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Stages of Puppy Development

Neonatal (0-2 weeks)

Transitional Period (2-4 weeks)

Both a puppies’ eyes and ears are closed at birth.  So a puppy can touch, smell, and taste, but that’s about it. However, they rely primarily on smell during this time.  They use it to find mom, as well as where to nurse. During this period, they are going to be most influenced by their mother and littermates, and will start learning some simple social skills, coordination, and the ranking process. They also must be stimulated by mom’s licking in order to go potty.  Mostly, they’ll just eat though— newborn puppies need to nurse from mom about every two hours at this stage. 

During this stage, puppies open their eyes, they stand and walk, rather than crawl/scoot, and all of their senses begin to strengthen. Near the end of this stage, they begin to wag their tail, and their teeth start coming in.  Some may even begin to vocalize with tiny growls and barks.  By the end of this period, they should be able to use the bathroom on their own and see quite well.  They may also start showing interest in mom's food by the end of the fourth week.  This is a good indicator that they are ready to start on puppy food mush. 

Socialization Period (4-12 weeks)

This is the stage and timeframe where it’s incredibly important to introduce your pup to other people and dogs. By five weeks, puppies are aware of their surroundings and start really enjoying playtime. Good experiences with people from weeks 5 to 7 will play a large role in how they continue to interact.  This is why your breeder has incorporated a safe early socialization and neurological development program.  When your puppy has positive experiences to build on, it makes a world of difference in the long run. Even though a puppy starts being influenced by people after about a month, ideally you want puppies to remain with their mother and litter mates for eight weeks to learn inhibited play biting and other dog socialization cues.  By week eight, you can begin to start house-training your puppy. From weeks 8 to 10, your pup will go through a normal “fear” period that can be helped with training that is positive and encouraging. But the true training “golden time” is from 9 to 12 weeks, because your pup is actively working on social skills and paying attention to both people and litter mates.  Many people are under the assumption that it is too early to start basic commands at this age.  However, this is actually the time to start with the 5 basic commands.  There are lots of amazing YouTube videos that can guide you through this early training, as well as so much more!  You can also start basic hygiene practices, such a teeth brushing, combing, bathing, and nail filing. Your breeder has already been doing these things, so you are further building your puppies foundation.  Again, positive experiences are what we are going for here.  So make the sessions short, with lots of praise.

Ranking Period (3-6 months)

Think about this period as “elementary school age.” Just like human children, dogs at this point are most influenced by their playmates — both dogs and people. During this stage, your pup will begin to understand and use ranking in terms of submission and dominance.  It is critically important that you are consistent with training and boundaries.  Your hard work now will pay off for years to come.  Teething and related chewing (and chewing issues!) happen around this time, and when the puppy is about four months old, she’ll go through another fear stage.  When puppies chew it is for a variety of reasons, but it is mainly because they are bored and/or have too much energy.  Make sure that your daily interactions with your puppy incorporate plenty of playtime so that they can expend their energy, which will help discourage destructive behavior.  Also, it is a good idea to make sure they have plenty of toys readily available to them.  From 12 -16 weeks is also when your puppy will finish their series of puppy vaccines.  It is very important that you don’t let your puppy down (“no feet on the ground”) in public places/yards until he/she has completed this series, and that you don’t introduce them to dogs outside of their home pack.  They are very susceptible to illnesses prior to finishing their vaccines.

Adolescence (6-18 months)

Your pup now understands that he has a pack (which may consist of both humans and dogs) and his behavior  will be most influenced by this group. You can expect your dog to challenge you more as he explores dominance and his role in the pack. Dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered will also start exhibiting sexual behavior during this period, so this would be a good time to talk to your vet about getting that scheduled.  If your puppy starts to show signs of regression in his training, don’t be dismayed.  Just know that this is common, dig in and get back to the basics with your pup, and they will come back around.

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