Maturity happens the same way with all puppies. One minute you’re cuddling with a little adorable puppy, and the next you’re handling a fluffy, four-legged teenager!
When your puppy reaches the “teenager” phase, they’re testing its independence from you. That’s why they usually exhibit behaviors that you’ve never seen before from your fur-baby.
There’s one culprit that causes these behavior issues: sexual maturity. Your puppy will test your patience and display natural habits that show they’re becoming an adult.
Let’s review what you should expect from your puppy’s sexual maturity and how you should handle it.
At what age are puppies considered sexually mature?
Puppies reach sexual maturity depending on their breed and size. Larger breeds become mature after they’re 9 months old. Smaller breeds mature earlier, usually about 6 months of age. Your vet will assess your puppy’s growth plates—located in their bones—to examine their maturity and development.
For many puppies, their growth plates will start closing when they reach 9 months. Some breeds take a little longer but it’s roughly around the same age mark. Find out what age your puppy is supposed to be sexually mature to prevent neutering or spaying them too early.
According to the AKC Canine Health Foundation, neutering and spaying your puppy early can lead to future health problems, such as joint and orthopedic issues. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian to determine what age your puppy starts sexually maturing.
What are signs that a puppy is sexually mature?
Your puppy’s sexual maturity is similar to how children go through puberty. You will know when your puppy is going through the process. Puppies won’t suffer from acne, smelly odor, and body hair, but the transformation is almost the same.
Like humans, sexual maturity happens differently in males and females. Here’s a breakdown of the signs your furry friend is going through “canine puberty”:
Most female puppies experience their first heat when they’re 6 months old. This phase can also happen much later depending on their breed and size. Heat is also called the estrous cycle, and is the period in a female dog’s life when she can have puppies. Your fluffy friend may be “in heat” if she:
- Has a swollen vagina
- Is peeing frequently
- Has red vaginal discharge (similar to human menstruation)
- Wants to roam around outside
- Is aggressive with you or other dogs
Please note: a 6-month-old puppy that’s in heat can become pregnant. And if you aren’t careful, she will seek out attention from male dogs.
If your puppy is exhibiting signs of heat, do not leave her alone when she is outside. Do not let any male dogs near her unless you want to have a litter of puppies.
Male dogs do not experience heat as females do. Unlike female dogs, males can sire puppies at any time.
Male puppies begin sexual maturity at 5 months of age. However, their fertility reaches its peak at 12 months old. At this age, your puppy’s testosterone levels are higher than usual, leading them to exhibit aggression.
Typical signs of sexual maturity in male dogs are:
- Constant roaming around
- Peeing everywhere (called “territorial marking”)
- Anxious behavior
An aggressive or anxious male dog will get into fights with other male dogs. If you have two male dogs in your home (and neither are spayed), it’s a good idea to separate them when a female in heat is nearby.
Territorial marking is a common sign of sexual maturity that can be quite annoying. Your puppy can’t help it so it’s important to practice patience with them.
Keep your puppy on a leash when you’re outside. Once they reach the right age, get your fur-baby neutered to stop their annoying habits. Play fun games with them and reinforce their training.
It’s challenging to deal with your puppy during this stage in its development. You may think about wanting to give up, but don’t forget that this is only temporary. Be patient with your furry friend.
What are spaying and neutering?
Getting your furry friend spayed or neutered is one e of the most important decisions you’ll ever make for them. When your puppy reaches sexual maturity, it may exhibit behaviors you won’t like, whether it’s territorial marking, aggression, or roaming.
If you aren’t planning on raising a litter of puppies, we highly suggest spaying or neutering your puppy.
Spaying and neutering your pup provides them with a variety of benefits. According to Pawsome Advice, spaying and neutering extend your puppy’s lifespan so you’ll have many more years with them!
Picking the best time to spay or neuter your puppy depends on its age. Many vets suggest waiting until your female doggy has had its first heat cycle. This helps prevent your puppy from developing canine breast cancer. For males, your vet may recommend waiting until your puppy reaches a certain age based on its breed and size.
Also, don’t feel sad or guilty about spaying or neutering your puppy. In the end, you’re doing what’s best for your furry friend. Spaying and neutering will prevent several health issues that your puppy may experience as an adult. When you spay or neuter your fur-baby, you’re placing their health first!
We all know how awkward going through sexual maturity can be. While your puppy’s transformation is different from ours, they’re still going through a confusing time. Be patient and cut your fur-baby some slack.
Your little buddy acts on purely animalistic instincts so don’t take their sudden aggression or territorial marking habits personally. Continue training your puppy and don’t forget to talk to your vet about spaying or neutering. By the time this scary phase of their life is over, your cuddly doggy will be back to their regular old selves!
Taking your puppy to the vet is an important first step to good health! Check out our blog, What To Expect on Your Puppy’s First Vet Visit for our helpful tips