THE FIRST SIX MONTHS OF PUPPYHOOD

Pastel of Irish Red & White, English, Irish and Gordon Setter Puppies

This simple article was written by Neil Campbell and sponsored by West’s Dog Biscuits. It was first published in Women’s Value issue of August 1992 but the basic timeline it gives to prospective new owners regarding normal puppy development is just as valid today.

‘The first six months of a puppy’s life fall into four distinctive phases, starting with total dependence on the mother and progressing to his own useful measure of independence.

After an average gestation period of 63 days, the pups are born with undeveloped eyes and ears, no teeth protruding and limbs unable to support the body.  Growth follows rapidly, however, with the puppies doubling their birth weight in seven day.  A puppy weighing 360g at birth will in a medium to large breed tally some 4.5kg by eight weeks.

One to four weeks:  The eyes start to open when the puppy is 10-14days old, and the ears have developed and hearing is present by about 21-25 days, when the pups may bark for the first time but after a few days in the litter, this may cease and some do not bark until almost into adulthood. Weaning occurs from two-and-a-half weeks old, when baby teeth are through and can cope with solids.  Most puppies walk by three-and-a-half weeks.

Four to eight weeks:  Most puppies should be running by five weeks.  In medium to large breeds, eight-week-old puppies are ready to go to new homes  Within seven days of changing ownership the puppy should be responding to its name and should know where its bed is and retire their voluntarily when tired.

At eight weeks the healthy puppy should be able to eat from a dish, walk and run, balance on its hind quarters to defecate and be playful and willing to respond to gentle and friendly overtures from people.  It will also require lots of sleep, having periods of furious activity for up to an hour-and-a-half, followed by several hours sleep.  Do not rouse the puppy, for sleep builds steady nerves and a good temperament.  At this stage the pup should be on four or five small meals a day.  The pet’s training and education should begin now, so time should be set aside for this.

Four months:  By this age, certain skills such as running, jumping, scenting, digging and carrying should be fairly well developed.  However, teething problems begin as baby teeth are shed and the adult set of 42 teeth break through the gums.  This causes the puppy variable pain which maybe expressed by compulsive chewing.

Six months: By this age the normal puppy should be completely house-trained and eating two to three meals per day.  It should also be capable of walking on a lead and staying alone for short periods during the day. Large breeds will not be fully grown until two years or even more.

In adolescence, large breed males may challenge their owner’s dominance.  Be alert to this challenge and handle it quickly and firmly by making the dog strongly aware of its place in the family pecking order.

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