and implementing discipline drills and providing good chewing toys for teething direct the dog’s attention to activities rewarded with positive reinforcement.
- Between six and 12 months, a German Shepherd experiences its finest years as they are at optimal health and energy levels. Two hours of daily exercise is necessary to prevent problem behaviors from developing. Chew toys for dental care and stress relief are still very much a part of the dog’s daily routine. Tug of war can be initiated at this time, but only if the dog plays by the rules you establish. At this point in the dog’s level of maturity, it is ready for advanced training in the form of agility or herding training. Routine health and dental care along with quality good, daily exercise and lots of mental stimulation will keep a German Shepherd feeling young for years.
- German Shepherds are considered a senior dog at seven years and older. German Shepherd seniors should walk on a lead and obey commands. However, ensuring your dog has a low-fat diet, light daily exercise and massage therapy aid in this last stage of maturity. Avoid extended periods of exercise or exercise during hot or cold conditions to prevent illness or injury. Dogs of this age suffer pain and stiffness and require more frequent trips outside. Regular checkups are necessary to catch age-related illnesses such as diabetes and a variety of cancers.