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Mother and puppy laying on grass

The essentials

  • The amount of time a dog takes to reach maturity varies — Dogs grow at different rates but on average, puppies reach full size anywhere between 6 and 24 months of age.
  • Large breed dogs tend to take longer to finish growing — Since they have bigger bodies and larger bones, they need more time to grow to their full size.
  • If you don’t know the breed of your puppy, there are ways to estimate their adult size — The size of your puppy’s paws and how much loose skin they have are good indications of how much more growing your new best friend has to do.

Although we might wish they could, puppies don’t stay little forever. But, the amount of time before your puppy reaches their full size depends on a few different factors. Primarily, your puppy’s adult size will depend on the typical size of your pup’s breed. On average, all dogs reach physical maturity anywhere between 6 to 24 months of age. Since this is a pretty large span of time, let’s break down a puppy’s development in a little more detail.

Stages of physical development in puppies

The most important physical milestones for puppies occur in different life stages. Learning what to expect during each time period can help you be a better informed and more responsible puppy owner.

Birth: From birth until 8 weeks, your puppy’s eyes and ears will open, they will start to make sounds, they will wean off of their mother’s milk, and they will gradually sleep less.

8 weeks: This is usually when purebred puppies usually leave their breeder and go home with new families. They will be developed enough to run, play, and eat puppy food. They will also begin to develop baby teeth.

8 to 12 weeks: Puppies usually experience a growth spurt during this period. Biting and chewing on everything is normal during this stage.

4 to 5 months: At this point, the adult coat will likely start growing in and baby teeth will start falling out.

6 to 9 months: Six months often marks the transition to sexual maturity for dogs, which is why neutering or spaying around this age is standard. Your dog should also gain all of its adult teeth. Smaller-breed puppies, like dachshunds, may finish growing at this point.

9 to 12 months: Unless you have a big dog, it’s likely that your dog is just about done growing at this point. Neutering your dog will slow growth.

2 years: Large and giant breeds will finish growing at this stage. For all pups, reaching mental maturity can take up to two years or longer. So don’t fear if your dog still acts like a puppy for a while after they’ve finished growing.

How long does it take smaller breed puppies to grow? 

Small dogs under 25 pounds, like toy poodles, papillons, and cairn terriers will usually finish growing in less than a year. Some especially small dog breeds, like toy breeds, can finish growing in as quickly as six months. The growth speed and final size of your small breed dog can also depend on your pup’s diet, how frequently they exercise, and how early they are spayed or neutered.

How long does it take medium breed puppies to grow? 

Dogs of medium adult size like miniature American shepherds, English springer spaniels, Aussiedoodles and Labrador retrievers usually finish growing around one year, give or take a few months. Neutering, diet, exercise, and genetics also play important roles in your dog’s development and eventual final adult size.

How long does it take large breed puppies to grow?

As in people, with large and giant breed dogs like the mastiff or great Dane, longer bones need more time to grow to their final height. So larger dogs can take anywhere from a year to two years to finish growing, depending on the breed and final size. For giant breeds, it’s not uncommon to grow for a full two years before reaching full growth.

The growth rate of purebred puppies

If you’ve purchased a purebred dog from a breeder, chances are you will be able to take a look at the parents. This is usually a pretty good indicator of purebred puppies’ adult weight and size. Even if you don’t know what your puppy’s parents look like, information about breed size and weight should be easy to find. Keep in mind that male dogs are usually slightly larger.

The American Kennel Club standard breed weight chart gives new dog owners a good estimate of what to expect for a purebred pup’s average adult weight.

The growth rate of mixed breed puppies

If you rescue your dog or aren’t sure about the breed, there are some physical indicators that can help you estimate its adult size. Keep in mind that every dog is different and these are all techniques designed to help you guess.

  • Gauge the amount of loose skin — While some dogs, like American bulldogs, are simply wrinkly, loose skin is often an indicator that your dog has room to grow. A larger dog with loose skin is more likely to grow into their body, while the growth of a smaller dog slows after one year of age.
  • Feel the ribs for growth plates — If you run your hands down a puppy’s rib cage, you may be able to feel knobs along the edge of the bones, which are the growth plates that are still hardening. While this won’t predict the adult size, there’s a good chance your dog still has some growing to do if you can feel these.
  • Get a canine DNA testing service — If your dog’s bloodline is a little bit hazy, you can purchase canine DNA testing kits to help you get a better idea. You can then look up your dog’s breed(s) to predict how large they will get. However, some veterinarians are wary of the lack of standards and the potential lack of accuracy delivered by these kits. DNA tests that require blood samples tend to be more reliable than those requiring a saliva swab sample, for example.

