Weekly Puppy Development | Birth to 8 Weeks Comprehensive Guide

By: Danielle Harris

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Weekly Puppy Development

Weekly Puppy Development | Birth to 8 Weeks Comprehensive Guide

Updates with Portia’s Puppy – Meatloaf!

Think you know everything about your new puppy? Think again.

Understanding the stages of puppy development is not just for breeders, it’s for every new or prospective dog owner.

The first eight weeks of a newborn pup’s life are filled with significant milestones that are influenced by both their genetics and environment.

From birth, these tiny creatures undergo rapid transformation. They start as helpless newborn puppies, dependent on their mother for survival. Then they morph into curious young pups exploring the world around them while learning vital skills like potty training. By the time they reach 8 weeks old, they’re ready to leave their littermates and start bonding with their human family.

Knowing what to expect during this critical period can help you provide the right care and nutrition – yes, from mother’s milk to puppy kibble! So let’s dive into this fascinating journey of puppy development together.

Week One: Sensory Development and Care

Puppies, adorable as they are, enter the world with limited senses. They’re born deaf and blind, a fact that may seem surprising to many. Their world in the first week is one of darkness and silence. However, this doesn’t hinder their growth or survival. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of other senses like touch and smell which become their primary means of navigating their new environment.

Mother’s Care: A Lifeline

The mother’s care during this initial phase is crucial. She provides warmth, protection, and most importantly – nutrition. Her milk is a rich source of antibodies that boost the puppy’s immune system. It also provides essential nutrients for healthy growth.

The first few days the puppies will receive colostrum from mom.

Colostrum(first milk), also known as liquid gold, is a nutrient and protein rich substance. Its full of white blood cells and antibodies that support great gut health and sets up the puppy’s immune system for success. After 2-3 days mom’s normal milk comes in and the pups will feed on this until its time to wean.

Colostrum needs to be consumed during the first 16 hours of life and peak benefits occur at 4 hours after birth. If you need to supplement, Breeder’s Edge makes a great colostrum! Always keep it in your tool box.

20% of puppies don’t get enough colostrum. A study showed that in puppies that don’t get enough colostrum there is a 44.4% mortality rate vs puppies who do get enough have a mortality rate of 4.4%

Colostrum also acts as an energy booster.

To check to see if pups are getting enough: weigh, nurse for 15 minutes, weigh. Average gain across breeds is about 2grams but varies on breed and size.

Another weird thing is not all nipples make the same amount of colostrum. So your puppies may be getting varying amounts. If this happens, rotate pups on highest producing nipples so everyone can get what they need.

Weekly Puppy Development – Puppies nurse every 2 hours around the clock!
  • Puppies nurse every couple of hours
  • The mother stimulates her puppies to eliminate (urination and defectation) by licking them
  • She keeps them warm as they can’t regulate their body temperature yet, or they’re kept in an incubator

This constant care plays an instrumental role in the puppy’s development during the first week.

Weekly Puppy Development – Puppy Stimulation for urination and defecation
weekly Puppy Development 
Puppy Incubator
Weekly Puppy Development – Puppy Incubator, Pups will stay in the incubator for up to 2 weeks until more space is needed

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Weight Gain: A Positive Indicator

One significant indicator of a puppy’s health in its first week is weight gain. A steady increase in weight suggests that the puppy is getting adequate nutrition from its mother’s milk.

  1. Puppies should double their birth weight within a week (but can fluctuate until mothers milk comes in)
  2. Regular weigh-ins can help monitor progress
  3. Any loss or lack of weight gain needs immediate supplementation and possible veterinary attention
  4. Puppies that are 10% or more variant in weight of their littermates have a lower chance of survival due to competition for food, intervention may be needed to make sure the puppy gets proper nutrition
weight chart
Weekly Puppy Development- Weight Chart

Notice the slight drop in weight during the first few days, this is normal, however supplementation will be needed until milk drops. (which as you can see, we did supplement with Dahlias milk which led to the pick up on the 3rd day)

Pups feed on colostrum until moms mature milk drops.

