Have you ever wondered what is going on in your puppy's mind and body as he or she grows from an adorable little baby into his more mature self? If so, the stages of puppy life detailed below will help you understand why your pup is doing what he's doing and how you play a huge role in raising a well-behaved member of the family.
Puppies have their eyes and ears closed when born, and they stay closed for two weeks. They're pretty much eating machines putting all their energy into developing their tiny bodies.
However, during the third week, lots of big things happen! Their ears and eyes begin to open, and, soon after that, they learn to bark.
Also, at the three-week mark, they begin to stand and take their first wobbly steps. They'll spend more and more time playing and exploring and learning from their mom and siblings about dog behavior.
At this same point - boy, is that third week a big one - puppy teeth begin to appear. (Below is a video of Harper's March 2021 litter at three weeks.)
Weeks three to four is when they learn to use the bathroom and develop some control over their bladder and bowels. This is when you might see them leaving their sleeping area to find the right potty spot.
In the fourth week, puppies transition from mama's milk to solid food, although the full weaning process takes four more weeks.
One month old is also when puppies notice the humans around them and can develop bonds with them. While it's too early to separate them from their mothers, it may be okay to visit them.
Weeks four to 12 are crucial for socialization. They need as much positive exposure to different people, pets, environments, and experiences. However, it's important that any other pups or dogs be current on their vaccinations and that all involved are healthy since the puppies will still be building their immune systems and have not had their first shots.
Puppies receive vaccinations between six and eight weeks. Your puppy will have already had its parvovirus, distemper, and parainfluenza shots when you pick it up at eight weeks. Your new best friend will be ready for the second round of shots at 10 to 12 weeks.
Week seven is when puppies can begin potty training because they've developed the muscle control and physical coordination to do so. There will still be accidents, though, so be patient as the pup builds the neural pathways to understand what it's supposed to do.
At eight weeks, puppies can leave their moms and littermates. Be sure to give the puppy a lot of reassurance and praise because from now until about week 12, he'll be in what's called a "fear period." It's nothing too overly worry about. Just endeavor to keep the atmosphere, learning, and play positive and happy. Your job is to love them, build confidence, and have fun!
Around week nine, once the pup is comfortable with his new family and home, basic training can begin at home. Commands like sit, come, and down can be worked on during this time and will prove to be invaluable skills your pup will use for the rest of its life.
In week 12, pups leave the fear stage and move to curiosity. They also learn the house's pecking order, and the puppy's dominance and submission instincts kick in.
Puppy teeth first emerge around three weeks, but they'll continue to come in until about six months old, so he'll be chewing, chewing, chewing. Puppy-proof the home and have good options for him to gnaw at the ready, like Nylabones and KONG toys.
"Teenager" pups between 6 months to a year will start testing boundaries, pushing the envelope on what they can get away with regarding their humans and other pets. Just be consistent with the house rules and follow through on training. Stay the course, and the whole household will be a happy one!
Puppies become more emotionally mature and exhibit an adult dog's attitude or temperament at about 12 to 18 months old. They can still be a ball of energy for a few more years, depending on the dog, so regular exercise and training will continue to be essential. A happy, well-exercised dog equals a happy family!
Isn't it exciting to know how puppies develop and grow? Pet parents play a huge role in shaping the behaviors of their dogs. It's a learning, growing experience for the whole family that builds a deep bond and a loving relationship between canine and humans. Enjoy it!