Unlike some animals, puppies are born not able to see or hear, and totally dependent on their mother for care and feeding. By the time they are old enough to find a new home however, they are able to eat solid foods, and of course, see and hear. The change does not occur overnight, however. It takes six to seven weeks to accomplish this amazing change.
When the puppies are born
When the puppies are born, they enter the world with their eyes and ears closed, as these have not fully developed yet. They cannot walk, but instead scoot, pulling themselves along with their legs, much as a baby does before it learns to crawl. They are incapable of regulating their body temperature, so they must be kept warm. This is why a litter of puppies piles on top of each other the first few weeks of life. They recognize their mother by her scent, and by her touch as she cleans them. When the mother returns to the whelping box after she has been given a chance to relieve herself outside, you will see the puppies scrambling towards her for their meal when she stretches out for them. While the puppies nurse, she will clean each of them.
Typically, around a week and a half to two weeks of age, the puppies’ eyes will gradually start to crack open, over a period of days. Their ears will follow shortly thereafter. By two and a half weeks of age, the puppies are generally capable of seeing fuzzy movement and hearing the whines and whimpers of their mother. Around three weeks, the puppies will start to toddle more, as well as gain conscious control of their tail movement. They will quickly learn to recognize the sound of your voice as you approach, and those cute little puppy tails will start wagging as soon as they hear you coming. This is the time when they will start playing with their littermates. This is also the time when moistened puppy food can be introduced to the puppies.
By four weeks of age, the puppies are walking very well. Their eyes are fully open, as well as their ears. The only time they are not playing and trotting about is when they are sleeping, and they take frequent naps throughout puppyhood. Sleep, as with all babies, is an important aspect of their growth. From four to six weeks of age, the puppies continue to play, sleep, eat, and grow. By six weeks of age, they should be nearly, if not completely weaned from their mother’s milk, and eating solid foods. They will need their first “puppy” shot now, which protects against common canine diseases. Up until this point, their mother has shared her antibodies and immunity with them, but as they have been weaned, the immunity has decreased. By seven to eight weeks of age, the puppies are ready for new homes. No longer are they totally dependent on their mother. The responsibility is given to their new family, because, while able to eat solid foods, they still depend on humans to provide that food.
The stages of growth
The stages of growth do not stop at eight weeks. From a tiny, defenseless life, unable to do anything besides drink and sleep at birth, to a bouncing, playful pup just two short months later – it is a process a responsible breeder finds joy in every time, no matter how many litters have been raised before