Puppy development by weeks: Puppy stages: A week-by-week guide to caring for a newborn puppy
Puppy stages: A week-by-week guide to caring for a newborn puppy
There are few things more magical than watching a puppy grow.
If you’re really in on all the action from day one, you’ll watch in awe as they open their eyes, carefully (and sometimes not so carefully) explore the environment around them with their nose and gradually grow into those oversized paws.
To help you know what to expect during the most adorable weeks of a puppy’s life, we asked Dr. Carlo Siracusa, veterinarian and associate professor of Clinical Behavior Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, to share key happenings and care information through the early stages, from day one to 48 weeks.
Stage one: Newborn to 3 weeks old — silent senses
You may think interacting with a puppy early on only serves you — by optimizing the cuteness on all your social media channels — but, according to Siracusa, there are benefits for the puppy, too. During the first three weeks of life, a puppy is almost devoid of senses. Its eyes, ears and nose won’t work properly until week three, and they won’t respond to stimuli from humans until then, either. Puppies sleep most of the time, which is vital for a newborn’s development. Nevertheless, tactile stimulation can still foster the puppy’s development.
“Tactile stimulation is something that should happen,” Siracusa says, adding that there should always be respect for the puppies’ mother. “There are actually studies that show that a few minutes of stimulation and handling the puppies favors development. It makes the puppy more resistant to stress. Whether this is the fact that the puppies are touched, or another hypothesis is that touching puppies stimulates the mom’s licking of them. Whatever it is, handling puppies is important.”
Training during this period
You won’t actually be training this adorable ball of fluff for many, many weeks, but there are ways you can set puppies up for success, specifically by exposing them to background sounds that are typical of their environment.
“They should gradually be exposed to the stimuli that will be part of their life,” says Siracusa. “For example, we see that if a dog is born in a very quiet environment, like the countryside or the suburbs, and then moves to the city [later], then there are problems adapting to the environment.”
He recommends playing smart with your puppy during this time.
“If I play with my hands and the puppy goes bananas, I know that at some point the puppy is going to bite me,” Siracusa says. “The little teeth of a puppy are really sharp; they are painful! So at that point, punishing the puppy might promote some anxiety and stress for the puppy. So the best way to set the puppy up for success is, if you know the puppy is going to bite you, play with something else, not with your hand.”
If the first three weeks of life were the sleepyhead phase, this is the phase of awakenings! By the fourth week, the pup should be able to walk. There are important goings-ons between mother, puppy and siblings — strengthening the case for puppies staying with their mothers as long as possible early on. Mom begins weaning the pups and starts teaching discipline. The pup will socialize with its siblings and learn bite inhibition through puppy play-biting — skills that will come in handy later as they age.
“The senses, the sight, the smell and the hearing — they start to be more mature, so the dog can reach for stimuli from the environment,” says Siracusa. “This is when the socialization starts. Their fear threshold is still very high. Like children, they are not afraid of anything. They see something and immediately they throw themselves into it, whether it’s a big dog or another animal. Very young puppies are the same, because Mother Nature keeps this threshold for fear high, so the puppy can be exposed to the stimuli that would be part of the normal environment. Still, maternal care is the most relevant component here.”
Don’t forget to start your puppy’s vaccinations during this time. Consult with your vet to determine the right schedule for your pooch.
Training during this period
To help the puppy grow into a well-adjusted dog, Siracusa says it’s important to start to expose him or her to stimulation, under the careful supervision of mom.
“Hold it, handling it briefly, and start to have them used to being touched and our smells,” he says. “Around 8 weeks, they start to be more playful, so [engage in] gentle play with them.”
Careful interaction is key here.
“We want to keep our handling and interaction below the threshold for fear,” Siracusa says. “If there’s something that we do that the puppy thinks is scary, this is not a good form of socializing a puppy. It means exposing a puppy gradually to an environment that he has to get used to but always keeping the puppy below threshold. This is crucial in period three, because after eight weeks is when the threshold for fear starts to decrease. Puppies start to be more and more wary of stuff.”
Socializing with other dogs will usually start within the same litter, he notes, and once a puppy leaves its siblings — usually occurring between this stage and the next — socialization with other puppies can begin.
