A 12 week old puppy can be pretty overwhelming! By now, you will have started socializing your dog, and will be working hard at house training and a regular bedtime routine!
But, there are still steps you need to take to ensure your puppy grows up healthy, happy, and well-trained.
Your dog hasn’t finished growing to its full maturity by 12 weeks. So, you should continue to take extra precautions to ensure they are getting the best care.
Let’s take a closer look at what to expect from a 12 week old puppy, and how best to care for one.
12 Week Old Puppy Development
Small breed puppies don’t finish growing until they reach around 9 months to one year old. And giant breeds can take up to 3 years!
So, your puppy is still very much a puppy at 12 weeks old. They have plenty of growing and learning left to do over the next few months of their life.
Some of the most important things to think about when raising a 12 week old puppy are socialization, training, and general care, which includes vaccinations, exercise, and feeding schedules.
However, you might also be wondering how to combat behaviors caused by teething, and what your 12 week old puppy should look like.
Luckily, we cover all this and more in today’s guide! Let’s take a closer look.
12 Week Old Puppy Contents
These are the 5 main areas we will cover in today’s guide. Click on the links above if you’re curious about a certain topic.
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.
But, if you’re interested in finding out more about puppy growth rates and schedules, take a look at this article.
Fur and General Appearance
Your puppy will still look like a puppy in its size, and most likely in its other features too.
You’ll still have those puppy dog eyes and that soft, fluffy puppy fur. By now you should be able to tell a little more what your puppy will look like when they’re fully grown!
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!
Or, find out more about puppy games in this article.
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 a 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. You may want to place your puppy in a puppy zone. Squealing or yelping can make your pup more excited.
You can also train your puppy not to bite.
12 Week Old Puppy Training
Training should take place from the time you bring your dog home. However, your training will change as your dog learns more.
Let’s take a look at the different training areas you might be wondering about.
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.
Make sure you still take your puppy out for regular bathroom breaks. Although now you are more likely able to wait longer between trips than you used to!
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.
You can read more tips on potty training your puppy in our full guide.
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.
However, you should wait until your puppy has had all of his vaccinations. Otherwise, he is at risk of catching some harmful diseases.
We will cover vaccines in a little more detail later. But, make sure to check with your vet first to ensure your puppy is fully vaccinated.
Indoor Training Classes
It is possible to train your puppy at home, and it’s never been easier thanks to positive reward methods.
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!
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.
12 weeks is often the age that your puppy will transition from 4 meals a day to 3 meals a day.
Obviously the amount of food your puppy will need depends on his breed and weight. So, speak to your vet for the most accurate amount of food you need.
But, generally, your puppy’s meal sizes will increase a little. Your puppy may struggle with this change at first, causing an upset stomach.
If this happens, just revert back to four smaller meals for a while. You can try transitioning to three meals a little later.
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!
12 Week Old Puppy Summary
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.
- Puppy Toys
- 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