• 435-644-2001 • www.bestfriends.org
By Sherry Woodard
Here is a quick summary of the stages of
puppy development, starting at birth:
Neonatal: Birth to Two Weeks
From birth to two weeks, puppies are com-
pletely dependent on mom for food and
care, such as keeping themselves clean.
The senses of touch and taste are present
Transitional: Two to Four Weeks
From two to four weeks, puppies become
aware of and interact with their littermates
as well as their mother. Their eyes open
and their sight is well developed by five weeks. The senses of hearing and smell are
developing; their baby teeth start emerging. During this stage, puppies begin to walk,
bark and wag their tails.
Weaning from the mother also begins during this phase. At around three weeks, puppies
should be started on solid food. Offer the puppies small amounts of soft food in a shallow
dish. By the time the puppies are eight weeks old, they should be eating solid food and
no longer nursing.
Socialization: Four to Twelve Weeks
From four to six weeks, puppies continue to be influenced by their mother and litter-
mates. They learn to play, gaining needed social skills from littermates, such as inhibited
biting (biting to play, not to hurt). The puppies also learn the ins and outs of group struc-
ture and ranking within the group.
At this point, if mom is aggressive or fearful of people, the puppies may be affected by
her attitude. To socialize your puppies with humans, have a variety of people interacting
with them – young (with supervision) and old, male and female.
House-training can begin as early as five weeks, when puppies will follow their mother
through a dog door or can be taken out for elimination lessons. At approximately six
weeks, puppies can begin in-home training. You should handle all parts of the puppy,
introduce his first collar and lead, encourage him to come using his name, and reward
him with praise and treats. At this age, you can also start training puppies with positive