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As your dog grows from puppy to senior, you'll need to adjust how you take care of him. Here's what to expect as he moves through six stages of life.

Puppies and How to Take Care of Them

Life Stage No. 1: Puppy. Your dog is a puppy from the time it's a newborn until it's able to reproduce.

This happens at different ages, depending on the breed of your dog. Small breeds tend to reach sexual maturity earlier than larger breeds.

Weaning. Puppies slowly switch from their mother's milk to eating other foods when they're 3 or 4 weeks old. They should be fully switched over from milk to food by the time they're 7 or 8 weeks old.

Feeding. The number of feedings per day changes as your puppy gets older:

  • 2 to 3 months old: 4 times a day
  • 3 to 6 months old: 3 times a day
  • 6 months old to 1 year old: 2 times a day

After age 1, feed your dog once or twice a day.

Dental Care. Dogs may show signs of gum disease by age 4 if you don't take proper care of their teeth. So the right time to begin proper dental care is when your dog is still a puppy. To clean your puppy's teeth, use a special toothbrush made for dogs or else use a clean piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. You can make your own toothpaste out of baking soda and water. Never use toothpaste that's meant for people.

House-training. You can introduce the idea of house-training as soon as your puppy is weaned. He's still developing, though, so don't expect him to learn quickly. By the time he's 4 to 6 months old, he can usually go without having accidents.

Spaying and neutering. You may want to have your puppy spayed (removing females' ovaries and uterus) or neutered (removing males' testicles). These operations keep dogs from reproducing and having more puppies. They are usually done when your puppy is around 6 months old.

Spaying and neutering while they are puppies rather than as adults can help prevent problems like breast cancer and testicular disease when they get older.

Vaccines. Dogs need several rounds of vaccinations or shots during their first year. Talk to your veterinarian about when to get them.

Adult Dogs and Their Care

In these three stages your dog is in the prime of his life. The ages for these stages may differ with each breed, but here are some guidelines:

Life Stage No. 2: Junior. Now your dog is kind of like a teenager.  Although he can reproduce, he's still growing, so he's not quite an adult yet. His age in this stage ranges from 6 to 12 months.