Just like people, pups are individuals and develop at their own speed. However, in general, their development will follow this schedule:
The first 3 weeks. A pup’s main activity during this time is sleep. The rest of his time will be used for feeding from his mother, in which he uses his most active senses at this stage: smell and touch. A pup’s legs won’t have the strength to carry him yet so he may move by crawling on his belly. In the third week pups sleep a little less, start to recognize movement and light and dark, and may startle at unexpected sounds.
Week 4 and 5. Puppies are more active at this stage and their hearing and sight more developed. They begin interacting with their littermates, establishing early social skills. Pups become aware of their own strength and learn what is acceptable behavior through play with their littermates. The mother dog’s behavior at this point is important. She will watch her pups play, stopping them if they get too rough, and providing early discipline to the puppies. Early house-training skills develop around this time because puppies can now eliminate without their mother’s help, and start to leave their nest to do so. A good breeder will start handling the puppies gently during this period, to help them get used to people.
Week 6 to 8. Puppies start exploring their environment around this time. A responsible breeder will provide them with stimulating toys to help them get used to different things, so that they don’t grow fearful about new experiences. This is all part of their initial socialization. The puppies are usually weaned during this time however the mother’s role continues to be important. Pups are pack animals, and through early discipline the mother dog establishes herself as leader of the pack, correcting disrespectful or too-rough behavior. If the mother dog is fearful or friendly the pup often learns this behavior.
Although the above is a very general outline of a pup’s first 8 weeks, it is clear the role the pup’s mother, littermates and breeder take in forming the pup. This is why it is important to find a good breeder, see the mother and observe puppies with their littermates before taking one home. Among other benefits, a well-balanced mother dog provides early discipline that helps the pup accept discipline later in life, and teaches the pup friendly behavior. The pup’s littermates allow him to test his strength, and let him know by their reactions when he is too rough. The breeder begins the puppy’s socialization, helping him get used to people, and encouraging him to investigate without fear. This helps the pup to grow into a dog that is friendly, as well as making the transition to a new home and life easier on the pup – and therefore easier on you! A good start in life can make all the difference to the future behavior, health and happiness of a puppy.
Other signs of a healthy puppy
When you visit the breeders choose a puppy that appears bright, alert and healthy.
Fur: A pup’s fur should look clean and shiny and feel soft.
Skin: There should be no lumps or sores, flaking or oiliness.
Belly: The pup’s belly should look pink and unstained.
Anal region: This area should look clean, with no sign of discharge or diarrhea.
Muscles: The pup’s muscles should look well-developed. His legs should be straight and his feet should show no sign of deformity that could lead to lameness.
Eyes: The eyes should be clear with no sign of inflammation and no discharge.
Ears: The ears should be pink with no discharge or unpleasant odor, which could indicate ear mites.
Mouth: The gums should be pink and the mouth should be odor-free.