Mental and Physical Development
Bad Behavior Most puppies have begun their adolescence by eight months old, and bad behavior should be expected as part of the growing process.
It is important not to hit, kick, muzzle or confine your puppy when they misbehave. These harsh forms of punishment may cause your puppy to become aggressive, try to flee or shrink in fear. None of these reactions indicate that your puppy understands that what they did is wrong, and all of them will be detrimental in the long run.
Saying "No," coupled with more positive punishments, such as squirting them with a water gun, are more humane and will help to reduce bad behavior.
A traumatic, painful or frightening experience during this time will have a more lasting impact on your puppy than if it had occurred at any other stage of their development. For example, an unpleasant trip to the veterinarian at this age could forever make your dog apprehensive about vets. Try to give your puppy as many positive experiences as possible so they don't become fearful.
Introducing Adult Food The feeding requirements and nutritional needs for an eight-month-old puppy can vary widely depending on the puppy's size and breed. Small breed dogs have high metabolism rates, but they are growing at a much slower rate by the time they're eight months old. Some large breed dogs will not mature until they are almost two years old, and their growth rate will be mostly steady until they reach that age.
Most medium and large breed dogs should not be placed on adult food until they are a year old. However, if you have a small breed puppy, you can begin to slowly introduce adult food into their diet when they are eight or nine months old.
Introducing adult food should be done gradually over the course of a week to 10 days. At feeding time on the first day, simply mix together three-quarters puppy food and one-quarter adult food. Each day, increase the amount of adult food and decrease the amount of puppy food until it is all adult food. Some puppies are sensitive to changes in diet, so be on the lookout for loose stool or digestive upset. If either of these things occurs, slow down the transition to adult food.
For breeds prone to hip dysplasia, it's better to continue to feed them smaller quantities of puppy food than it is to switch to adult food. Even though puppy food is more fattening, it contains the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio that growing bones need.
Health and Veterinary Care: Skin Problems
Puppies may encounter many skin problems throughout their adolescence. To catch these conditions early, be on the lookout for excessive shedding, overly dry or crusted skin, bare patches in the puppy's coat, and red, irritated skin. Also take notice if your puppy is scratching or biting their skin more than usual, as it could be a sign of many skin disorders.
Puppies less than a year old are susceptible to puppy impetigo. Symptoms of this disorder include small areas of pus and crusted skin, often on the puppy's belly or other bare-skin areas. It will often clear up through meticulous cleaning with peroxide twice a day, but antibiotics are sometimes needed to help clear up the condition.
Microscopic mites that burrow into the skin of a dog cause sarcoptic mange, also called canine scabies. The symptoms of this infection, which are thought to be caused by an allergic reaction to the mites themselves, include hair loss, intense itching and small bumps and crust, especially on the ears, abdomen, elbows and armpits.
Although most allergies don't appear until dogs reach maturity, puppies can also develop them. Signs of allergies include reddened, itchy skin, particularly around the ears, eyes, feet, forelegs, armpits and abdomen. The most common allergies are those to food and flea saliva.
Because many skin problems have similar symptoms, it is best to consult your veterinarian if you notice any of the symptoms in your puppy. You can find a veterinary dermatologist through the American College of Veterinary Dermatology, or ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.
Training: The Clicker
Puppies at eight months of age are ready to graduate to advanced training commands. There are dozens of types of training techniques available for canines.
However, one technique has remained very popular: clicker training. The only equipment you will need is a clicker -- a small handheld device that emits a sharp, short click -- and a bag of treats.
When you begin clicker-training your puppy, start by associating the click with a positive reward, such as a treat. Click the device, and then immediately give your puppy a small treat. Perform this lesson at least seven times a day for three days in a row. Once your puppy associates the click with a reward, use the clicker during training lessons to let the puppy know when they have correctly followed a command.