“It should be done, however, in a safe environment where puppies are in good health conditions,” Siracusa says. “Dog parks should be avoided, but reputable puppy classes in a clean environment can be a great opportunity for socialization.”
Stage three: 8 to 12 weeks old — Fear of the new
That adorable ball of fluff is becoming more independent and starting to really get the hang of physical coordination. They will continue to learn about everything around them, like what’s safe and unsafe.
“The puppy soaks up everything, like a sponge,” says Siracusa.
He recommends that the puppy’s adoption take place between state two and this stage, around 8 weeks old.
“Because [8 to 12 weeks old] is when the fear response starts to become more pronounced,” he says. “So if we wait too long, then it’s going to be more difficult to acclimate the puppy to our environment.”
The owner or care provider should try to make the puppy’s experiences during this period as positive and comforting as possible, because they can be hypersensitive to upsetting incidents.
Training during this period
From about 7 to 8 weeks of age, owners can start promoting some independence in their puppies.
“At the beginning, it can be as simple as having the dog chewing on a treat or toy while on a mat away from the owner, but in the same room,” Siracusa says. “This time of independence can then progressively be increased. But it is important to keep in mind that puppies need plenty of social interactions and should not be left alone for many hours.”
If a dog owner plans to get a puppy and then go to work for eight to 10 hours a day, “then he or she should reconsider the opportunity to acquire a dog,” Siracusa says.
Housebreaking can begin at 8 weeks old, and training by 9 weeks old. Negative experiences can have an impact on the pup, so take care, just like their mother would.
“Many people think that having guests come in and having everybody handling the puppy and picking up the puppy, we make the puppy good around people, [but] it’s not true,” Siracusa says. “If someone handles the puppy and he gets scared, for example, because we pick him up too quickly and he loses contact with the floor — or inadvertently while handling him, a young child causes some pain — these are not positive experiences. The same way positive experiences leave a long-term mark, negative experiences do. Negative experiences might even leave a more profound impression. So this is very, very important [to know] in stage three.”
Don’t encourage forms of play that are inappropriate, Siracusa says.
“The puppy has to learn that there is a way of playing with humans that does not imply biting their hands,” he says. “Instead of roughhousing with a puppy with your hands, use toys.”
Stage four: 12 to 24 weeks old — Chewing everything in sight
With the puppy’s first permanent teeth making their appearance now, chew toys are a must-have.
“Chewing is an exploratory behavior, so they chew a lot,” says Siracusa. “They start to be extremely proactive. Now they are more likely to leave the mother’s side and just go around and explore.”
He recommends an exercise pen or limited area where you can supervise the goings on.
“Provide the puppy with enough stimulation, enough toys and [human] contact and interaction,” he says. “Fill toys with some food inside to stimulate this chewing.”
This is also when you can enroll your puppy in its first training class, like a puppy socialization class.
“This is a good time to have exposure to people again in a controlled way,” he says. “Observe your puppy a lot. Start to pick up his body language. Start to understand when he’s feeling uncomfortable in a situation.”
Training during this period
This is the age to start practicing some easy training, Siracusa says.
“Start to work, for example, on calling the puppy with a happy voice,” he says. “Puppies and dogs, in general, are much more likely to listen to us if we use a happy tone of voice. There are studies that show this. They want to go for positive stimuli where they expect the outcome is going to be good. Work on gentle recalling and then giving a treat.”
This is also a very important time for house-training. Take them out when you anticipate that they are going to go potty, usually every two to three hours, definitely after meals and when they’re excited or when they wake up.
Crate training can also start during this stage and can help with potty training and separation anxiety.
“If he pees or poops in the crate, just clean it,” Siracusa says, adding that this is the time puppies should get used to staying in the crate. “Getting upset doesn’t fix anything.”
He suggests making the crate a fun place in the beginning to enforce the positive rather than negative.
“The dog should not be locked in the crate and left alone, because the dog will not associate the crate with a fun place,” Siracusa says. “He will associate the crate with a prison. We want to put in interesting toys, water — never deprive dogs of water, especially puppies. The crate should be a nice environment, not a timeout.”
Stage five: 24 to 48 weeks old — Teenage doghood
At this age, your pup is old enough to have regular walks outside, and the potty training may be complete. The more the dog matures, the more the training can become intensive, because his or her attention span has increased.
