Dog and Puppy Behavior Differences in Canine Aging

Older dog and puppy behavior can be quite difference, depending on the breed and how old a dog is. Though extreme changes of behavior over a very short amount of time may be a sign of a medical condition, a gradual mellowness in temperament is to be expected at a certain point in a dog's life.

Characteristics of a Puppy

Puppies go through developmental stages. A puppy typically is weaned from his mother at 8 weeks, and completes his adolescence at 18 months. During this time, a puppy is:

  • active
  • gaining confidence
  • exploring the world
  • establishing relationships and behaviors
  • learning roles and rules through play and training

Puppies often have have:

  • short attention spans
  • high energy
  • the need to find their place in dominance hierarchies
  • a high level of adaptability
  • a need to urinate every 2 to 3 hours
  • fear if not confined in a safe space if left alone

When a Dog Has Become an Adult

Whereas puppies need to explore, adult dogs appreciate predictability.

Adult dogs usually:

  • can be left alone in a house for 9 to 10 hours without urinating
  • exhibit a calm disposition toward other dogs and people
  • settle into a learned role and relationship style
  • can learn new behaviors and games
  • respond to positive attention

These may not apply to all breeds and individual dogs but, compared to the dog as a puppy (and minus any traumatic experiences or unusual aggression problems), they are much more likely in the adult dog.

Senior Dogs Are Less Energetic

As a dog becomes a senior, he will:

  • be less active
  • sleep more
  • enjoy, and be more content with, mellow playing, walking and interacting
  • tire faster

As a dog ages, his behavior matures and he becomes a consistent and predictable companion.