From the day they are born, puppies are ripping through developmental phases so quickly it is hard to keep up. Just when you think you have a handle on who you are living with, that cute little puppy steps into the next developmental phase, and you kind of start all over.
In the beginning puppies are 100% reliant on their Mother for warmth, milk, and being stimulated to eliminate. But in a matter of weeks their eyes open, then their ears, and they begin to wobble about, play, and search and explore their new world. In another week or so their teeth begin to erupt and they start to chew on bones, meat, gruel, and eat what food is offered in addition to nursing, and they also start to eliminate on their own.
And then the real circus begins, walking, running, tumbling, chewing, growling, barking, and exploring, lots and lots of exploring their new world, all within eight weeks of hitting the planet.
Each couple of weeks there are new changes in regards to physical, social, and emotional development. Then from puppy to adolescent in a mere six months, and then young adulthood before two years of age. It is fast, a blink of sorts.
But sometimes, for various reasons and reasons unknown, a puppy will develop much faster than what would be expected.
In every puppy class we have, we have one possibly two new puppies that are clearly maturing faster than their peers, this is referred to as Early Maturation or Precocious Puberty.
What does this look like? It can vary really –
- Bone and muscle mass more developed
- Changes in body shape and size
- Adult teeth coming in months before they should
- Testicles drop months before ‘true puberty’
- In some rare cases very early heat cycles, enlarged mammary glands
- The male puppies ability to reproduce before ‘true puberty’
- Hyper sexual behavior, access to mounting is chosen over playing with peers
To say the least, owners of puppies that are experiencing Early Maturation can get a bit tripped up. Here is a yummy little fur ball that loves on their owners a bit but would prefer to mount other puppies to the point of being obnoxious, or mount the owners leg, their bed, their toys, and the corner of the couch if it is available, and sometimes to the point of being a bit aggressive. And coupled with a puppies immature brain, this can be difficult to manage, or frankly enjoy.
So why? How does this happen to some puppies and not others? The known reasons can be one or a combination of the following –
- Predominantly male litter – testosterone does transfer from placenta to placenta causing some litters, even the females present, to have ‘ultra male’ characteristics including early maturation
- A side effect of Early Neurological Stimulation or Biosensor, SuperDog handling of a puppy from 3-16 days of age
- Adverse reaction to early vaccination can cause hyper sexual behavior
- Early exposure to synthetic growth hormones
And then there are the unknown reasons, a guess of sorts –
- Hormone disorders
- Brain abnormalities or injuries
I can tell you that consistently Yellow Labrador male puppies seem to go into Early Maturation as part of their genetic make-up. The perfect ‘cocktail’ though to seal the deal on Early Maturation seems to be, Yellow Labrador, predominantly male litter, vaccinated way too young while at the breeders. I have never had a Yellow Labrador male puppy, in over sixteen years, not exhibit these behaviors, one or all of them. So whatever creates the ‘yellow’ as far as coat/color traits, also adds to early maturation. NOTE – this is a sixteen year observation, not from a study.
Is this to say that it is only that color and that breed? No not at all, it just seems to be consistent with Yellow Labradors (which would include Doodles bred with Yellow Labradors on one side of the breeding). I have had Chihuahua’s, Havanese, Coton’s, Pit Bull Terriers, Border Collies, Great Danes, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Australian Shepherds, and on and on exhibit Early Maturation over the years, but not as often, and mostly but not always, after over vaccination creating this special adverse reaction.
So does this create problems? Yes it can.
Developmentally, when a puppy should be exploring, learning about their bigger world, interacting with their peers in play and games, and getting to know their owner, Early Maturation can hijack their brain and body, and the sole focus becomes access to sexual behavior. Normal developmental takes a back seat, and the effects can be long lasting.
Are there things you can do? Yes there are.
- Choose your breeder carefully
- Choose the litter carefully
- Choose your breed carefully
- Follow a SAFE VACCINE SCHEDULE
- Feed a species appropriate raw diet
- Choose play friends carefully so there is no rehearsal of behavior you don’t want (that means no dog parks)
- Train, teach new things, hike, explore new areas with new distractions
- Avoid rough housing – too stimulating and can be sexually arousing
Should a puppy in Early Maturation be desexed young?
Yes and no, you have to decide what is best for your dog and your household. This is personal, and the choice needs to be thoughtful, not a reaction to your puppies immediate behaviors. Desexing is permanent, so truly, be thoughtful.
It comes down to choices, intentions, understanding, management, and knowledge. Everything counts – Nancy