Puppy development stages are fascinating, and one of the most popular dog topics. Every time we get a new puppy, I learn new things about new puppy development by week. Did you know that the adult incisors (next to the canines) erupt at age 16 weeks? That’s a way to help age your new baby dog.
Along the way, puppies tend to get into all kinds of things–we laugh, but then we might cry if they hurt themselves. Shadow-Pup at nine months takes his delinquent duties seriously. Refer to this post for puppy proofing tips.
Did you ever wonder about the stages of puppy development? Some of this has to do with the dog breed, but all newborn puppies (whatever the breed) look surprisingly similar. They also develop along the same period of time. Look no further, I’ve got you covered!
Newborn puppy yawning. Images courtesy of DepositPhotos.com
Puppy Development, Birth to Two Years
We consider dogs puppies from birth to one year of age and go through several puppy stages and puppy development periods. However, each dog develops differently, with smaller dogs tending to mature earlier and some large breeds not physically mature before they are two years old.
Newborn puppies vary in size depending on the breed; tiny dogs like the Chihuahua produce puppies sized about four inches long, while giant breed newborns like Great Dane puppies may be twice that size. The rate of puppy development also varies from breed to breed. For instance, Cocker Spaniel puppies open their eyes sooner than Fox Terrier puppies, and Basenji puppies develop teeth earlier than Shetland Sheepdog puppies. However, no matter the breed, all puppies are born totally dependent on the momma dog, technically called the bitch.
At birth, puppies are blind, deaf and toothless, unable to regulate body temperature, or even urinate or defecate on their own. Puppies depend on their mother and littermates for warmth, huddling in cozy piles to conserve body temperature. A puppy separated from this warm furry nest can quickly die from hypothermia—low body temperature. Cold, lonely puppies cry loudly to alert Mom to their predicament.
Puppies first experience the sensation of being petted when washed by their mother’s stroking tongue. The bitch licks her babies all over to keep them and the nest clean, and also to stimulate them to defecate and urinate.
Neonatal Period of Puppy Development: Birth to Two Weeks
From birth, puppies are able to use their sense of smell and touch, which helps them root about the nest to find their mother’s scent-marked breasts. The first milk the mother produces, called colostrum, is rich in antibodies that provide passive immunity and help protect the babies from disease during these early weeks of life. It’s vital to keep puppies safe from parasites or diseases that can cause devastating diarrhea dangerous for youngsters.
For the first two weeks of life, puppies sleep nearly 90 percent of the time, spending their awake time nursing. All their energy is funneled into growing, and birth weight doubles the first week. Newborns aren’t able to support their weight, and crawl about with paddling motions of their front legs. The limited locomotion provides the exercise that develops muscles and coordination, and soon the puppies are crawling over and around each other and their mother.
Transitional Period: Week Two-to-Four
The second week of life brings significant changes for the puppy. Ears and eyes sealed since birth open during this period, ears at about two weeks and eyelids between ten to 16 days. This gives the furry babies a new sense of their world. They learn what their mother and other dogs look and sound like, and expand their own vocabulary from grunts and mews to yelps, whines and barks. Puppies stand by day 15 and take their first wobbly walk by day 21.
By age three weeks, puppy development advances from the neonatal period to the transitional period. This is a time of rapid physical and sensory development, during which the puppies go from total dependence on Mom to a bit of independence. They begin to play with their littermates, learn about their environment and canine society, and begin sampling food from Mom’s bowl. Puppy teeth erupt until all the baby teeth are in by about five to six weeks of age. The babies will want to chew everything. Be careful about swallowed objects at this age.
Puppies can control their need to potty by this age, and begin moving away from sleeping quarters to eliminate. Learn about potty training puppies here.
Socialization Period of Puppy Development: Week Four-to-Twelve
Following the transitional phase, puppies enter the socialization period at the end of the third week of life; it lasts until about week ten. It is during this socialization period that interaction with others increases and puppies form attachments they will remember the rest of their life. The most critical period–age six to eight weeks–is when puppies most easily learn to accept others as a part of their family.
Beginning at four weeks of age, the bitch’s milk production begins to slow down just as the puppies’ energy needs increase. As the mother dog slowly weans her babies from nursing, they sample solid food in earnest.
The environmental stimulation impact your puppy’s rate of mental development during this time. The puppy brain waves look that of an adult dog by about the 50th day, but he’s not yet programmed–that’s your job, and the job of his mom and siblings. Weaning typically is complete by week eight.
12 week old Newfoundland puppy
Puppy Development Week Eight-to-Twelve
Puppies often go through a “fear period” during this time. Instead of meeting new or familiar people and objects with curiosity, they react with fearfulness. Learn about puppy introductions in this post. Anything that frightens them at this age may have a lasting impact so take care you don’t overstimulate the baby with too many changes or challenges at one time. That doesn’t mean your pup will grow up to be a scaredy-cat; it’s simply a normal part of development where pups learn to be more cautious. Careful socialization during this period helps counter fear reactions.
However, they will be better adjusted and make better pets by staying and interacting with littermates and the Mom-dog until they are at least eight weeks old–older is better. Interacting with siblings and Mom help teach bite inhibition, how to understand and react to normal canine behavior, and their place in doggy society. Puppies make transitions from one environment to another more easily at this age, too.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Reminder, gang…for some reason this poor lil’ puppy book hasn’t been widely adopted. So I’m again making it available for reviews. Message me in the comments if interested!
COMPLETE PUPPY CARE is now available for your puppy-licious reading pleasure. I’ve included a brief excerpt below about how to tell when GOOD puppy play tips over into DANGEROUS games. That’s just the tip of the furry info, though. Please share the news about this book with all your puppy and dog loving peeps.
