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Puppy Care Stages: Newborn to 48 Weeks

Steve Penhollow
June 6, 2017

All the information you need to know about caring for your young dog.

The rate at which a puppy grows to maturity is somewhat dependent on the breed. (In fact, some breeds continue to develop even after the 1-year mark.)

Some dogs retain a "puppyish" disposition well into their dotage, and some youngish dogs are almost cat-like in their unflappability.

There are, however, some similarities among all breeds. Here are the typical stages of puppy life during the first 48 weeks:

Newborn to Three Weeks Old: Silent Senses

For the first three weeks of life, a puppy is almost devoid of senses. Its eyes, ears and nose don't begin to work properly until the third week. During this period, puppies sleep most of the time and there's nothing wrong with that. Sleep is vital for a newborn puppy's development.

Three to Eight Weeks Old: Socializing With the Siblings

The puppy's senses awaken. It should be able to walk by the fourth week. Mother begins weaning the pups and starts teaching discipline. The puppy socializes with its siblings and learns bite inhibition through puppy play-biting. (This is why it's so important for the puppy to be kept with its mother and/or siblings.)

The owner or care provider can begin to introduce solid food in the fourth week. This way, the pup can adjust to the food during the weaning period. It's vital that the owner or care provider not separate the puppy from its mother for extended periods of time during the day. A puppy should remain with its litter mates until it's at least seven or eight weeks old, although some experts recommend as long as 12 weeks. This period is very important for properly socializing the pup with people and other dogs. It's also a crucial time for establishing the dog's identity and insuring its life-long stability. 

And don't forget to start your puppy's vaccinations. Consult with your vet to determine the right schedule for your pooch. (This is especially important to do to prevent diseases like canine parvovirus, which can easily kill a puppy.)

Eight to 12 Weeks Old: Fear of the New

Physical coordination is refined during this time. A puppy placed in a new home during this period will be apprehensive about almost everything in that home at first. The owner or care provider must attempt to make the puppy's experiences during this period as positive and comforting as possible because puppies at this stage are hypersensitive to upsetting incidents. Housebreaking can begin at eight weeks and training by nine weeks.

12 to 24 Weeks Old: Chewing Everything in Sight

The first permanent teeth make their appearance and may seem like a mixed blessing. The puppy will need to be provided with suitable items to gnaw upon and will need to be shown (either ceaselessly or endlessly) the difference between suitable and unsuitable in the realm of gnawable items. The puppy will challenge the owner's or care provider's authority during this period. In their natural state, dogs prefer a strong leader. Professional training can help a dog understand what is expected of him and can help an owner curb any wimpy tendencies.

24 to 48 Weeks Old: Teenage Doghood

Challenges to the authority of the owner or pet sitter will continue during this span. Repeat the puppy owner's mantra, which is "No!" (please notice the exclamation point). Spaying or neutering curbs a "teenage" dog's tendency to want to spend lots of quality time with canines of the opposite sex. Actually, what spaying or neutering really does is change a dog's definition of what spending quality time with canines of the opposite sex really means. Adolescent dogs of all breeds need lots of exercise, not just naturally large breeds.

Raising a mannerly, well adjusted dog is all about staying attuned to his signals and sensitivities and not being afraid to take control and assert authority.

The challenges of caring for your dog don't end after 48 weeks. Thankfully, Care.com offers a valuable Pet Guide as well as a comprehensive collection of Pet Care Articles and Resources, so you are always prepared to provide the best care possible for that special member of your family.

Written by Steve Penhollow. Steve writes about pets and family issues for Care.com. He also writes about arts and entertainment for other publications.

Updated on 19 January 2017 by Susan Paretts. Susan is a freelance writer and graduate of the University of Southern California. She has published articles related to pets, beauty, health, green living, interior design and gardening for a variety of publications, including Care.com.

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