Copyright 2000. Dumb
Friends League. All rights reserved.
Although feeding time is
important, it’s also vital to include petting, talking and playing,
in order to help your puppy build good "people-skills."
Well-socialized mothers are more likely to have well-socialized
puppies. Puppies "feed" off of their mothers’ calm or
fearful attitude toward people.
Puppies are usually weaned at six or seven weeks,
but are still learning important skills as their mother gradually
leaves them more and more. Ideally, puppies should stay with their
littermates (or other role-model dogs) for at least 12 weeks.
Puppies separated from their littermates too early
often don’t develop appropriate "social skills," such as
learning how to send and receive signals, what an "inhibited
bite" means, how far to go in play wrestling and so forth. Play
is important to help puppies increase their physical coordination,
social skills and learning limits. Interacting with their mother and
littermates helps them learn "how to be a dog" and is also a
way to explore ranking ("who’s in charge").
Skills not acquired during the first eight weeks may
be lost forever. While these stages are important and fairly
consistent, a dog’s mind remains receptive to new experiences and
lessons well beyond puppy-hood. Most dogs are still puppies, in mind
and body, through the first two years.
The following chart provides general guidelines for the
stages of development.
0 - 2 weeks = Neonatal
- Most influenced by their mother.
- Touch and taste present at birth.
2 - 4 weeks = Transitional
- Most influenced by their mother and littermates.
- Eyes open, teeth erupt,
hearing and smell developing.
- Beginning to stand, walk a little, wag, bark.
- By four or five weeks, sight is well-developed.
3 - 12 weeks = Socialization
- During this period, puppies need opportunities to
meet other dogs and people.
- By four to six weeks they’re most influenced by
their littermates and are learning about being a dog.
- From four to 12 weeks they’re most influenced
by their littermates and people. They’re also learning to play,
including social skills, inhibited bite, social structure/ranking
and physical coordination.
- By three to five weeks they’re becoming aware
of their surroundings, companions (dogs and people) and
relationships, including play.
- By five to seven weeks they’re developing
curiosity and exploring new experiences. They need positive
"people" experiences during this time.
- By seven to nine weeks they’re refining
they’re physical skills/coordination (including housetraining)
and full use of senses.
- By eight to ten weeks they
experience real fear -- when puppies can be alarmed by normal
objects and experiences and need positive training.
- By nine to 12 weeks
they’re refining reactions, social skills (appropriate
interactions) with littermates and are exploring the environment,
spaces and objects. Beginning to focus on people. This is a good
time to begin training.
3 - 6 months = Ranking
- Most influenced by "littermates"
(playmates now include those of other species).
- Beginning to see and use ranking (dominant and
submissive) within the pack, including humans.
- Teething (and associated chewing).
- At four months they
experience another fear stage.
6 - 18 months = Adolescence
- Most influenced by human and dog "pack"
- At seven to nine months they go through a second
chewing phase -- part of exploring territory.
- Heightened exploration of dominance, including
If not spayed or neutered, beginnings of sexual
you still need assistance after reading our information,
us by email with your behavior concerns
or questions and we will respond promptly.
can also contact us by phone
If you are in the Denver metro area you can contact our helpline by calling:
303-696-4941, ext. 31
303-696-4941, ext. 32
For non-Denver metro residents throughout Colorado, and
in New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska and Kansas you can call toll-free:
Dog or Cat Behavior
answers calls, 24 hours a day, with an automated greeting
and will record your concerns and questions so that we assist you with your
Calls are returned during regular business hours by
specially trained employees and volunteers
who are dedicated to helping people understand why pets do what they do.