During the first eight weeks of life, puppies are extremely dependent on their mother, because they need special care to grow healthy and strong. The mother will provide her puppies with the nutrition they need by nursing them until they are fully weaned and are less dependent on her to survive. During this period, puppies open their eyes for the first time, generally when they are between 10 and 14 days old.
Over these crucial first weeks, puppies grow out of infancy and learn to explore and play. They will begin to socialize with each other and with other members of their household once they're physically able to do so. From interacting with their littermates to humans, the period of four to seven weeks is the ideal time to introduce your puppy to numerous people, as this helps the pup grow into an outgoing, friendly, and secure dog. Just be sure that anyone handling your young puppy knows to do so gently.
Watch Now: All You Need to Know about Puppies
At one week old, puppies' eyes are still closed. Their eyes will begin to open in the second week of life, usually between 10 and 16 days of age. However, they won't be able to see clearly at first. The eyes will gradually open wider, revealing grayish-blue eyes with a hazy appearance. Puppies' eyes will continue to develop over the next several weeks, reaching full vision around eight weeks of age.
Puppies' ears begin to open around the time that the eyes do, generally around 12 to 14 days old. Their hearing will continue to develop until the puppies are around five weeks old.
Newborn puppies cannot fully support their weight for the first two weeks of life, so they crawl around on their bellies, paddling and pushing with their legs and building strength. Most puppies will be able to rise up on their forelimbs around 5 to 6 days of age and will begin to use their hind legs around two weeks old. They usually begin to walk with a wobbly gait around 18 to 21 days of age.
Puppies need to be stimulated to urinate and defecate for the first several weeks of life. Mom does this by licking the anal and genital areas. If you are raising an orphaned pup, you can use a warm, damp cloth or cotton ball to stimulate the area. Puppies gradually develop the ability to urinate and defecate on their own around three to four weeks of age.
Puppies are born without teeth. Their baby teeth, or "milk teeth" will begin to come in between three and four weeks of age and continue to develop until about eight weeks of age.
For newborn puppies, the first two weeks of life are all about sleeping and eating. After 14 days of age, physical changes open up a whole new world. They begin to see, hear and walk. By the age of 21 days, they begin to explore the world and learn about being dogs. This is also when the socialization process begins. Puppies learn how to interact with other dogs by interacting with their mother and littermates. Human socialization with gentle handling is important at this time as well.
Around seven to eight weeks old, the first "fear period" will begin. This is a time when most puppies seem to be afraid of new things. Anything you can introduce them to before this time may help make the fear period go more smoothly.
Health and Care
Mom will still be taking on most of the care for her puppies until they are fully weaned between five to eight weeks of age. However, her puppies will become less and less dependent on her after three to four weeks of age. You may find that the puppies wander out of their little "nest" and try to check out more of the house. It may be best to keep mom and pups in an exercise pen when you are not home.
The first few weeks of life are a time of vulnerability for the puppies. If a puppy is not growing at the same rate as its littermates, it should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. In addition, any sign of illness, no matter how subtle, should be taken seriously.
Food and Nutrition
For the first three weeks of life, puppies get the nutrition they need from their mother's milk. If the puppy was orphaned or needs supplemental nutrition, puppy formula can provide the necessary nutrients.
After baby teeth have erupted, around three weeks old, the puppies may be ready to begin weaning. Mom may naturally begin this process as she feels those puppy teeth nipping at her teats. A good way to transition the pups to dog food is to bring out some canned puppy food or softened puppy kibble (use warm formula or water to soften the kibble). Be sure to choose a dog food intended for growth. You can encourage them to eat it by offering a taste from your finger. As puppies get used to the puppy food, they will gradually nurse less and less. Most pups are fully weaned by six to eight weeks of age.
Training and Socialization
Puppies between one to three weeks are still too young to respond to training or socialization. At three to four weeks, they are able to see, hear, walk, and urinate/defecate on their own. Though their brains are still developing, they are capable of learning some things.
Of course, it is still important for these young pups to remain with their mother and littermates until eight to twelve weeks of age. As early as three to four weeks of age, you can start to introduce the crate and start some basic potty training. Even if the pups will be getting homes between eight to twelve weeks of age, you can start laying the groundwork for training.
The time between four to seven weeks of age is an early socialization window. Although the puppy must remain with its mother, it is now ready to be exposed to new sights and sounds. It should start meeting people of all ages and appearances. This includes children who know how to act around dogs and will handle the puppy gently.