Welcome to your guide to living with a 12 week old puppy! We’ll take a look at what to expect from your puppy, and what they will need from you at this fun stage of their development. You will also find a 12 week old puppy schedule, and loads of helpful care tips too.
At 12 weeks old, your Labrador puppy has probably been sharing your home for at least a couple of weeks now. Any early nerves will have worn off, and she will be getting into her stride. But this new found confidence can raise a lot of questions for her human family. Let’s see if we can answer those for you here! For some extra help with training too, you can have our Training Tips delivered by email! Just drop your email address into the box below
How much should a 12 week old puppy sleep?
You might have expected that as your puppy grows, they will drop those day time sleeps. But in fact, most puppies are still spending more of their time asleep than they do awake. If you are lucky they should be sleeping through the night now, but don’t worry if there are still a few hiccups there. Getting into a good bedtime routine can be tricky, but your pup’s bladder is probably big enough to go the night now. So it’s time to help them settle down for a full 8 hours.
12 week old puppy schedule
Your schedule will of course vary depending upon your own routine, but I find this is a good rule of thumb for 12 week old puppies:
- 6am Morning! Straight out for a pee
- 7am Meal
- 7.15am Potty break
- 9am Potty break
- 11am Potty break
- 12 noon Meal
- 12.15pm Potty break
- 2pm Potty break
- 4pm Potty break
- 5pm Meal
- 5.15pm Potty break
- 7.30pm Potty break
- 9pm Take water up
- 10pm Last pee and into the crate
Your 12 week old puppy might be able to last up to 3 hours between pees now, but we want to set her up to win. To do this, we give her lots of opportunities to go in the backyard, and not need to hold her bladder for too long. And always give her the opportunity to poop outdoors after a meal.
By now, your puppy should have a lot more control over his bladder than when you first brought him home. But, this doesn’t mean that you will never have accidents, or that your puppy will be able to go all day without needing the toilet. Some puppies take longer than others to become fully housetrained. So, stick with the good habits you’ve developed, and make sure any accidents indoors are thoroughly cleaned up.
12 Week Old Puppy Behavior
It is important to know what you should expect in terms of your puppy’s behavior at 12 weeks old. Temperament differs between breeds, but there are some common traits that all 12 week old puppies will share.
They are all still likely to be playful, curious, and excited to be around you. But, if you slack on socialization, they can become fearful. We will touch on this more later. For now, let’s take a look at the more fun playful side.
One of the best things about puppies is the fun games you can play with them! Playing is a great way to bond with your pup, and a great way for him to burn some energy inside the house. Here are some games you might want to play:
- Running games, eg. chasing toys
- Hide and seek
- Blow bubbles
- Tug and release
- Tracking games
- Snuggles and massages!
Playing Helps with Other Good Habits
There are so many games that are great for puppies. Lots of them are simple, and can use treats and toys from your house. Puppy games can even help with training. You can see how this works by taking a look at our online puppy training courses!
Teething and Biting
One thing you might not have been prepared for is the teething that starts at around 10 to 12 weeks old. Your puppy might bite during play, but may also chew to relieve pain from teething.
Most biting is not related to teething. It’s normal puppy behavior! So, it’s important to learn how to get through this painful stage. If you have small children in your home, you should teach them the best way to act around puppies. This will help to reduce the number of hard bites they suffer from.
Puppy bites can hurt. And 12 week old puppies can even draw blood. This biting is often accompanied by snarling and growling. But this doesn’t necessarily mean your puppy is aggressive.
How to Minimise Biting
Biting will naturally start to reduce by the time your puppy is around 4 to 5 months old. But, while your puppy is in the biting stage, this behavior can be made worse by excitement, attention, and poor bite inhibition. If you reward your puppy for biting by giving him more attention or excitable play, the biting can increase.
We have a 5 step plan to reduce biting in this article. But to summarise, supervise people when they’re playing with your puppy. Separate your puppy if he is biting, and don’t reward his behavior with attention or excitement. Don’t use punishment, simply remove your attention.
12 Week Old Puppy Training
Training should take place from the time you bring your dog home. You might have noticed we included three meal times in the routine earlier.
These are not times to give your dog a third of their daily rations – they are the times for the leftovers from the part of the day! Most of your puppy’s kibble at this stage should be used in training and to reward behaviors you’d like to see more of.
Hand them some kibble whenever they lay down calmly, keep their paws on the floor instead of jumping up. Anything you’d like to see more of, reward!
What Else to Train
For long lasting and reliable results, you’ll need to train your puppy in a structured way. You can do this yourself using a well designed training plan. If you’d like to follow a structured online course, Pippa and her team have created some great online training programs over at Dogsnet. It’s really important to teach your puppy to listen to you, before attempting a more formal training program.
You’ll also find it helpful to teach your puppy to behave politely around food so that you can use edible treats in training. These skills are covered in Pippa’s Puppy Parenting course. When your dog reaches 12 weeks, you can move on to Foundation Skills and other fun training exercises. You’ll find more information about those on the Dogsnet training site.
Puppy Training Classes
Perhaps you’re thinking of taking your puppy to puppy training classes. This is a great idea because it also helps to socialize your dog.
Indoor Training Classes
It is possible to train your puppy at home, and it’s never been easier thanks to positive reward methods. There are plenty of great training guides on our websites that will help you learn things like ‘heel’ and ‘sit’. Or, you can take a look at our online dog training courses. These can be done entirely at home, and help teach you and your puppy!
