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Healthy Puppy Development - What to Expect
During your puppy’s first year of life, he will go through several different stages of development. Each stage comes with its’ own challenges and enjoyment. As your puppy begins to mature physically he will also mature mentally. For the most part puppies will mature around the same rate however, depending on the breed his development in different areas may vary a little.
From Birth to about 8 weeks:
For the first 6 to 8 weeks a puppy should continue to reside with his mother, not just for his own health but for her health as well. Puppies are born deaf and blind and his mother is the one who will do everything for him during this time. The mother will begin teaching her puppies almost immediately after they are born. She cleans and feeds them and shows them the proper amount of food to eat, helping her puppies recognize when their little bellies are full. Often when a puppy is taken from his mother too early he is at a greater risk of becoming overweight later in life. For the first 2 to 3 weeks of a puppy’s life one of the most important concerns is for the puppy to get enough sleep. Because he is developing so quickly sleep is vital and is the healthiest form of care you can offer him at this point. A mother will notice if her puppies are not getting enough sleep and she can become irritated if she is constantly having to entertain you or visitors that interrupt her sleeping puppies. A mother will also notice if she has a “sleeper” who doesn’t wake often enough to eat, she will nudge him along and often force him awake to eat. However, at a certain point, usually after their senses have developed, which differs for all dogs, the mother will no longer force the puppy to eat and if he doesn’t feed on his own, she will let him starve. Once your puppy begins to move around he will also begin to develop his eyesight and hearing. This short time is important to help puppies develop healthy social behavior with their siblings while the mother is still there to encourage play and to discipline each puppy.
You should begin introducing solid foods to your puppy somewhere around 4 weeks of age. At first the puppies will just walk all over the food and generally make a mess but, the mother will begin to show them exactly what to do and she will clean up after them as well. Some breeders suggest letting the mother do all the clean up in order for the mother to teach her puppies in the most natural way. It is always nice to offer clean bedding every day, however.
Between 8 and 12 weeks:
At this point it is safe to remove the puppies from their mother’s care. She will naturally have already weaned him and he should be eating on his own. Now is a great time to introduce him to children or other pets just as long as they are not left alone with either. Your puppy will be extremely curious and want will want to get into everything he can. Most puppies will be scared of loud noises or sudden movement so it is best to introduce these things slowly. You can begin house training him at this point but, you should expect him to have accidents.
Your puppy should receive his first vaccinations around 8 weeks and his second set at around 12 weeks. Most puppies get their first shots while still with the breeder. A good breeder will have his puppies examined and given their first shots before he allows the puppies to go to their new homes.
Between 4 to 6 months:
Between 4 to 6 months is a great time to teach your new puppy some simple commands. He is fully capable of learning at this age but, he can get distracted easily. If you see that your efforts are fruitless, back off from command training for about a week. You will see more progress if you don’t rush into training. Now is a great time to break him of bad behaviors such as jumping up on people or begging for table food. Beginning a daily routine can help to create a schedule that your puppy will learn to depend on and will make training much easier.
Puppies will chew on everything in sight. So puppy proofing your house is very important. He can get himself into very dangerous situations. Certain breeds will chew much more than others and some breeds will stay in the “chewing on everything” stage for as long as a year or more. It is highly recommended that you offer him safe toys to chew so that he is less tempted to chew on other items that could harm him.
At this stage puppies can grow bored and become difficult if not given enough exercise. Their energy level increases at this age however, he is not expected to be able to run nonstop or to be allowed to freely roam, he can’t yet tell where trouble lies and will be too curious not to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong. Puppies still need a great deal of sleep in order to help with muscle and brain development.
Your puppy should receive his third set of vaccines around 16 weeks of age or depending on when he got his second set. Your veterinarian can help you determine other treatment or preventive medicines such flea or heartworm medications.