Puppy Development



Early development & reflexive behavior: Neonatal period – Birth to 12 days.  Puppy stays close to mother, can’t hear or see well. Breeder provides warm and secure, safe area. Puppies feel safe and non-stressed. Puppies under little to no stress at this age develop a larger brain, studies show.



Transitional period 13-20 days. Eyes begin to open, can hear, taste and smell, begins to walk in a wobbly fashion.  Continue picking up the pups daily, cuddle them, spend time with each of them, talk to them. Introduce stimuli such as milk jug, knotted rope, cardboard box. Introduce them to friendly cats.



Primary Socialization begins. Awareness period 21-23 days. Puppy used sight and hearing. Learning begins.  Very rapid sensory development. It is important not to move whelping box during this time. Puppies remain with the litter and mother in a stable environment. Introduce them, 2 puppies at a time, to different surfaces, like carpet, grass, linoleum, wood. A soft radio is good playing in the background.



Primary Socialization 3 to 5 weeks. Secondary Socialization 6 to 12 weeks.  Puppy learns biting, chasing, barking, fighting, to accept discipline from mother, not to bite too hard. Mother begins to wean puppies between 4-8 weeks, but should be allowed as much time with the pups as she wants.  Puppies need lots of playtime with littermates so they can socialize. It is important they not leave the litter before 7 weeks. Put an open crate in the puppy pen for clear distinction between sleep and play areas. Each puppy should have one-on-one individual attention with humans. Take two at a time for short car rides. Occasionally isolate puppies to prepare them for separation. Exposure to a variety of noises and different floor surfaces is important.
Begin positive training sessions at 5 weeks.



Human Socialization 7 to 12 weeks. Puppy should be completely weaned from mother. This is the age when most rapid learning occurs. Greatest impact on future social behavior will be made by any experience that happens during this period.  Week 7 or 8 is the best time to bring a puppy into its new home. It is a critical period in which puppy should be socialized. Enroll in a good puppy class. Training is fun but remember puppies have short attention spans.



Human-Fear imprint period. 8 to 11 weeks. Anything that frightens the puppy during this period will have a more lasting effect than if it occurred at any other time.  Use short sessions, and keep all training positive and fun, using gentle guidance. Puppies should not be shipped during this period and elective surgery should be put off until the 12th week. Visits to the vet should be made fun.


Social status. 10 to 16 weeks. Puppy has been in the home for a few weeks. Pups will attempt to clarify where they fit in the group. Provide structure and consistency.


Flight Instinct Period. 4 to 8 months. He may not come when called. He may not play fetch even though he once did. Keep your pup on a leash until this passes. Give your pup chew bones (large enough so that the pup will not choke) to help with your pup’s need to chew. They will be uncomfortable because adult teeth are growing in. Use a long line in the park. Your puppy is changing and this is a commonly difficult period.

marty & mindy Small

Second Fear Period. 6 to 14 months. Happens with growth spurts. Most of height growing is over, but pup will start to fill out over the coming year. Puppy begins to mature sexually: male begins to lift leg, and female has first heat period anywhere from 6-12 months. Puppy coat being replaced by adult coat, starting down the spine. Continue positive socialization exposure, but be careful to avoid overwhelming situations. If your puppy appears apprehensive, allow him to approach as he is ready. Praise confidence.


Maturity. 1 to 4 years. Your dog still needs to meet and greet people, go places with you, you are never done with socialization. You will know when your dog can be trusted by testing him for short periods, 10-15 minutes, while you leave the house. You may have to crate him or leave in a safe area until you are sure he is ready.