Exploratory behavior is important right now and all a part of the learning process.
“Allow the dog to sniff the environment when you bring the dog out for walks,” Siracusa says. “It’s OK for your dog to explore the environment, starting to recognize the smells, because dogs communicate through smells. He will learn how many dogs there are in the area. Allowing the dog to explore the environment at this age is very important.”
Typically, spaying or neutering of your puppy is done at 6 months old. Talk with your vet about timing.
Training during this period
“At this point I think you can move to more advanced training,” Siracusa says. “We might try to start exposing the dog to more professional training, for example, if we want him to be a working dog or want him to be an agility dog.”
It’s important to help your puppy acclimate to receiving regular veterinary care.
“When the dog goes to the vet for its first vaccines, then it should be exposed to positive things,” he says. “We use baby food a lot with our patients. While they are eating some baby food, that is when the veterinarian is doing the vaccines. This type of gradual exposure should continue throughout the other stages.”
Try getting the dog used to the waiting room by doing what Siracusa calls “happy visits.”
“Sitting in the waiting room, giving some treats to the dog and go back home,” he says. “We need to get the dog used to it now, when it’s easy to handle. Otherwise, when its big, then it might actually be trouble.”
Transitions in Puppyhood – American Kennel Club
Back To Puppy Training
By Jan Reisen
Published: Mar 30, 2021 | 4 Minutes
Updated: May 13, 2021
Published: Mar 30, 2021 | 4 Minutes
Updated: May 13, 2021
Puppyhood is mysterious, exciting, challenging, curious, and full of transitions. Puppies are busy developing physical, cognitive, and social skills, which follow a very general timeline. If this sounds familiar, it’s not so different from the timelines and transitions we recognize in human babies and toddlers. And, as with children, understanding what happens and when helps us know what to expect and what puppies need from us in order to grow into happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adult dogs.
A Puppy’s Beginning: Newborn to Four Weeks Old
- For the first three weeks or so, a puppy’s senses haven’t started working. They don’t see hear, or smell yet and spend most of their time asleep.
- A lot starts to happen between two and four weeks. Puppies begin to interact with their littermates and their mother. Their eyes open, they can see, and their other senses develop.
- By four weeks, a puppy can walk and may even start to bark and wag his tail. Prior to four week, puppies need stimulation from their mother to eliminate; around the four-week mark, they can do this by themselves. And, as anyone who’s raised a puppy knows, this is also the time those razor-sharp puppy teeth emerge.
Lots of Changes in Your Pup’s Life: Four to Eight Weeks
- This is a busy time for a young pup. The mother begins weaning her pups and teaching them how to behave.
- A puppy at this stage plays with his siblings, which is the equivalent of learning the rules of the playground.
- This is also the time when young puppies begin to explore and have a high fear threshold and can be gently and gradually exposed to everyday stimuli in the environment.
- The eight-week mark can be an important time in a puppy’s life because this is often when he goes to his permanent home. He’s matured enough to adjust to a new environment and still has a high fear threshold.
The “Fear Period” for Puppies: Eight to Twelve Weeks
- It seems counterintuitive that you’ve brought your pup home at eight weeks, just when he’s becoming fearful and wary of new experiences. But he’s also at his most impressionable, and positive experiences will help him adjust to his new environment. This is your opportunity to expose your pup to as many new people, new animals, and new situations as you think he can handle.
- Like a young child, a puppy at this age is like a sponge, soaking up information and experiences. But it is important to avoid frightening or painful experiences as much as possible. And, when such things do happen, “jolly” your pup through it, heap on the praise, and generally respond positively to allay your puppy’s fears.
- Most rewarding of all during this period, this is the time when puppies form strong attachments to their people. You’re forging a lifetime relationship.
Pre-Adolescence in Puppies: 12 to 24 Weeks
- Starting around 12 weeks, your puppy is less fearful and is becoming more curious and independent. He has a lot to figure out, including his place in the family pecking order. Personality traits, like dominance and submissiveness emerge, as he learns more social skills.
- Also emerging are his permanent teeth, which means chewing, chewing, and more chewing. It’s one of the ways that puppies explore, so chew toys will become a household necessity.
