Your Adult Dog: What to Expect at 3-4 Years

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By age 3, your dog is in her prime and ready to enjoy her best years. She is fully integrated into your home and a real member of the family. If you have done your work — putting in the time and effort to train and exercise your dog — this phase is your reward. She is now officially your best friend.

Physical and Mental Development

Your companion is now physically and mentally mature. Gone are the daily battles for dominance, replaced by a gentler, more secure dog who is ready to share her life with you. If your dog is well adjusted, she will see her role as submissive to you, her leader. Of course, she may still challenge you in small ways, maybe tugging on the leash here and there to make sure that you’re still in control. Expect your dog to be happier at this age than she has ever been. She will eagerly go on walks and will thoroughly enjoy playing with you. Interaction with other dogs will generally be calmer now. She won’t feel the need to challenge every dog she faces, but some of this is dependent on the other dog, so caution is still warranted in these situations.

Behavior Changes

Much of your dog’s temperament is established by now. If you have just adopted an adult dog struggling with her leadership role, you have some work ahead of you. An older dog with a developed personality can display a range of behavioral problems that are different from those exhibited during the puppy stages. A dog at this age may already think she is the leader if she has not been taught otherwise. A dog in this state of mind may fixate on one particular problem, like mail delivery or a ringing phone.

Don't waste time when faced with a potential behavior problem. Contact your veterinarian, who may be able to offer advice or recommend a trainer or veterinary behavior specialist who can help get to the root of the problem.   

Health and Nutrition

Adult dogs need to be fed according to their size and energy needs. Talk to your veterinarian about the best diet for your dog and how often she should be fed. All dogs need to be provided with separate food and water dishes, with water bowls cleaned daily and fresh, cool water available at all times.

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