Are paws a good indicator of adult size?

Paw size sometimes correlates with adult size, but it’s not a reliable way to predict how large your dog will get. Especially when puppies are young, it’s common for paws to look disproportionately large or small.

How do I feed my growing puppy? 

A healthy diet with proper nutrition will help your pup reach their full size and ensure that your growing pup’s bones and joints develop properly. Because pups grow so quickly, they need a higher calorie intake than adult dogs need. Following proper puppy feeding guidelines will help keep your growing furry friend happy and healthy.

Diet for small and medium sized breeds

For the pint-size smaller breed dogs, it may be surprising for pet parents to learn that little dogs actually have a faster metabolism than larger canines. Because of this, little dogs typically need a higher calorie diet than larger breed pups. Of course, a teeny Chihuahua has a much smaller stomach than a Newfoundland. Dog foods specifically designed for small breeds provide a nutrient-dense meal with a higher calorie percentage perfect for little dogs.

Medium size breeds typically do well with a balanced diet that falls between the caloric intake of a small and large breed dog. Many dog food bags have a portion guideline based on your puppy’s weight and their life stage. You can also explore betterpet’s breed profiles to research how much your dog should eat on average. It’s also always a good idea to consult your veterinarian when trying to determine how much your furry friend should be eating daily.

Diet for large and giant-sized breeds

Because large dogs have a lower metabolic rate than a small breed dog has, their food doesn’t need to be as nutrient-dense or high in calories. Large breed puppies should always be fed a large breed puppy food, which is specially designed to support the rapid growth of their joints and long bones. These types of foods are extremely important for a dog who will grow into a larger body and can prevent health issues from happening in the future.

A poor diet for a growing large dog breed can result in bone disease or hypertrophic osteodystrophy. Be sure to consult with your vet on which large breed puppy formula is right for your dog’s nutritional needs.

How much exercise does my growing puppy need? 

It’s also important to foster the appropriate amount of exercise at each stage of development. For example, even active breeds of dogs don’t need to go on long walks before they’re four months old. Outside playtime or play in the house should be plenty of exercise for a young puppy. As they age, however, follow your veterinarian’s advice for daily exercise.

Another thing to consider when thinking about how much exercise your growing pup needs is the energy levels of your dog’s breed. A low-energy breed only needs around two 30 minute walks per day as an adult dog. And low energy breeds come in all shapes and sizes: the large breed Saint Bernard is considered a low energy breed. Medium-energy breeds are right in the middle between couch potatoes and weekend warriors.

Dogs like the Boston terrier, Havanese, or shiba inu love longer walks, extra playtime and adventures. These dogs are great candidates for agility training or dog sports. But unlike high energy breeds, they don’t have a seemingly limitless battery to get up and go.

A high-energy breed, like an Australian shepherd or border collie, is a great option for pet owners with a very active lifestyle. One thing to keep in mind even with high-energy breeds is not to overexert a growing puppy. While they do need plenty of exercise, too much exercise for a puppy can be harmful for their development. For pet parents with a high energy breed dog, talk to your veterinarian about the right amount of exercise they need as they’re growing.

Frequently asked questions

Do dogs grow a lot more after six months?

After six months, your puppy’s growth does start to slow. The amount of growing your dog has left to do depends on their breed size.

Does paw size determine dog size?

This isn’t a full-proof method to determine your dog’s size. However, unusually large paws on your puppy is a pretty good indication that they still have a lot of growing to do.

Is a 2-year-old dog still a puppy?

Although dog parents will probably still call their furry friends “puppies” long after they’ve aged out of this stage of life, puppies are generally considered adult dogs once they’ve reached their full adult size. The time this happens depends on the breed and other factors, but usually occurs anywhere between 1 and 2 years of age.

How much more do dogs grow after 1 year?

Small breed dogs are typically at their adult size at 1 year old. Medium breed dogs have about 5-10% more growing to do, and large or giant breeds about 10-20% more.

How can you stop a puppy from growing too big?

Neutering your dog will slow a pup’s growth rate somewhat, but otherwise there is no healthy or safe way to prevent a dog from growing. Researching your dog’s expected adult size ahead of time will help prevent being surprised when they’re fully grown. If your pup does grow larger than expected, training with positive reinforcement will help your dog learn to navigate your house comfortably in his adult body.