- By sixteen weeks, your pup is ready for school. This is a good time to sign up for training classes, where you’ll learn how to train your pup and he’ll start learning some social skills. Choose classes that are fun and enjoyable for you both. Your pup is also ready for house-training and some basic commands like “come.”
- Keep up the socialization, exposing your pup to new people, places, and other animals. If you observe him closely, you’ll soon start to understand his body language and the signals that he’s uncomfortable or frightened. Exposing your puppy to new things in a controlled way will help him feel confident and secure. With his newfound confidence and growing independence, he’ll start exploring further away from your side.
Welcome to Life With a Teenaged Dog: Six to Twelve Months
- Remember that adorable cuddly little puppy of just a few months ago? He’s a teenager now and things could get interesting. Dogs of this age start to test boundaries and many will try to assert themselves in the pack. They may challenge their humans and other pets in the household.
- Pups at this stage need a great deal of stimulation and activity; their boredom threshold is about the same as a young teenager’s. You can expect some misbehaving and disobedience during this stage, as your pup reaches sexual maturity. Keep up the training and provide lots of opportunity for play and exercise.
- Your puppy will become quite the explorer during this stage. Walks around the neighborhood become an adventure for him as he uses scent to learn about his environment; where other dogs live, the best spot to stop for a pee, the bushes where squirrels hide, and whose grass is the best for rolling around on. Combine teaching good leash manners with enough freedom for some neighborhood exploration.
Not a Puppy Anymore: 12 to 18 Months
- Most dogs reach their emotional maturity between 12 and 18 months and have the temperament and personality they’ll have through adulthood.
- In general, smaller breeds mature sooner, while larger breeds can take longer to reach both physical and emotional maturity.
- You can still expect some puppy hijinks and energy and, depending on breed, that energy could last for several more years.
You’ve spent the last 18 months giving your pup a safe environment in which to grow. You’ve been preparing him for adulthood by teaching him to be a good family member, and you’re becoming familiar with his temperament and needs. Most importantly, you’ve created a bond that will last a lifetime.
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Related article: Puppy Training Timeline: Teaching Good Behavior Before Its Too Late
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from conception to 12 weeks of age
PUPPIES AND KITTENS
What are the stages of puppy growth? Learn about the incredible development of a puppy in the womb and the changes it goes through in the first few weeks of life.
The gestation period for dogs is only about 9 weeks, but in that short time an incredible transformation takes place. And this is before the puppy takes its first breath. Learn about a puppy’s development day by day from conception to birth.
1-2 weeks: from cell to fetus
It all starts with the fertilization of the mother’s egg in the fallopian tube, so the puppy begins his great journey. Together with their future brothers and sisters, the fetus goes to the mother’s uterus. Fertilized eggs are distributed throughout the uterus and tightly pressed against its walls. Cell division begins, from four cells 64 are obtained, and the head and spine immediately form in the fetus.
3-4 weeks: hazelnut
Nut-sized fetus still attached to uterine wall. This can lead to discomfort for the mother, fortunately, this stage does not last very long. In the fourth week, the head grows in the fetus, eyes and the first vertebrae appear. During this period, it grows rapidly. By its end, the size of the fruit is about 15 mm, which is comparable to the size of a hazelnut. The fetus develops internal organs. Already during this period, babies can be seen on ultrasound images.
5-6 weeks: time to determine sex
Fetuses look more and more like real puppies, fingers and claws appear on their paws, whiskers grow. All their organs are already fully formed, and their coat and skin take on color. During this period, it’s quite difficult for mom, because she puts on weight, and the fruits swim inside her, like in a pool. From now on, the sex of puppies can be determined by ultrasound. How strong or weak the newborns will be depends on the location of the puppies in the dog’s womb. The fetus that is located in the middle, where nutrition is best, will become the strongest in the litter. After the sixth week, the embryos weigh about 6 grams, and their body length reaches 45 mm.
7-9 weeks: preparation for birth
Fetuses are now clearly visible on ultrasound because their skeleton is already fully formed. They also start kicking. By this time, the mother’s belly was already almost bald, so that, after being born, the puppies could easily find where to drink milk from. The last few weeks are quite difficult for the mother, the fetuses are actively growing, taking up too much space inside. For the same reason, it is difficult for her to eat, so “concentrated” nutrition is recommended for her at this stage of pregnancy. From about the 57th day (this is the beginning of 9-th week) puppies can already be born, although this usually happens on the 60-63rd day.