I’ll make the same offer here–post in the comments for a chance to review a free PDF copy of the book (the first 10 requests get the book!).
ABOUT COMPLETE PUPPY CARE…
Nothing beats a cute puppy for love, but proper puppy care and training prepares you and your new dog for a healthy and long life together. This up to date new guide provides a “Puppies 101” packed with veterinary facts, health care advice, how-to tips, and fascinating information about:
Choosing, training and communicating with your new puppy
Pros and cons of purebred versus shelter/rescue sources
Understanding common behavior problems and how to prevent them
Food, grooming and humane training recommendations
Tips for introducing your puppy to adult dogs, cats, babies and kids
The latest veterinary recommendations for preventive care
How to recognizing common health issues, and what to do
First aid and home remedies that save you money—and your puppy’s life!
More than two-dozen SQUEE! cute puppy pictures
Canine legends, myths and fun puppy facts including: Why puppies drink from the toilet, why dogs act guilty, reasons dogs hump your leg, and more!
COMPLETE PUPPY CARE empowers you with all the information necessary for your puppy to grow up into the happy, healthy dog you both deserve.
HERE’S THE EXCERPT…
“Just Kidding” During Play
Dogs use exaggerated behaviors, called meta signals, to tell other dogs all action that comes after is not serious but a game. For instance, the play-bow is a butt-in-the-air with front-end down position where the pup’s forelegs dance back and forth to invite play. When your puppy first play-bows, he’s
telling you that any growls or wrestling that comes after are meant as fun and games.
Adult dogs often “pretend” to be subordinate to a puppy—with play bows or rolling on the back—to build up the pup’s confidence and invite him to play. This “just kidding” game allows lower-ranking pups to practice being in charge with play bites, mounting behavior, and wrestling games. Once the
play is over, the higher-ranking dog again assumes his more “mature” behavior that tells the pup to respect his leadership.
BAD VS GOOD PLAY—KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE
Dogs of all ages enjoy playing. Behaviors for fighting and fun are similar, but you must know how to tell the difference between aggression and play-acting. Watch for “meta signals” which tells participants that whatever comes after is meant in a “play” context.
Dogs commonly drop toys on your feet or lap to solicit a game, and offer toys to other dogs in the same way. A play bow—the dog sticks his butt and tail into the air, and bows forward on lowered forelegs that dance side to side—is the classic signal and invitation for the games to begin. Often, the
“fighting” behaviors seen during such games will be exaggerated to indicate play, or the “fight” behavior sequences may be jumbled.
Play includes inhibited mouth-open bites often aimed at the legs and paws of other dogs. Dogs also paw and bat each other without force to hurt. In appropriate play, all the dogs willingly participate. If you suspect one of the dogs doesn’t like the activity (one dog repeatedly tries to escape or hide),
gently separate the pair to see if they go back for more. If the play session was too rough, one will sneak away.
Inappropriate play results in one or more dog frightened, hurt, or overwhelmed. Bully dogs always end up on top, while in appropriate play you’ll see dogs take turns chasing and pinning each other during wrestling. Mouthing aimed primarily at the head or neck, or uninhibited bites means play has gotten out of hand. You’ll hear yelps from the bitten dog.
Consistent play up on hind legs may indicate problems. Ongoing mounting, clasping and thrusting also can lead to problems, as can resting of paws, heads or whole bodies across other dog’s shoulders to intimidate or achieve social status.
Growls don’t usually indicate problems, but play can be so exciting that the action escalates into aggression. Listen for louder, lower pitched growls,and be prepared to break up the session before they get too aroused.
Okay now, what about YOUR puppies and dogs? How do they play? Is it polite, taking turns, or is there some bully behavior involved? At my house, Magical-Dawg’s best play buddy is Karma-Kat and that involves a whole new set of signals.
Don’t forget–post your comment for a chance to review a free copy of the book!
The Dog Writers Association of America banquet was held last night in New York City. It’s traditionally held the night before Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and I’ve had the great joy and honor to attend both events several times. But not last night–due to travel constraints *cough-BLIZZARD-cough* and work issues, I wasn’t able to attend, despite knowing that I had a couple of entries in the running.
My book COMPLETE PUPPY CARE was nominated for a Maxwell Medallion in the category of Reference Books. I received the Nomination Certificate some time ago and am deeply honored. You can see all the regular category winners here. I hope that you’ll recommend the award-winning book to anyone with a new puppy in their future!
Much of the book is based on research and articles I’d written over the past three years for my puppies.about.com site, and so this was particularly sweet for me. As many of y’all know, my contract with that company was abruptly cancelled last summer–for those morbidly curious, details here. Ya know, the best “revenge” is always success, LOL!
So an even sweeter recognition came when I won a DWAA Special Award last night for an article written for the puppies.about.com site titled “AKC Canine Good Citizenship Programs.” The information from that article of course is also included in the book. You can see the list of all the special awards winners here.
AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy and Canine Good Citizen Award
Sponsored by the American Kennel Club, this award is for the best writing about the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program or the puppy level of CGC, AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy.
Recognized as the ‘gold standard’ for family dog manners, CGC and AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy focus on teaching good manners to dogs and responsible dog ownership to dog owners. This award is a $500.00 cash award.
CONGRATULATIONS to all of the nominees and winners! I am very fortunate to live in a world and participate in a community of professional communicators dedicated to sharing life-saving and relationship-saving information about the dogs we love!
Now then–how many of y’all have taken your puppy through the CGC or S.T.A.R. Puppy Programs? Or how about the AKC Community Canine program also mentioned in the article?
And…how many of y’all will be watching Westminster tonight and tomorrow night on TV? *raising paw* Magical-Dawg and I will be rooting for the…well, you know. *s*