The newborn puppy

A lot happens in the first few weeks of a puppy's life. It starts to see and hear and learns to interact with its siblings and us humans. This period of development is very important for how the puppy will turn out as an adult.

The first few weeks

When the puppy is born, it is both blind and deaf. During the first ten days of the puppy's life, important parts of the brain are not activated and the newborn puppy is almost entirely dependent on its environment for survival. In the beginning, the puppy's life is all about eating and sleeping. A healthy puppy is never completely still and even when it is sound asleep there is some degree of twitching of the head or body. A newborn puppy's skin is very sensitive to pressure, especially over the muzzle and under the paws. This helps the puppy to orientate itself when searching for the teat.

Puppy's body temperature

In the newborn puppy, temperature regulation is not fully developed, so it is important to ensure that the puppy's environment is suitably warm and that the surface does not become too cold or wet. A temperature of around 20-22 degrees in the puppy's room is usually adequate, slightly warmer for smaller dog breeds with less fur. The temperature should not be so hot that the bitch is uncomfortable. Signs that it is too cold for the puppies may be that they lie close together on a pile. The opposite may be true if they are more or less scattered in the crate.

Development of vision and hearing

Between two and three weeks of age, a lot happens in the puppy's development. The eyes gradually open when the puppy is about 8-10 days old. At first the puppy's vision is very poor but eventually it begins to perceive shadows and by 3 weeks of age it can be expected that the puppy's vision is relatively good. Until then, the puppy's eyes should be protected from bright light. Hearing develops gradually and the puppy starts to hear when it is around 15-20 days old.

Social development

From 3 weeks of age, the puppy's socialisation period begins and lasts until it is about 12 weeks old. The nature of this period has a major impact on further development and contact with mother and siblings is crucial. Through play and fighting with its littermates, the puppy learns how to be a dog and where the boundaries are. Failure to do this can lead to problems when the puppy becomes an adult, manifesting itself through aggression or fear of other dogs.

If the puppy has continuous contact with humans during this period, it will learn to see us as members of the pack. Pick up and handle each puppy individually and accustom them to human contact several times a day. Always make sure this is done in a calm and positive way for the puppy. At 5 weeks of age it has been seen that the puppy is at its least sceptical of its surroundings and therefore this is a good time to introduce the puppy to new, positive situations. As a rule, a puppy will be less fearful and suspicious of a new situation than an inexperienced, adult dog. On the other hand, a puppy that is frightened during this period may retain the same fear of the corresponding situation for a long time, perhaps for the rest of its life.

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