12 Week Old Puppy Socialization
Socialization is the most important method to ensure that your puppy grows up to be happy, friendly, and confident. The window for socialization actually starts to close at 12 weeks. But, it can last until 16 weeks in many puppies. So, don’t stop socializing your puppy.
Make sure you are still taking your 12 week old puppy out to new experiences, locations, and people. This will help to reinforce the socialization you have done up until now, and keep your puppy from becoming fearful in new situations.
Make sure you don’t put your puppy down on the ground if they aren’t fully vaccinated. If you are struggling to lift them, you might want to invest in a harness, or puppy backpack! We can’t overemphasise how important socialization is for all puppies! So, make sure they experience as much as possible even now that they are 12 weeks old.
12 Week Old Puppy Appearance
Puppies are always very cute, and 12 week puppies are no exception! Your dog still isn’t fully grown at this stage, so they will still be relatively small compared to their adult size. However, there will be lots of variation between breeds. So, a 12 week Lab puppy will look very different to a 12 week Pitbull puppy! But, here are some characteristics that might be common between all breeds.
Your 12 week puppy will be bigger than it was when you brought it home at 8 weeks. But, it will still only be a fraction of its full adult size! And this doesn’t just refer to height, but also to weight. A 2007 study in Norway looked at growth in 150 Labrador puppies. It found that weight gain reaches its peak at around 89 days old for female pups and 95 days old for males. This is around the 12 – 16 week age period. So, at 12 weeks old your puppy is likely to start really filling out.
If you’re worried about your puppy’s weight being too much, the best place to go is your vet. They will be able to look at your puppy as an individual, rather than make a sweeping comment on the size a whole breed should be.
12 Week Old Puppy Health and Care
There are three main areas we want to focus on for the health and care of your puppy. These are vaccinations, feeding schedules, and exercise needs. But, there is also general care to think about. Let’s get started by taking a look at whether your 12 week puppy will still need vaccinations first.
Depending on where you’re from, your puppy’s vaccinations might end at 12 weeks old. Generally, in the UK, puppies will receive their second combined vaccine at 12 weeks old, and will need no more.
In the USA, puppies often receive their third combined vaccine, a rabies vaccine, and possibly a Leptospirosis or Lyme vaccine at 12 weeks. But, they may also need a fourth combined vaccine at 16 weeks old.
This vaccine schedule may differ between practices. So, speak to your vet to find out exactly when your puppy will receive his last vaccine. It’s important to wait until your puppy has completed their full vaccine schedule before you begin to put them on the ground outside in new places. You can read more about puppy vaccines here.
Remember, it’s important to not exercise your puppy outside until they have completed their full vaccine schedule. If your puppy has completed his vaccines, you can start to walk or exercise him outside.
Puppies need less exercise than you might think, even though they can seem full of energy! Some breeders suggest 5 minutes of exercise per month of age – so a maximum 15 minute walk outside for a 12 week old puppy. This timeframe doesn’t include time spent playing and running around in the house.
Overexercising your puppy can cause problems with your dog’s joints as they grow. It can strain vulnerable growing dogs, and lead to issues like hip dysplasia. So, make sure to avoid over-exercising your puppy. Especially if you have a large breed dog.
There are some general care things you should be doing while your dog is young. Make sure he is used to grooming and bathing by occasionally giving him a brush or a bath. Use lots of treats so your puppy associates these experiences with something great!
Make sure your puppy is happy for you to touch him all over – including his paws, ears and tail. This means you can check his body for any injuries and abnormalities, especially as he grows. This will also help you check for any problems like ticks or fleas. Your puppy is still likely to sleep a lot. So don’t feel the need to constantly be playing with him. Just enjoy how cute your sleeping puppy is!
Your 12 Week Old Puppy
Raising and caring for a 12 week old puppy can take a lot of energy and time! But, it’s worth it when you see how your dog is developing. Make sure you’re sticking to a proper training and socialization schedule for your puppy. And, don’t put your pup on the ground outside unless it has finished with his vaccinations.
We would love to hear about your experiences with your own puppies in the comments. What have you found to be the most rewarding part of owning a 12 week old puppy?
More Puppy Guides
If you’re looking for more help and tips raising your puppy, take a look at some of the guides below.
- Stopping Biting
- Puppy Growth
- Puppy Toys
- Potty Training
- Puppy Supplies Checklist
- Homemade Puppy Treats
- Advice On Raising A Puppy When You Work Full Time
- Puppy Teething and Teeth
References and Resources
- Trangerud, C. (et al), ‘A Longitudinal Study on Growth and Growth Variables in Dogs of Four Large Breeds Raised in Domestic Environments’, Journal of Animal Science (2007)
- Duxbury, M. (et al), ‘Evaluation of Association Between Retention in the Home and Attendance at Puppy Socialization Classes’, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (2003)
- Cannas, S. (et al), ‘Puppy Behavior When Left Home Alone: Changes During the First Few Months After Adoption’, Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2010)
- Perez-Guisado, J. (et al), ‘Evaluation of the Campbell Test and the Influence of Age, Sex, Breed, and Coat Color on Puppy Behavioral Responses’, Canadian Journal of Veterinary Reseach (2008)
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website