This is how puppies develop by day after birth:
Up to 2 weeks: sleep and growth time
Puppies are born blind, deaf and toothless. Also, for the first week or two, they are unable to regulate their own body temperature. Babies are completely dependent on their mother, they also keep each other warm, so they usually huddle together in a big pile.
The weeks spent inside the mother were very active, so babies now spend about 90% of their time sleeping. All the energy they have is used for growth, and their weight doubles in the first 10 days. It is still difficult for them to support the weight of their own body, but they can crawl on their front legs.
From 2 to 4 weeks: puppies begin to see, hear, walk and make sounds
During the second week of a baby’s life, many changes occur. The puppies are beginning to explore the world around them as they can now hear and see. The process of their socialization with brothers and sisters also begins, this is expressed in squealing, whining and uncertain barking. An important stage of development occurs in the third week, when the babies begin to take their first steps. During this period, rapid physical development takes place, the puppies play a lot with each other and even try food from their mother’s bowl for the first time. They also begin to control themselves and understand when they want to use the toilet, moving away from the place where they sleep.
Weeks 4 to 12: socializing time
The period around weeks 3 to 10 is an important socialization phase during which habits are formed that babies will remember for the rest of their lives. After about 4 weeks, the mother begins to produce less and less milk, so babies need more and more solid food. By the age of 6 weeks, all milk teeth have erupted, which helps to get used to solid food. The period from 6 to 8 weeks is very important, this is when puppies learn to accept others as part of the family. By about 10 weeks of age (for most this happens around the eighth to twelfth week), babies begin to interact cautiously with people, owners need to be very careful with socialization during this period. Living together with siblings and mom helps babies learn new things: they learn how to bite, understand how to communicate with each other and what their place is in a dog pack. At the age of twelve weeks, the puppy is ready to meet his owners and move to a new home.
Puppy Growth Stages – How a Puppy Develops
Understanding the amazing changes your puppy goes through from birth to adulthood will help you ensure he is properly nourished at every stage of development.
- Puppy Growth Period
- Growing up puppies
Immediately after the birth of the puppies, care should be taken to ensure that they begin to receive mother’s milk. In the first hours and days, the mother passes on important antibodies and nutrients to the litter, which contribute to the healthy development of the puppies.
At birth, puppies have their eyes closed so they cannot see. In doing so, the pup will use its sense of smell and touch to find its way to its mother and other puppies in its litter, seeking warmth, safety, and nourishment. Immediately after birth, puppies will spend most of their time sleeping.
The weight of a puppy at birth is approximately 1-5% of the weight of an adult animal. During the breastfeeding period, the puppy will quickly begin to gain weight. The rate of weight gain in the first few days of a puppy’s life depends on the size of its breed. A puppy’s weight usually increases by about 2-4 grams per day for every kilogram of an adult dog of the same breed.
Newborn puppies have imperfect thermoregulation, so it is vital to provide them with the right housing conditions in the first hours. In the “maternity” arena for puppies, the temperature should be maintained from 29.5 to 32 ° C. Gradually, over seven to ten days, the temperature can be reduced to about 26.7 °C. In addition, the “maternity” arena should be placed in a room with good ventilation, but without drafts; it shouldn’t be too stuffy in there.
The key to the survival of newborn puppies is the ability to breathe independently, warm themselves and eat. To help them during this period, it is important to properly prepare the playpen for puppies. Use bowls of water or a humidifier to keep the humidity between 65-70% and promote proper breathing, and use an infrared lamp to heat the playpen.
Almost immediately after birth, breeders weigh puppies to assess their physical condition and identify underweight puppies. Observing the growth and weight of newborn puppies during the first 48 hours of their life is very important for breeders, it allows them to assess the condition of the litter and identify puppies at risk.
It is important that puppies start suckling as soon as possible after birth. To be more precise, this is not milk yet, but colostrum – a substance that the mammary glands of a dog produce in the first hours after birth and which supports and strengthens the puppy’s immune system.
