Puppy Development & Growth by Week
Puppies are so small when they begin life. It's hard to believe that in just a few weeks, those helpless little bundles will become bouncing, barking and fun-loving young dogs. In order to get there, newborn puppies grow a great deal and develop quite rapidly. It's fascinating to watch, but if you're raising a litter of puppies, you might also have some questions about puppy development week by week.
For this discussion, we'll assume you have a healthy mother dog that's caring for her litter. But you'll still be involved with the care of raising a litter of newborn puppies, and understanding what puppy stages to expect each week is important. Here are some of the highlights:
1-week-old puppy development
- The quiet life. At birth, newborn puppies are incredibly vulnerable. Besides being unable to walk or move around much, newborn puppies are blind and deaf—all they're able to do is feel, taste and make small vocalizations. Puppies' eyes stay closed because the light-receptive nerves are still developing. But don't worry, it's happening—literally—behind the scenes.
- A hungry litter of puppies. At this stage of their development, puppies spend time doing the one thing they are good at—nursing!
- Sleeping. Newborn puppies spend most of their time sleeping. They also need assistance in staying warm with the help of their mother or a heated pad designed for whelping puppies like the Deluxe Lectro-Kennel Heated Pad.
- Growing. Wow! In just one week, puppies weigh twice what they did when they were born!1
2-week-old puppy development
- Coming to their senses. By the time they're about 10 days to 2 weeks old, the puppies begin to open their eyes.
- Still sleeping. As with week one, week two is filled with a lot of napping, resting and sleeping. The real action is happening behind the scenes as your puppy grows.
- Keep on growing! Puppies generally gain about 10 percent of their birth weight each day.
3-week-old puppy development
- I can hear you! Puppies' ear canals are closed at birth, so the world is a very quiet place for them at the beginning. By the time puppies are 3 weeks old, the ear canals start to open up, and the puppies can hear their mother's voice—and yours—for the first time.
- Walking. Sure, they're wobbly and not very coordinated, but by the time the puppies are around 3 weeks old,2 they're experimenting with getting up on their paws and walking (stumbling?) around.
- Tooth time! At around the 21-day mark, puppies start to develop their tiny—and very sharp!—puppy teeth. These teeth won't stick around and will be replaced by the pup's more robust adult teeth by the time they're about 3 or 4 months old. By the time the puppies are about 8 months old (sometimes less), they should have a full mouth of adult teeth.
4-week-old puppy development
- Activity on the rise. The puppies are starting to have fun and acting a little more like, well, puppies. You might see a few play bows (kind of like "downward-facing dog" in yoga) here and there. And you might hear a few playful vocalizations.
- Chow time. Puppies begin to transition to “real" food around 1 month of age.
- Weaning starts. The mother dog should naturally begin to decrease how frequently she nurses the puppies. They're growing up!
- Room temperature. Puppies can better regulate their body temperature now and will be comfortable in an environment at room temperature.
5, 6, 7, 8 weeks...and beyond.
- Time to make friends! Your puppies are old enough by about weeks four, five, six and beyond to start meeting more humans and learning how to make friends with them.3 The next few weeks can be a fun time as they learn to play and interact with people.
- They're weaned. By the time the puppies are about 6 weeks old, they'll be on full-time kibble patrol.
- Keep on growing. Your puppies may be full of spunk and quite capable by 8 weeks or so, but make no mistake—they're going to keep growing and developing for some time. It may take a full year before your puppies are full-grown adults, and some breeds take even longer than that.
- Farewell, littermates! At some point, the puppies will graduate away from the litter and move on to new lives with their new loving families. To help ease the transition, why not supply them with an oh-so-comfy heated bed and pillow that mimics the heartbeat of their mother dog, like the Mother's Heartbeat Heated Puppy Pet Bed with Bone Pillow (You can even select a pillow that matches the size and heart rate of your puppies' breed.)
Puppies definitely change a lot when they're growing—and they grow and develop much faster than human babies. It's a busy time, but when it's all said and done, the puppies are ready to head out into the world as capable and healthy young dogs.
1. Williams, Krista and Ward, Ernest. VCA Hospitals. “Raising Puppies," https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/puppy-raising
2. Shojai, Amy. The Spruce Pets. “Puppy Development From 1 to 8 Weeks," https://www.thesprucepets.com/puppy-development-part-1-2804676
3. BondVet. “Puppy Development: When Does a Puppy Become a Dog?" 16 July 2020 https://bondvet.com/b/puppy-development-when-does-a-puppy-become-a-dog