A puppy ‘s relationships with his mother and littermates during the first 8 weeks of their life determine their personality and what kind of companion they’ll be for your family. Together with its littermates they will test one another and learn when to be dominant or submissive. For most of this period, its mother will provide for their basic needs, teaching them discipline and how to play.
Nature has given most canine mothers an instinctive nurturing ability. Of course, the mother herself must be healthy, secure, and disciplined. Responsible breeders support the mother and provide a warm, quiet environment.
Pups are born unable to see or hear, their eyes remaining tightly shut until they are about 10 days old. They are reliant on mum for all their needs: still unable to regulate body temperature they seek out their mum to stay warm. For the first week almost all they will do is sleep and feed, putting all their energies into gaining weight gradually getting stronger every day.
While her newborn puppies spend 90 percent of their time sleeping, a mother’s instincts tell her to keep them huddled together for warmth: A chill can kill them. Although the puppies cannot see or hear, their senses of smell and touch guide them to mom’s nipples. During the first few days, her milk will provide them with antibodies that will help them survive for 6 to 10 weeks. She also licks their tummies and genitals to help them urinate and defecate.
A tiny newborn’s legs are so weak he can barely wriggle his way to the nearby nipple and the comfort of his siblings. During sleep, twitching movements, called activated sleep, help strengthen his legs. If the mother allows, the breeder or other main caretaker can begin to pick up each pup several times a day. This early, gentle human touch will help the dog bond with people later.
This is a busy time for us here at Free Range Pooches NZ. We are always watching the mum and puppies 24/7 at this stage.
By the end of their first week our pups are beginning to change. Front legs can support their weight making it easier to seek out mum and the next milk feed. At this stage, our pups still cannot hear but they begin to sense vibrations.
At around ten days old our pups will start to open their eyes. The world around them will be fuzzy to begin with but their sight will soon improve and help them discover their world.
A puppies’ front and back legs are now much stronger and fully able to support their bodies. Increasingly they are exploring their world; play begins with their siblings and they begin to investigate and explore.
During the third week, your puppy’s senses open. They can detect light, dark and movement and begin to respond to sudden or loud sounds. As they paw and mouth their littermates, they build early social skills. They can relieve himself on their own now. Although they are not ready to be weaned, we introduce them to a small taste of veterinarian-prescribed puppy food. By the end of the week, they can crawl and their tail begins to wag.
Week 4 – 5
Our puppies’ senses are now all fully developed. With help and guidance from their mum they are learning through play, but this is also a good time to start to introduce new things to the pups. They are less reliant on their mum now no longer needing to seek her out to keep warm. This week, their sharp puppy teeth start to come through, it also means it is time to begin weaning.
Periods of socialization need to be positive and appropriate for the age of the puppies to avoid negative experiences or the puppy getting frightened.
Quickly gaining strength and coordination, the puppy begins to respond to his environment. He can bark, stand, walk, run, even pounce. His mother teaches him to eliminate away from his sleeping area.
They learn to play by wrestling with their littermates. When they get nipped too hard or is batted back by a defensive sibling, they learn the difference between hard and soft biting. At this point, puppies are forever testing their limits and take turns sleeping at the top and bottom of the sibling pile. Hunting and chasing instincts kick in, so this is a good time to introduce your pup to toys.
The mother dog referees when playtime gets too rough. She may nudge or restrain an errant pup, or she may growl at them, teaching the puppies discipline and acclimating them to the process of training. If they are not properly socialized, orphaned dogs raised without a mother and littermates may have a hard time relating to their human leaders, and to other dogs, as well.
Towards the end of this period, it is time for us to become more involved with the young dog. This familiarizes them with the everyday smells and sounds of a modern household, including appliances, children, and assorted adults.
Week 6 – 8 weeks
Our pups are ready to explore their world but from six weeks they are already becoming more reserved about new experiences. Socializing is still every bit as vital to ensuring our puppies have positive experiences around new and unfamiliar things but getting appropriate socialization to build up those good associations remains vital to giving a pup the best start in life.
Meeting new people, experiencing new sounds, being handled and meeting children will help our pups feel familiar and confident with experiences they come across in later life.
The mother’s role evolves to that of pack leader as her brood matures. Her pups are weaned now since they have teeth and can eat solid food. She is affectionate and playful with them, teasing them with toys and showing them when to bite and when not to. She lets them know she is the dominant dog and corrects them sharply if they misbehave.
The puppy’s appetite for exploring his environment and learning new things will benefit tremendously if they are given a variety of simple toys to investigate at this stage. They will also play rough and tumble with his littermates, stealing and sharing toys. By this point, they are spending a short time each day alone with a human, playing gently and learning to relate one-on-one in a safe, trusting situation.
By this age, the puppies can remember which behaviours is allowed and where and when they are fed. They can even begin house-training and start becoming used to being groomed. They are ready to leave his mother and littermates to go home with you, fully capable of taking their place in the family.
Vet bills can be very expensive
We highly recommend Pet Insurance
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All our puppies at Free Range Pooches go home with PD Insurance.