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When Do Dogs Stop Growing? Will My Puppy Stay Small Forever?

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Nothing beats puppies. (Well, maybe kittens) They’re bundles of energy with soft, fluffy coats. You get to experience the excitement as they explore the world around them. And you slowly replace the important puppy essentials as they get bigger…and bigger…and bigger. Many dogs retain the playful puppy personality into adulthood, but nothing slows down that increase in size. Even tiny breeds get a little larger after birth. As you make that third trip to the pet store, you’re probably wondering: when will it stop? You’ll find a few different theories about how to determine a puppy’s final size. And some are more accurate than others. Dog growth isn’t a simple concept. But if you’d like to know how big your puppy will turn out in the end, we can help you solve the puzzle.

Puppy Development

Regardless of which breed you have tumbling around the house, all puppies undergo the same changes. Dog growth is broken into five stages, with basic “landmarks:”

  • Newborn-2 Weeks: This is the neonatal phase. During this period, puppies double their weight.
  • 2-4 Weeks: The transitional stage. Eyes open, and puppies start walking. They also get their baby teeth.
  • 4-12 Weeks: Now we’re into the juvenile phase. You see the most rapid dog growth here. It’s also when they play and run the most, building muscle.
  • 6-12 Months: Adolescence (congratulations – you have a teenager!). Growth slows down, but sexual maturity hits (time to spay or neuter). And that lovely puppy fur swaps out for an adult coat.
  • 1-2 Years: You now have a mature dog. Dog growth stops, though muscles continue to strengthen.

Now, you probably noticed some dramatic ranges for each stage. Why? Because while every dog goes through the same five phases, the timing isn’t always the same.

Smaller breeds grow faster than larger breeds

Breed and Dog Growth

The size of your breed plays a big part in how fast they grow. If your body doesn’t need to get as big, it takes less time to do so, as you can see below.

Breed SizeAge to Full Growth
Small6-8 Months
Medium12 Months
Large12-18 Months
Giant24 Months

So you know when your cuddle bug will finish growing (that’s helpful). But HOW big will they get? That answer is a little trickier.

Figuring Out Dog Growth

People have a lot of theories on deciding how big a puppy will be. It’s a helpful answer to know. You can start planning for your final harness, dog bed, and toys. Not to mention making sure your house has room to contain all the energy of a playful pup. Many suggest looking at the size of your puppy’s paws as an indicator of dog growth. Others tell you to look at the parents (which works if you know who they are). And some even recommend checking the amount of excess skin your canine’s carrying. Which works best? Let’s work through them and find out!

Puppy Bones

First, though, let’s understand the mechanics of dog growth. As we’ve already noted, your dog’s muscles grow their entire life. They gain strength and refine through exercise – the same as ours. So you can’t get much information from muscle. You need to look somewhere else.

And bones are the answer. Once your dog reaches maturity, bones stop growing. Before that, they expand from the growth plates. Growth plates are thin areas of cartilage where new bone tissue gets laid down.

The growth plates are SOFT and fragile. As such, you need to protect your puppy from falls and injuries. A break at the plate can hamper growth in that leg. Too MUCH exercise also strains them. “It is imperative to know that exercise, prolonged activity, like jogging, can be extremely detrimental on the bones and joints of growing puppies,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer at the American Kennel Club.

Once the growth plates finish laying down new bone tissue, they calcify (harden) and close. After that, growth stops. Your dog reaches their final size.

Dog growth proceeds from the growth plates

The Paw Theory of Dog Growth

Many believe that large feet match up with a taller height and a larger weight. It’s a good theory. The bigger a dog’s foot, the more weight it should support. Itty-bitty dainty feet won’t hold up a Great Dane.

On the flip side, if your puppy has delicate toes, you expect a tiny pup. Massive feet on a Chihuahua wouldn’t make sense. (The poor thing wouldn’t stand a chance of walking)

But the paw theory of dog growth has some flaws. Collies have dainty feet. They’re larger dogs, but they need to move swiftly through sheep herds. The smaller foot profile allows them to do so. And Bulldogs have enormous paws that support their heavy frames. The feet are larger than their final size.

So you can look at your pup’s feet as a guess, but don’t assume big (or small) feet tell the entire story.

Excess Skin as a Dog Growth Indicator

Then again, some people suggest you look at the amount of loose skin on your puppy. If you’re seeing plenty of “wrinkles” hanging around, you know you’re going to have a larger puppy.

Similar to the paw theory, there’s some merit to this idea of dog growth. Your dog WILL fill out that space as the bones grow. But if you have a wrinkly dog, such as a Shar-Pei, the loose skin belongs there. And it’s going to grow WITH your puppy.

Which sends you to look at your dog’s breed. It’s the most accurate indicator of dog growth.

Looking at parents is a good indicator of dog growth

“Are You My Mother?”

If you know and have seen your puppy’s parents, you have a good idea of how large your puppy will get. You can talk with the breeder about the family history and get an idea of heights and weights. Typically, boys get larger than girls, so keep that in mind.

