Newborn puppies are very small and helpless, but they grow quickly. During the first 8 weeks, they spend almost all of their time with their mother and their littermates learning how to be a dog. Their mother teaches them good manners, how to eat and how to play.
Puppies grow very quickly, so you can see something new almost every day. Here are some of the things you might see.
Weeks 1 and 2
Newborn puppies need to keep warm because a chill can be very dangerous. They spend most of their time sleeping and huddled together for warmth. They also spend a lot of time nursing, and their mother licks their tummies and genitals to help them go to the bathroom.
Your puppy’s legs are very weak at first and he can barely wiggle to his mother or his littermates. But as he sleeps his legs twitch. This is called activated sleep and it helps to make his legs stronger.
If the mother allows, you can pick up a puppy gently several times a day. This will help your puppy get used to you and learn to like and trust you.
During the third week, your puppy can detect light, dark and movement. He also begins to respond to loud sounds. He will begin to learn some social skills and wag his tail. He can crawl and he can go to the bathroom on his own. He might even enjoy tasting puppy gruel if your veterinarian recommends it, although he must still nurse from his mother.
Weeks 4 and 5
Your puppy will start to be fun now. He will be getting stronger and more coordinated. He will be able to bark, stand, walk, run and even pounce. His mother will also teach him to go to the bathroom away from his sleeping area.
He will also learn to play with his littermates by wrestling. The mother will referee and she may nudge a puppy or growl if the puppy gets too rough. Pups like to play hunt and chase, so you might want to give them a toy to play with. You should get more involved with the pups, too.
Puppies begin cutting their first teeth so the mother will begin to wean them. You may see her chewing her food then regurgitating it (spitting it back up) for the pups to eat. Doing this makes it easier for the pups to eat the food. It may seem gross, but it is normal for dogs.
Weeks 6 and 7
Your puppy will start to look more like an adult version of his breed because his muzzle will grow longer. He will also start to show some emotion. He may whine when he is afraid or bark when he wants attention.
As they get older, their mother will still teach them how to behave. She will be affectionate and playful. She may tease them with toys and show them when to bite and when not to. She will correct them sharply if they misbehave.
Puppies are curious about their environment and should have several simple toys to investigate. You should be spending a short time each day with your puppy, playing gently and learning to be friends.
By the time your puppy is 2 months old, he can remember which behaviors are allowed and where and when he is fed. You can even begin to house-train him and let him get used to being groomed.
Now he will be ready to leave his littermates and his mother to a new home. If the puppies were born at your home, he can now be your puppy. But you will have to take over where the mother left off and continue to train your puppy and keep him safe.