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The Development of Your Puppy

Like people, puppies go through various developmental stages. The following is what generally happens to a puppy, emotionally, physically, and psychologically, over the first ten weeks of life.

The First Two Weeks

A puppy is born blind and deaf, and for the first two weeks of his life, he doesn't do a lot except sleep (around 90 percent of the time) and eat. While he can't hear or see, he can feel and smell, and the combination enables him to find the all-important nipples on his mother. The mother dispenses milk that contains antibodies that help the pup survive for six to ten weeks. Propelling the pup to his mother are very undeveloped and weak legs. The puny legs also allow the puppy to huddle together with his siblings. The legs develop somewhat while the puppies are asleep because they twitch, something called "activated sleep."

The puppy is nurtured by his mother, of course, which includes his mom licking his belly, which stimulates the little creature to defecate and urinate.

Depending on how the mother feels, human beings may or may not be allowed to pick up and nurture the puppies every day. When this occurs, it helps man and dog bond more easily.

The Third Week

During this week, the puppy's other senses start to operate. He can detect light and dark, as well as movement, and will respond to large or sudden sounds. He will start to interact with his brothers and sisters, and he starts developing social skills by this interaction, i.e., touching them with his paws and mouth.

He learns to crawl, and his tail begins to wag. He can also venture from his mother to urinate on his own. In some cases, puppies, though not weaned, can be fed liquid food suggested by a veterinarian.

The Fourth and Fifth Weeks

During this period, the puppy's muscular development increases to the point where he can walk, run, and pounce on his littermates. It is a period of endless exploration, and the puppy's interaction with his siblings teaches him a lot, including when he's biting too hard - which elicits a tough response from a littermate - and where he belongs in the aristocracy of the pack - he will alternately sleep at the bottom and top of the puppy pile.

If the puppy is misbehaving, Mom occasionally may get involved by growling at him. This discipline sharpens the puppy's sense of right and wrong, which can make training easier. If dogs aren't subject to this kind of discipline, such as dogs who become orphaned, the human training process becomes that much more difficult.

The puppy is likely to stop suckling during this time as his teeth develop. Mom will chew, swallow and bring up food for her puppy to eat, which he is able to do in the fourth week.

The fourth week is usually the time when fear is developed: The puppy picks up his mother's fears and develops some of his own, including becoming afraid of his handler if he is treated poorly.

The latter portion of this time is when the puppy starts to become socialized with the human family, becoming more aware of the sights and sounds in the house, as well as interacting more with individual members.

The Sixth and Seventh Weeks

This is a time of wonder and curiosity for the young pup, but he is also very sensitive to emotional harm. His emotions will be revealed; he'll start barking to get attention, whining to show fear, and whimpering if hurt. Take care not to scare or upset him in any way. It's best that the dog be allowed to relate one on one with a human being, allowing trust to start to build. It is also a time of great fan. He should be given a supply of toys, because he will be very rambunctious and needs them to interact. If he goes too far when playing, his mother will put him in his place. When the puppies are weaned, have their own teeth, and can eat by themselves, the mother dog assumes the role of alpha or pack leader. The mother will show her puppies - using toys - when it's appropriate to bite.

Puppies will also attack each other to establish dominance and to determine who the alpha is.

The Eighth Week

During the eighth week, the puppy will start to develop bathroom habits. He will find a private place to go, and it won't be anywhere near his food bowl. He will look for a place to relieve himself by sniffing about. The eighth week is also a crucial time in socialization - this is the time when fears can be established. You should take care to make sure that all the puppy's experiences are positive ones, or he may carry around the fear for life. For this reason it is preferable to wait until after the eighth week to take a puppy to his new home. For example, if the puppy gets carsick, he may be afraid of cars, and it will take a lot of training and desensitization to get him to enjoy riding in one.

The Tenth Week

Now the puppies stop battling each other - the alpha and omega in the litter have been established. This is the best time to get a sense of a puppy's personality. Any anxiety the puppy might have felt in a strange places ceases - he is ready to find a new home.

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About The Author: Is your dog's health important to you? Read more great articles from Rex Lanigan at his great website.

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