There are very predictable stages that puppies go through as they mature. While each breed is slightly different the general timeline will be the same for all breeds of dogs. By knowing what to expect at different ages and stages you can be prepared as the owner to plan for training and socialization activities.
Dogs, just like humans, will mature at different rates. Some breeds are less boisterous and playful even as puppies and other breeds keep their puppy-like behavior far into adulthood. The following timelines are general to dogs; research your breed for specific information.
Day 1 – the puppy is born. It will be very active after the mother has cleaned it. The puppy will make lots of noise and will be very wiggly, although their eyes will be completely closed and their ears will be very close to their heads and seem almost underdeveloped. The mother dog will lick the puppies on their stomachs to stimulate them to urinate and defecate.
Day 3 – the ears will begin to appear bigger and will be held farther away from the head. The puppies will continue to make a lot of noise, particularly if they are away from the litter or the mother. Puppies should be handled minimally at this time but consistent human interaction and hearing people around is a great start to socialization.
Week 1 – by the end of the first week the puppies will be more mobile and will crawl around on their bellies and have a good sense of direction when moving towards the mother dog. The mother will leave the puppies briefly several times a day and the puppies will be OK with this. Handle the puppies daily for short periods, never completely removing them from the puppy area.
Week 2 – by the end of the second week the puppies should be walking with a fair amount of stability. The sharp puppy claws may need to be blunted to avoid injure to the littermates. The puppy's eyes will start to open slightly and they will begin to smell towards the end of the second week. They are starting to notice noises and when people arrive. Handle the puppies daily and for longer periods.
Week 3 – puppies will be able to handle some soft, moist puppy food. They still do not have teeth so kibble is not acceptable. They have limited sight but good sense of hearing and smell. They are constantly on the move in the litter area and begin to play and socialize with each other.
Week 4 – puppy teeth are in and the litter can start on soft foods on a more continuous basis, and by the end of the month they should be able to start on dry food Puppies will start learning socialization and appropriate chewing and biting from both the mother and litters.
Week 7 – ready to be out and about. Puppies love to run, have a good sense of mobility, scent, taste and sight. They are very active and will recognize humans by both sight and scent.
Week 8 – puppies can now be removed from the mother. They are able to eat and digest dry food and are independent in their actions.
Some breeders prefer to keep their puppies an additional 4 weeks and do not sell them until they have been completely socialized with the litter. Many breeds do better when kept with their litters for longer periods of time. Breeds that are prior to separation anxiety and shyness often are breeds that benefit from being left with the breeder for the additional period of time.