But what if you adopted your dog from a rescue or shelter? You’re flying blind when it comes to that dog growth question. Or are you? Dog DNA kits can help fill in the blanks. Many not only offer insight into the breeds that contribute to your unique pup, but they can let you know the size to expect for a healthy dog.

If you want to skip the test, you can still make an educated guess. Run your hands down your dog’s rib cage. Do you feel the “knobs” of the ribs? That tells you your pup’s still working to grow. Those “knobs” represent the growth plates for the ribs. So if they’re still working on finishing laying down calcified bone, so are the long bones in the legs. It’s a handy test you can do that’s free of charge. (Though it won’t tell you HOW much growth remains, unhappily)

Bigger Every Day

Trying to piece together how large a puppy may get can get tricky – especially if you aren’t sure about your pup’s background. But you know, roughly, when they’ll finish with the dog growth phases. And as you check those ribs, you’ll start to feel the growth plates closing. It’ll help you gauge the final size a little better.

Or perhaps you know the pedigree of your puppy. So you have a good idea of how big they’ll get from DNA testing or family research.

Either way, you get the joy of seeing those puppy paws explore something new each and every day.

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria grew up in a pet-friendly household. On weekends, the family made trips to zoos and aquariums in the area. So it wasn’t a surprise when she gravitated toward a career with animals.

After six years working among the background operations at the Philadelphia Zoo, she gained a unique insight into the veterinary world. The vet staff provided her first lessons in terminology, the identification of medical equipment, and glimpses of radiographs (x-rays). She also enjoyed plenty of opportunities to talk with everyone, including the veterinary technicians. And they offered an alternative for someone NOT interested in surgical pathways: Namely, their course of study.

Andria enrolled at Harcum College. Philadelphia boasts two programs for vet techs, but only Harcum works with the Ryan Veterinary Hospital and New Bolton Center (University of Pennsylvania’s small and large animal facilities, respectively). Harcum’s vet tech students receive six months of hands-on teaching and experience alongside Penn’s vet students.

With the opportunities and connections available with one of the top veterinary schools, the decision was easy for her to make.

New Bolton Center: Large Animal Medicine
Andria ended up trudging through snow up to the knee and shivering in subzero temperatures during her winter semester, but she wasn’t disappointed with her choice. New Bolton provided a thorough grounding in large animal medicine. A horse-lover as a child, the experience renewed those old emotions.

And a few memories stood out and remained to this day:

  • Standing alongside a Clydesdale and feeling TINY
  • Holding the reins of a horse galloping at top speed on a treadmill
  • Nursing tiny foals through the first days of their life

Ryan Veterinary Hospital: Small Animal Medicine
Veterinary students can legally work at a practice while studying. Andria took advantage of the opportunity, gaining “real life” experience while attending class. It provided a slight advantage when she entered her three months at the small animal hospital.

However, as Ryan Veterinary Hospital offers treatments unique to the veterinary community, she continued to gain valuable experience. For instance, she spent a day working alongside their Chemo Team. The positivity of everyone she encountered – staff, clients, and patients alike – left a lasting impression.

Additional standout moments included:

  • An afternoon spent with the head of the feline kidney transplant program
  • A day serving as the anesthesia technician in their new radiation unit
  • Recognizing a radiograph of a giant elephant shrew (applying her previous zoo knowledge)

Emergency/ICU Veterinary Technician
Accompanying her Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology, Andria received a passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). The two led to her certification/license as a veterinary technician – first in Pennsylvania (CVT) and later in Virginia (LVT).

Emergency medicine appealed to her from the beginning. The flux of ailments, injuries, and even species kept her mind sharp at all times. The knowledge required to handle cats, dogs, exotics, and even wildlife is highest in an ICU setting. When a vet tech never knows the patient’s stability coming back to the treatment area, skills and the ability to respond in an instant always stay in peak shape.

With treatments evolving at a constant basis, Andria sought out the best Continuing Education opportunities. She attended the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (IVECCS) Conference whenever possible. This allowed her to discuss the latest wound treatments, medications, and advancements in diet formulations.

Cardiology Veterinary Technician
With the increased knowledge and experience, Andria noticed gaps in her abilities. Her grasp of cardiology remained at the basic level. She wanted to boost her skills and understanding as much as possible, improving her patient care. When an opportunity within the practice arose to move into the cardiology department, she accepted.

She sharpened her ability to read ECGs, recognizing arrhythmias of every type. Speaking with the cardiologist, she learned to read echocardiograms, picking out the most common disease processes. And, courtesy of her position in the department, she took in everything she could regarding the grain-free diet concern.

And throughout her ten-year career, she built her store of client interactions. She learned stories of heartbreak and hope. In the middle of the night, she shared touching and humorous conversations. Every moment taught her to engage with people. And the skill blended into her writing ability, capturing the interest of pet-lovers everywhere.

Check out Andria’s LinkedIn here

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