Once milk drops, weight gain sky rockets! I usually see 25-30 gram increases per day once we hit the week mark.

Obesity in breeding bitches

Puppies born from obese bitches will usually be born underweight. Obesity affects how the body works, providing less energy to developing puppies and often have weaker placentas.

Low birth weight puppies usually grow faster but this isn’t a good thing. The process nutrients better or more rapidly than normal pups which makes them predisposed to obesity.

If weight gain happens too fast, consider bottle feeding to control how much they gain.

This is another reason why the health of the bitch is so important to the health of the puppies.

Goat milk is not a suitable replacement for milk. A dog specific milk replacer is required.

Goats and other large animals take much longer to grow. Puppies grow to maturity in a much shorter time. The energy density of goat milk is much lower than dog milk.

Lactose is also a problem. Goat milk is higher in lactose (although lower than cows milk) than dog milk. Lactose acts as a water attractant. If puppies are given too much lactose it will draw water out of the body causing diarrhea which then leads to dehydration,

While these guidelines provide general insights into weekly puppy development from birth to 8 weeks, each breed might have specific growth patterns and developmental milestones.


  • The first week focuses on sensory development and care.
  • The mother’s role is paramount in providing essential care and nutrition.
  • Regular monitoring of weight gain helps ensure healthy progress.

In essence, while devoid of sight and hearing at birth, puppies are remarkably resilient creatures equipped with other heightened senses to compensate for what they lack initially. With proper care from their mothers and careful monitoring, they can grow and thrive, setting the stage for their journey into the second week of life.

Umbilical Cords

Umbilical health is vital.

When puppies are born, umbilical cords are bright red. This is because they’re filled with oxygen rich blood – usually around 3mL of blood. Which for a tiny puppy, that is A LOT of blood.

Puppies reabsorb this blood from the umbilical cord, including the oxygen.

If your having a c section, vets need to carefully remove placentas and leave it attached to the puppy for 3 minutes, then it is safe to tie and cut the cord. The umbilical cord will turn white once the blood has been absorbed into the body.

The 3 minute waiting period significantly increases wellbeing and prevents hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the blood)

This also applies to natural birthing.

Use diluted Chlorhexidine or Diluted Betadine to clean umbilical cords every 8 hours for 3 days.

Umbilical infections are serious and can lead to dealth.

Around 3-5 days of age, puppies’ umbilical cords will fall off. Don’t be alarmed if there is some blood that marks the bedding, its kind of like a scab falling off.

weekly puppy development
weekly puppy develoment
weekly puppy development

Weekly Puppy Development- Umbilical Cords

Umbilical Cord falls off Meatloaf
Weekly Puppy Development
Weekly Puppy Development – 9 days difference

Whelping Box/Area From Birth to 2 weeks old

Weekly Puppy Development – first 2 weeks in the incubator

Puppies stay in the incubator until they start to become vocal or until they reach 2 weeks of age. When allowed to free roam the large box, they lose each other, may become cold, and cry.

The incubator helps them to stay close to one another and maintain proper temperature.

I will sit with mom and feed pups in the free space in the box.

Week Two: Sibling Socializing and Sensory Enhancement

Eyes Opening

The second week of a puppy’s life marks the beginning of their sensory exploration. Their eyes, which have been closed since birth, start to open. This is not a sudden process but rather a gradual unfolding that takes place over several days.

This stage is pivotal for weekly puppy development from birth to 8 weeks as it sets the foundation for all future learning and interaction.

Puppies vision isn’t totally clear right away. Their vision will be fully developed by 8 weeks.

Puppy’s eyes start to open

The Start of Socialization Period

Week two also signifies the start of the socialization period with siblings. Puppies begin to interact with their littermates – an addition to their previously solitary existence. These early interactions are rudimentary at best but set the stage for more complex social behaviors later on.

Socialization during this period involves simple activities like cuddling for warmth or jostling for a better position during feeding time. Each interaction enhances their understanding of social norms within canine society.

