Your 8-Week-Old Puppy: Everything You Need to Know
At 8 weeks of age, your puppy‘s primary focuses are basic needs like eating, drinking, sleeping, eliminating, and playing. At this point, a puppy can remember which behaviors are allowed and where and when they are fed. They can even begin housetraining and start feeling comfortable with being groomed. They are ready to leave their mother and littermates to go to their new home with you, fully capable of taking their place in the family.
8-Week-Old Puppies: What to Expect
Most 8-week-old puppies are only a fraction of their adult height, length, and weight. Puppies generally grow rapidly between birth and 6 months of age. How much they grow will depend on their breed as well as their nutrition throughout their youth.
Puppies at 8 weeks of age will have all 28 of their baby teeth and may have already developed their first adult teeth, the front incisors.
8-week-old puppies are growing increasingly curious and interested in their environments. Although capable of learning, they have a very short attention span. Owners should keep a variety of simple toys for their puppies to investigate. Puppies will also play rough and tumble with their littermates while gradually learning to play independently. It is extremely important for puppies to socialize with people and pets of various ages, sizes, and shapes at this age to ensure successful socialization. Puppies should be allowed to adjust to new experiences, sights, sounds, and sensations on their own terms.
Play & Agility
Most puppies are clumsy around this age. After all, most only learn to walk at 3 weeks of age and run at 5 weeks of age. They are developing their gross motor skills, which help them to run, play, and “hunt.” Their fine motor skills will come later. Puppies also learn to jump up at this stage. This is a normal behavior that can turn into an undesirable one if the puppy reaches adulthood and retains a desire to jump on every new person they meet. Owners can begin to discourage unwanted jumping by rewarding good behavior with treats and other forms of positive reinforcement.
Physical Appearance & Hair Coat
8-week-old puppies have a baby-type hair coat that is very fine and sheds very little. Short brushing sessions are the best way for puppies to grow more accustomed to the experience of being groomed. Puppies’ muzzles begin to grow longer at this age, and, in some breeds, ears begin to stand up.
Puppies that are 8 weeks old sleep approximately 18 to 22 hours per day. The rest of their day is spent eating, playing, and taking potty breaks.
What Your 8-Week-Old Puppy Needs
8-week-old puppies should have received at least their first set of shots. The typical vaccine is a “combination” that protects against canine distemper virus, canine hepatitis, parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus (the four viruses are commonly abbreviated as DHPP). Many veterinarians also recommend incorporating protection against leptospirosis into this vaccination (DHLPP), and possibly coronavirus (DHLPPC) protection as well. Additionally, Lyme disease vaccination may be recommended depending on a pet’s location and activity level. Individual states may also have animal vaccination laws to consider.
Fecal examination is the microscopic examination of stool for parasites and may be done to confirm if there are worms or determine which worms are present.
Heartworm prevention is important to puppies that are at risk and should generally start before puppies reach six months of age.
Veterinarians may suggest a range of potential anti-pest treatments.
Most puppies are weaned between 6 to 8 weeks of age, after which they leave their mothers and begin eating solid food. A 2-month-old should eat four meals per day of a high-quality puppy food formulated for dogs of their size.
Based on body weight, puppies require nearly twice as many calories as adult dogs. The number of calories a 2-month-old puppy needs varies with their size, activity level, and weight.
Approximate calorie requirements for the different breed sizes are as follows:
- 225 for toy-breed dogs
- 400 for small-breed dogs
- 530 for medium-breed dogs
- 990 for large-breed dogs
- 1220 for giant-breed dogs
It’s also a good idea for new pet owners to consult their vet’s office for guidance related to their puppy’s diet and nutrition.
What to Expect in Your Puppy’s First Eight Weeks
A puppy‘s relationships with their mother and littermates during the first 8 weeks of life help determine their personality and what kind of companion they’ll become for their family.
Puppies develop rapidly. At birth, they are blind and deaf. They can’t eliminate on their own or regulate their body heat. Yet, they grow so quickly that you can witness their progress from day to day. Here is a basic guide to a young puppy’s first few weeks of life:
Weeks 1 and 2
While her newborn puppies spend 90 percent of their time sleeping, a mother’s instincts tell her to keep them huddled together for warmth, since a chill can kill them. Although the new puppies can’t see or hear, their senses of smell and touch guide them to mom’s nipples. During the first week, her milk will provide them with antibodies that will help them survive for 6 to 10 weeks. She also licks their tummies and genitals to help them urinate and defecate.
A tiny newborn’s legs are so weak they can barely wriggle their way to the nearby nipple and the comfort of their siblings. During puppy sleep, twitching movements, called activated sleep, help strengthen their legs. If the mother allows, the breeder or other main caretaker can begin to pick up each pup several times a day. This early, gentle human touch will help the dog bond with people later in life.
During their third week, a puppy’s senses open up. They can detect light, dark, and movement and will begin to respond to sudden or loud sounds. As they paw and mouth their littermates, they’ll build early social skills too. They can relieve themselves on their own now. Although they are not ready to wean, a vet may recommend introducing puppies to veterinarian-prescribed gruel. By the end of the week, puppies at this age can crawl and their tails will begin to wag.
Weeks 4 and 5
Quickly gaining strength and coordination, puppies begin to respond to their environments. They can bark, stand, walk, run, and even pounce. Their mother teaches them to eliminate away from their sleeping area.
They’re learning to play by wrestling with their littermates. When they’ve nipped too hard, they learn the difference between hard and soft biting, thanks to batting from their siblings. At this point, puppies are forever testing their limits and will take turns sleeping at the top and bottom of the sibling pile. Hunting and chasing instincts kick in, making this the best time for human caretakers to introduce toys.
The mother dog referees when playtime gets too rough. She may nudge or restrain an errant pup, or she may growl, teaching them good habits and acclimating them to the training process. If they’re not properly socialized, orphaned dogs raised without a mother and littermates may have a hard time relating to other dogs, as well as human companions.
Toward the end of this socialization period, it’s time for the caretaker’s family to become more involved with the young puppy. This will help familiarize them with the sights, sounds, and smells of everyday life.
Since they’re cutting their first teeth, mothers begin to wean puppies at this time. She might chew her food and then regurgitate it for her puppies to eat.
Weeks 6 and 7
At this point, a puppy’s muzzle will grow longer, and they’ll begin to look more like the adults of their breed. Their emotions will become apparent too. They’ll whine to show fear, whimper when hurt, and bark when they’re excited or eager for attention.
The mother’s role evolves to that of pack leader as her brood matures. Her young pups are weaned now, they’ve grown teeth and can eat solid food. She is affectionate and playful with them, teasing them with toys and showing them when to bite and when not to. She lets them know she’s the dominant dog and corrects them sharply if they misbehave.
A puppy’s appetite for exploring their environment and learning new things will benefit tremendously if they are given a variety of simple toys to investigate at this stage. They will also play rough and tumble with their littermates, stealing and sharing toys. By this point, they should be spending a short time each day alone with a human, playing gently and learning to relate one-on-one in a safe environment.
By this age, your puppy can remember some commands and which behaviors are considered appropriate, as well as where and when they are fed. They can even begin the potty training, crate training, and grooming processes. They are ready to leave their mother and littermates to go home with their new puppy-parents, fully capable of taking their place in the family.