Once puppies are born, the week to week development can vary but most newborns stick to the same growing pattern. Unlike human babies, puppies develop quickly within their first two months of life and the changes are so quick that you may miss an important milestone. From the first week to the eighth, you are going see your tiny bundles of joy go from wriggling whimpers to full-blown walking balls of energy.
The first two weeks of life are easy for owners as the most the puppies can do is wriggle around and whimper for their mother. During the first week, the eyes will be closed and movement is generally towards their mother or looking for her. Their days are spent eating and sleeping and being cared for completely by Mom. If the puppies wriggle from their whelping box, they will need assistance to get back into bed. All of their nutrition should come completely from their mother.
Generally, puppies open their eyes during week two (approximately 10 days old) although some puppies may take a few days longer. They are still completely dependent upon their mother for feeding and care. Their eyes may be open but they still are not steady on their feet and will need replaced back in their whelping box should they venture out.
This is a week of many firsts for the new litter. By week three, puppies are starting to really be on the move. Their adventurous side will begin to show and they will be moving around more often. The puppies should still be getting their meals from their mother but to place less stress on Mom, you can begin supplemental feedings. This is especially helpful to dams with large litters.
The teeth will start to erupt and puppies will stand and start walking. Some wet food placed on your hand will be devoured by the three-week old bundles. Replacer milk designed just for puppies will be lapped up which will also give their mother a break. Puppies will begin to play so adding some small toys or fabric-type items to their whelping box will provide stimulation. Pups will also need their first worming at three weeks.
During this week, puppies should be eating puppy food without problems but will still be nursing. They will be walking well and running but will still fall at times. The puppies will all be interacting together, chasing one another, biting, barking, and wagging their tails. Regular grooming should be introduced which is the beginning of their training that will extend into adulthood.
During the fifth week, the puppies should be getting regular supplemental feedings. Small dry kibble should be introduced to wean from an all-wet diet. This is the preparation stage for full weaning of the pups from their mother by the end of the fifth week. Take time to interact with the puppies individually so that the young pups begin their socialization training with humans and not just with their littermates.
Six-week old puppies should be eating puppy food. They will also need their second worming at this age. Some breeders or owners begin weaning puppies at this age but it can also begin in the fifth week. This may take some coaxing to get Mom to stop nursing. Although some believe that allowing to nurse is appropriate up to eight weeks of age, this does put a lot of stress on the pup's mother. By the end of six weeks, the puppies should be fully weaned from their mother but they aren't ready for new homes just yet.
During the puppies seventh week, they are fully on the go and experimenting. At this time, the pups should be fully weaned from their mother and eating regular puppy food from a bowl. If Mom is still allowing the pups to nurse, you may need to separate mother and pups. Although the puppies still may not recognize their names, they should still be in training with human interaction, grooming, and regular outside bathroom breaks.
Their attention spans may not be up to par but training should increase during the eighth week. The puppies should all be learning their names and house breaking should be encouraged. The once tiny and dependent young will be rambunctious and full of energy. Leash training can be introduced and as the puppy ages, more extensive training should be encouraged so that you have a well-adjusted and obedient companion.
For many years, eight weeks has been the standard age for puppies to leave the nest and go to new owners. Recently, some who dub themselves "dog experts" have stated that this is far too young for a puppy to leave their mother and/or littermates for psychological reasons. Purportedly, pups need the extra interaction with their initial family to adjust well as an adult dog. But as far as nutrition and eating requirements, it is safe for eight-week old puppies to leave home and begin their new lives with their forever family.