Motor Skills Development

Finally, week two sees the start of motor skills development. Puppies begin to move away from purely reflexive movements towards more purposeful ones. They may attempt to lift themselves onto wobbly legs only to tumble back down again.

Learning to walk- 2 weeks, 6 days old

These attempts at mobility are critical steps in developing coordination and strength. Though these early efforts may seem clumsy, they mark significant progress in weekly puppy development from birth to 8 weeks.

To sum up:

  • Week two marks the opening of eyes, paving way for sensory exploration.
  • The socialization period begins with initial interactions among siblings.
  • Motor skills development kicks off with attempts at coordinated movement.

Week Three: Weaning, Teething, Ears Opening, Fear Responses

Whelping Box/Area at 3 weeks of age

Weekly Puppy Development- whelping box at 2.5 – 3 weeks of age

Pups are allowed more space to roam around. The big lamp is now turned on, with the programmable thermostat, and a heating pad is in the opposite corner.

Egg crate acoustic panels are placed under the blankets and towels.

Towels and blankets are purposely chaotic and lumpy to give pups something to climb over and around. This helps to develop muscles and prevent flat chest.

weekly puppy development
setting up a whelping box with whelping pads, acoustic panels, potty pads, blankets, and puppy toys
Weekly Puppy Development – Whelping Box Set Up

After a few days of learning their new environment, a turf pad and enrichment cube are added.

With larger litters I will turn the doorway to the ezwhelp box upside down so they can walk through and place the turf at the opening of the doorway. (pictured below in the potty training section)

For this singleton I’ll allow him to have turf in his box for another week or so.

Whelping box at 3 weeks of age

A Taste of Pureed Food – Mush

From the third week onwards, your puppy begins an exciting new phase of life. The weaning process takes center stage as they are introduced to pureed food. This is a gradual shift from mother’s milk to a diet that includes puppy-appropriate pureed food.

They will also be able to urinate and defecate on their own at this point.

Weekly Puppy Development - week 3 introduction to mush
Weekly Puppy Development – week 3 introduction to mush
Puppy Mush 9/30/2023
Puppy First Mush!
  • Slowly introduce solid food pureed with water or milk (goats milk or esbilac).
  • Be sure to use a probiotic such as Benebac or Nuture Flora to help keep the gut balanced.
  • Gradually reduce the amount of milk while increasing solid food.
  • By the end of this phase, puppies should be eating mostly solid food.
    • We soak all of our dogs food regardless of age so pups will go home still eating food with some water in it.

The weaning process is critical for developing proper eating habits and nutritional health. It also allows mother dogs to regain their strength and vitality after weeks of nursing.

If you have any problems with weaning, evaluate the puppy food you have chosen. If the protein is different from what mom was eating while pregnant, this may be the underlying problem. They may just not be tolerating the food. Try grinding up moms food and feeding pups a mush made with this to see if it is tolerated.

Then find a puppy food that is similar to this.

Weekly Puppy Development – 2022 recipe


Their ears begin to open. Though they may not fully comprehend the sounds around them initially, this development is crucial in their journey towards understanding their environment.

You will notice them perk up and look around when they hear for the first time. As they begin to hear more they will start making more noises like barking and growling to express themselves.

Mine usually bark at me when I open the whelping room door.

Baby Teeth and Bite Inhibition

weekly puppy development
4 weeks old, baby teeth are starting to come in
Weekly Puppy Development – Baby Teeth are Starting to come in – 4 weeks

Just when you think your puppy couldn’t get any cuter, tiny baby teeth start to appear. This marks the beginning of the teething process:

  1. Baby teeth start emerging around the third/fourth week.
  2. Puppies may experience discomfort during this time.
  3. Provide chew toys to soothe sore gums and promote healthy teeth development.

Teething also introduces a crucial lesson for puppies – bite inhibition. Through playful interactions with their littermates and mother, puppies learn how hard they can bite without causing harm.

Weekly Puppy Development- Starting to play with toys and find his voice

Fear Responses: A Survival Instinct

Week three sees another significant milestone – the emergence of fear responses.

