Mental and Physical Development: Learning Capabilities
Your puppy's learning capabilities are almost fully developed at 20 weeks of age. Training and experience is all your puppy will require to continue to learn at this age. Puppies that are 20 weeks old should be able to play advanced fetch and find games, and consistently follow commands such as sit, stay, come, drop and quiet.
Puppies do not absorb new information at this age as quickly as they did when they were younger, even though they are becoming mentally mature. For a 20-week-old puppy to remember what they have learned, lessons need to be practiced frequently. However, with consistent training, puppies at this age can begin to learn advanced skills such as sniffing out a specific object or focusing on a designated task despite distractions.
Health and Veterinary Care
Anesthesia We all hope our pets never require surgery (other than spaying and neutering). But if surgery is necessary, anesthesia will help make the procedure more bearable for your puppy.
Most surgical procedures performed on dogs require anesthesia of some kind. While complicated surgeries, such as spaying or neutering, require general anesthesia, simple procedures require only sedation or local anesthesia.
Veterinarians commonly give anesthesia as an injection or through inhalation of anesthetic gas. Vets will occasionally give a dog a pre-anesthetic agent orally to help sedate the dog before the general anesthetic procedure.
Before your dog undergoes a procedure that requires anesthesia, your veterinarian may give them a thorough physical examination. Most anesthetic agents used in modern veterinary practice are very safe. However, older dogs or dogs that have pre-existing conditions have a higher risk of an adverse reaction. Always discuss the risks of anesthesia with your veterinarian before any procedure.
Heartworm Disease Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the hearts and lungs of dogs. The worms, which are transmitted by mosquitoes, look similar to spaghetti.
Symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs may not be obvious until there is a heavy worm burden, which may take several years. Potential symptoms include coughing, weakness and lethargy. By the time you notice these signs, your dog may have close to 100 adult heartworms, which slow circulation and heavily stress the heart. Your veterinarian can diagnose a heartworm infection by analyzing a blood sample. Because heartworm disease can be difficult to treat once your dog is infected, prevention is very important. Heartworm disease can be prevented through monthly or daily medications. Talk to your veterinarian for their recommendation for your pets.
Digestion Issues Unless you have recently changed the type of food you're feeding your puppy, they should now be used to the diet they are being fed. Any sign of digestion upset, such as vomiting, diarrhea or gas, should be checked out.
Parasite and protozoa infections are among the leading causes of digestive upset in puppies. Because curious puppies like to explore their environment by tasting any unknown object, many digestion problems are the result of eating things such as dirt, toys or small animals.
Puppies are also in the midst of teething at 20 weeks, and they may experience digestive upset if they accidentally swallow whatever they have been chewing to alleviate the discomfort that comes with teething. In some cases, an allergy to certain ingredients in food, such as preservatives or food dyes, can cause an upset stomach.
Puppies learn most of their socialization skills before reaching 20 weeks of age, but puppies 20 weeks or older are not incapable of learning new socialization skills. As a puppy ages, they will require extra care and patience if they are expected to socialize with people or other pets.
If you are adopting a 20-week-old puppy that has not yet been socialized -- or you need to socialize your puppy with other pets and children -- take things slowly. Remember that it will take time for the puppy to feel safe and secure around these new creatures.
Try to keep the puppy in a quiet environment, slowly introduce them to new sights and sounds, and give them plenty of affection. If you have children, it is best to talk to them about the importance of being gentle and quiet around the puppy.