The neonatal period is from birth to three weeks of age. This stage of development is also known as the vegetative stage, because from the outside it seems that the kittens sleep most of the time, sometimes performing several reflex actions.
In the first stage of growth, puppies mainly eat and sleep. This is vital for their normal development, so both puppies and their mother need to be given rest.
Puppies’ eyes begin to open 10–14 days after birth, and hearing gradually develops by the third week of life. At the beginning, vision and hearing are not well developed, but as the puppies grow, they gradually improve.
During this period, when the puppies are always close to their mother or home, regular and gentle human interaction will help the puppies cope better with stress and prepare for future human contact.
A responsible breeder will ensure that all puppies are examined by a veterinarian during their first days of life. The veterinarian will check for birth defects and health problems. By the end of this period, it is recommended to carry out treatment against helminths.
After birth, puppies continue to receive important proteins from their mother. As they mature, they may begin to show interest in her food. With the introduction of a ready-made diet, the process of weaning puppies from their mother begins.
Weaning is an important period in the life of puppies as it marks the beginning of their adult life. At this stage, the food should correspond to the development of the digestive functions of the puppies.
When puppies take their first steps, play fights begin almost immediately between them, they may try to growl and wag their tail – this is how social interaction begins.
At this stage, puppies gradually develop their sight and hearing, they begin to react to light and sounds.
A rich environment promotes the puppy’s physical and cognitive development. At this stage of development, a responsible breeder creates conditions for puppies to interact more often with a person, surrounds them with a variety of toys, noise stimuli and other stimulating factors.
Puppies should already be able to urinate and defecate without the help of their mother. If this does not happen by the end of this stage, it is recommended to visit a veterinarian.
During the weaning period, the mother still meets all the nutritional needs of the puppies. The vast majority of the puppies’ diet is mother’s milk, but during this period, puppies begin to show an increased interest in the food that their mother eats. Most puppies begin to lap water from a bowl.
Growth period of puppies
Puppies begin to learn life in society. The behavior learned at this stage has a huge impact on the future life of the animal.
Over 8 weeks
Hierarchy, activity and reinforcing an understanding of the boundaries of permitted behavior are vital at this stage. At this age, puppies show natural learning abilities, so it is important to learn from the mistakes made during this period and continue the process of raising and socializing your pet. This will help your puppy become a confident and well-mannered adult dog.
Over 8 weeks old
The puppy generally grows and gains muscle mass between six and nine months of age depending on breed size. Milk teeth during this period are replaced by molars, and puppy hair changes to adult. At about 6–12 months of age, male puppies make attempts to mark their territory, and females enter their first estrus.
Over 8 weeks old
Give your puppy separate areas for feeding and sleeping, provide him with different toys. This will help to form an understanding of the basic rules adopted in the house. Exploring a variety of environmental conditions and new experiences while walking helps the puppy learn, build self-confidence and strengthen the bond with the owner.
Over 8 weeks old
During this period, it is recommended to accustom the puppy to a certain regimen of physical activity and loads, which corresponds to the stage of its development. Developing the right habits in a puppy at an early age contributes to its normal development and preservation of health in the future. Discuss with your veterinarian the vaccination schedule and the need for spaying or neutering the puppy.
Over 8 weeks old
This is a key stage in the physical development of puppies, so it is essential to provide nutrition that can meet all their needs during this period. For more information, check out our puppy nutrition guide or explore our products.
Growing up your pet
Although they are all members of the same species, different dog breeds can vary greatly in size, weight and nutritional requirements. These differences are especially significant during the growth period of puppies. The five size groups of breeds mature at different ages.
The growth process of puppies proceeds differently, depending on the size of the breed. Miniature breed dogs reach full maturity at around 8-10 months of age, very large breeds are considered puppies up to two years of age.
Until the age of 8–9 months, large and very large breed puppies show rapid bone growth, after which they develop musculature until they reach the weight of an adult animal (adult dogs of large breeds weigh 70 times the weight of puppies at birth; dogs of very large breeds weigh over the period of growth can increase by 100 times).
A puppy’s nutritional needs change as they get older. At this time, the pet must be gradually transferred to adult food, selected in accordance with its size, breed and lifestyle.
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