  • Puppies start responding to potential threats.
  • They may exhibit signs like whimpering or retreating when faced with unfamiliar situations or objects.
  • These responses are natural survival instincts that help protect them from danger.
  • Barking or growling when startled

Although it might be tempting to shield your puppy from anything that scares them, exposure to different stimuli at this stage can be beneficial for their development:

  • Introduce them gently to various sounds, textures, and environments.
  • Ensure these experiences are positive and not overwhelming.
  • Remember to keep vaccinations up-to-date for safe exploration outdoors.

Introduction to Potty training

Pups will start to explore. They will want to find a spot to potty that isn’t their bed. This is when we introduce puppy pads topped with turf.

This phase is a delicate balance of nurturing your puppy’s curiosity while ensuring their safety. It’s an exciting time for both you and your pup as they start discovering the world around them.

Week three in a puppy’s life is indeed filled with major advancements. From weaning to teething, and the emergence of fear responses, these developments are all part of the incredible journey from birth to 8 weeks. Your role? To provide a safe and supportive environment where your little one can grow and thrive.

Weekly Puppy Development- Turf Training and Weaning
weekly puppy development
puppy pooping on a turf potty training pad
Weekly Puppy Development- 3 Weeks, Potty training begins
weekly puppy development
potty training puppies with turf potty pads
Weekly Puppy Development – Week 3 Potty Training Begins

We also introduced his enrichment cube!

puppy playing with toys attached to a puppy enrichment cube
Weekly Puppy Development – Learning about his enrichment cube toys

Week Four Experiences: Human Interaction and Play-time

Week four in a puppy’s life marks the start of their human socialization period. This is a crucial stage where they begin to form bonds with humans and learn about their world through interaction.

The Bonding Process

During this week, puppies start recognizing familiar people. They may not understand who these humans are, but they will be able to distinguish between family members and strangers. This recognition is essential for building trust and establishing a connection between the pup and its human family.

  • Puppies will begin to show excitement when they see familiar faces.
  • They may wag their tails or make soft whining sounds as signs of recognition.
  • Regular handling by different members of the family can help strengthen this bond.

This is also an excellent time to introduce children into the puppy’s world. Having gentle interactions with kids at this age can help them get used to being around little ones, reducing potential issues down the line.

Increased Physical Activity

Another significant development during this week is increased physical activity. Puppies will start exploring their surroundings more actively, often engaging in playtime with their siblings. It’s during these play sessions that they learn essential skills like communication, bite inhibition, and understanding body language.

  • Play-fights with siblings teach puppies how to interact with others of their kind.
  • Toys can be introduced at this stage for additional stimulation.
  • Supervised outdoor exploration can also commence if weather conditions permit it.

Learning About Their World

Puppies born in a home environment have been exposed to various household sounds from day one. However, it’s only around week four that they truly start noticing these noises – everything from the hum of the refrigerator to the sound of footsteps becomes part of their learning experience.

They’ll also begin showing interest in food around this age – although mother’s milk still makes up most of their diet at this point, you might find them trying to sneak a nibble from mom’s dish!

Sleep Patterns

While puppies at this age still sleep for the majority of the day, you’ll notice that they’re beginning to stay awake for longer periods. They become more alert and responsive during their waking hours, taking in all the sights, sounds, and experiences around them.

Whelping box at 4-5 weeks of age

I will make the whelping box smaller to give more space for the pen, potty pad, and enrichment cube. The box will be their sleeping area until they decide they want to sleep elsewhere (like pictured above in the potty training section)

Weeks Five to Six: Exposure to New Elements

During the fifth and sixth weeks of a puppy’s life, they are introduced to a variety of new experiences. This is a crucial period in weekly puppy development from birth to 8 weeks as it lays the foundation for their future interactions.

weekly puppy development
More Space for the pups as they grow!

Diet Expansion

Around this time, puppies begin to transition from mother’s milk or formula feedings to only puppy food. This change introduces them to different tastes and textures, expanding their palate beyond just milk or formula.

