Most people think there are two, maybe three stages of a dog’s life. There’s the puppy age, of course! But after that, unless our dogs live to be very old, we don’t perceive as much variation in the stages of a dog’s life. But experts have actually categorized six different life phases, all with different needs.

First, of course, there’s the puppy stage. Puppies need to be fed more often than mature dogs. This is when you have to start the work of house training, obedience, and spaying and neutering. But if you feel overwhelmed, a puppy’s inherent cuteness makes everything worthwhile!

Second comes the junior stage. At this point, your dog is able to reproduce, but still growing, so she isn’t fully an adult yet. Depending on breed, this stage falls between 6 and 12 months of age. These dogs still need some discipline, but they’re a bit more manageable than puppies. If you haven’t spayed or neutered yet, the time is now!

Stage 3 is the adult stage. Your dog has stopped growing. He only needs to be fed twice a day. Physically, your dog is at his peak.

Believe it or not, there are three more stages of your dog’s life! Number four is the mature stage. Yep, middle age! And just like with humans, your dog probably has a tendency to put on weight. Make sure she’s getting regular exercise! Your dog could also benefit from regular checkups to ensure optimal health.

Stage 5 is the senior stage. At this point, your dog has reached the last quarter of his breed’s expectancy.

Not all dogs reach stage 6; small breeds are more likely to do so than larger ones. Your dog has officially outlived her breed’s life expectancy! At this point, she needs a lot more TLC. You may need to switch food, and regular checkups are a must. Your dog still benefits from exercise, but you need to be careful to not 0ver-tire them.

For more information, check out these great resources:
“Dog Ages & Dog Stages” at Dogtime
Puppy to Dog: Your Pet’s Life Stages” at WebMD