  • They may start with softened puppy kibble
  • Gradually moving towards dry food
  • The introduction of water also occurs during this time

This dietary shift not only provides them with the necessary nutrients for growth but also strengthens their teeth.

Cognitive Stimulation

Exposure to new environments plays an essential role in stimulating cognitive development. Puppies are naturally curious creatures, so introducing them to various elements like different smells, changes in temperature, and new homes can be incredibly beneficial.

  1. Adventuring into different areas of the home.
  2. A slight change in room temperature helps them adjust
  3. Shifting their crate location within your home familiarizes them with new surroundings
  4. Different types of toys
  5. Different sounds such as vacuums

These experiences help puppies understand and adapt to their ever-changing environment.

Interactive Learning

As puppies grow stronger during these weeks, their learning abilities enhance significantly. Interactive toys or puzzles can be excellent tools for promoting mental stimulation.

For example:

  • Toys that dispense treats when manipulated rightly encourage problem-solving.
  • Squeaky toys stimulate their hearing senses.
  • Soft plush toys give them something safe and comforting.

Such interactive play sessions not only keep puppies engaged but also foster critical thinking skills while providing physical exercise.

The second fear phase is a crucial period in your puppy’s life cycle. It’s like an adolescent phase for humans, full of uncertainty and confusion. This transitional period can be challenging for both you and your furry friend.

Understanding the Fear Phase

During this transitional phase, puppies experience various periods of fear. Their threshold for fear seems to drop drastically, making them more susceptible to negative experiences. Even a simple thing like a loud noise or an unfamiliar object can scare them.

It’s not uncommon to see your puppy suddenly afraid of things they were okay with before. That favorite toy? Now it’s terrifying. The sound of rain on the roof? Absolutely horrifying.

This period is often referred to as the “fear period” because it’s marked by heightened sensitivity towards new experiences and changes in their environment.

Positive Reinforcement is Key

Positive reinforcement during this stage can make all the difference. You want to create a safe environment where they feel secure and loved.

  • Praise them when they’re brave
  • Comfort them when they’re scared
  • Reward them for overcoming their fears

Remember, during this phase, your pup is like a sponge soaking up every experience – good or bad. Negative experiences can have long-lasting effects, so tread carefully!

Gradual Introduction Towards House Training

House training should also begin around this time but remember – patience is key! This isn’t about forcing your pup to defecate where you want them but rather guiding them gently towards understanding what’s expected of them.

  1. Start by establishing a routine
  2. Use encouraging words when they get it right
  3. Clean up accidents without making a fuss – remember, they’re still learning!

They might not get it right away – that’s okay! They’re just babies after all!

Wrapping Up Weekly Puppy Development Stages

So, you’ve been through the journey, right? From their first blind and deaf moments to them navigating fear periods. Quite a ride! It’s like watching a tiny furball transform into a curious explorer within weeks. But hey, isn’t that what makes the whole puppy parenting gig so exciting?

Now it’s up to you to guide your little one beyond these 8 weeks of life. Remember, every pup is unique and might not stick strictly to this timeline. So keep an eye out for any signs of distress or unusual behavior. And don’t forget – enjoy every moment with your new best friend! Ready for more tips on raising a happy and healthy pup? Hit that subscribe button!

night time puppy aggression
Meatloaf (now Duke) at 8 weeks old!


What should I do if my puppy seems behind in development?

Don’t panic! Every puppy develops at their own pace. However, if you notice significant delays or concerning behaviors, it’s best to consult with your vet.

How can I help my puppy during the fear period?

Patience is key here. Offer plenty of reassurance and positive experiences. Avoid forcing your pup into situations they find scary.

Is it necessary to socialize my puppy before 8 weeks?

Absolutely! Early socialization is crucial for well-rounded development. Introduce them safely to various environments, people, and other animals under controlled conditions.

When will my puppy start teething?

Typically around week three puppies begin teething but remember each pup is unique!

Can I take my 8-week-old puppy outside?

Sure thing! Just make sure they have had all necessary vaccinations first to protect them from diseases.

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