An insight into the stages of puppy development!

The right time to get a puppy home has a very high impact on the puppy’s behaviour on the first day at her new home or the way she looks at humans. Let’s see how.

Things that happen to a dog during her critical periods have a great impact on the dog’s life at a later stage, yet they seem totally trivial to us and we ignore them. The ages given below, the early critical periods, are a general guideline and apply to most puppies of all breeds. The ages of the later critical periods may vary depending on the dog’s size and breed. The following stages of puppy development:

Neonatal period (from birth to 12 days old): Mainly two main functions during puppy development from birth; obtaining food (nursing), and staying warm. She needs her

Delano Henriques

Delano Henriques

mother and environment to control her body temperature. She has no control over body temperature at this age. She needs physical stimulation to urinate and defecate. Her mother licks her to get her to relieve herself. No sight or hearing, her senses are not yet developed, and are deficient in her senses of taste, smell and touch. She reacts to hot and cold, and to some extent to pain, and to the smell of her mother.

Transition period (from 13 to 20 days old): The new born puppy’s eyes open at about 13 days, but can only see movement and objects from about 21 days. She will begin to crawl forward and backwards, and start walking in a wobbly fashion, a few days later. The first teeth appear at around 20 days, and she begins to bite and chew. Tail wagging also begins at this age, indicating that she is not reliant on sight or hearing, as this is still not fully developed. She begins to react to sound at about 20 days, and is startled by loud sounds, but cannot locate the source. This is a period of rapid physical changes. Over a period of a week, the puppy changes – she hears, walks, has bowel movements without stimulation, keeps warm by herself, etc.

Awareness period (from 21 to 28 days old): This is the first week the pup is able to see and hear properly, this change comes so abruptly, over a period of 24 hours. Therefore the pup needs a 100 percent stable environment. Now she has the greatest need for her mother and a familiar environment. Moving the pups to a new location or weaning them during this period will psychologically scar the pups. The pup’s learning begins during this period. This is the time she learns what it is to be a dog.

Canine socialisation period (from 21 to 49 days old):  The pup now learns the species/specific behaviours that make her a dog. To reach her genetic potential, it is of utmost importance that the pup remains with her litter mates and mother throughout this period. She learns to practice body posture, facial expression, vocalising and the effects this has on her litter mates, mother and other dogs she comes into contact with. Puppies need to interact with other dogs, males and females, and not only the mother. She learns to bark and bite, and to be barked at and be bitten. She learns the real dog behaviour; chase games, greeting behaviour, fighting games, etc. This all teaches her the various body postures required to perform various actions, submissiveness, aggression, initiating play, etc.
During this critical period the pup learns one of the most important lessons of her life, to accept discipline. Unfortunately, breeders think because the mother is now correcting the pup, she doesn’t want her anymore. This is incorrect. The mother will actually ‘set up’ the puppy, so she can discipline her. Personally, I think the seventh week of a pup’s life with her mother and litter mates is the most important. I have witnessed this, time and time again during my years in the dog world as an obedience instructor, that dogs removed from the litter before the last day of the seventh week, day 49, have a permanent scar.

Human socialisation period (from 50 to 84 days):  This is the best time to bring a puppy to her new home. I would say no later than seventy days. This is also the best time to (positively) introduce her to the things she is going to have to live with, like other animals, the vacuum cleaner, home noises, children, and men with beards and hats, etc she must not be frightened by them, so introduce them carefully, gently and positively. Everything she experiences now will have the greatest effect on her more than ever again in her life.
Learning at this age is permanent. This is the best time to start positive, non-compulsive, basic obedience exercise, taking her physical abilities and limited attention span into account. Therefore, make 100 percent sure that if you take your puppy to puppy care classes, that the instructor is qualified and experienced in handling puppies, and their classes correctly.

Fear impact period (8 to 11 weeks): Any traumatic, painful or frightening experience will have a more lasting impact on the pup, than if it had occurred at any other time in her life. It is the pup’s perception of the experience that counts, not that of the pet parent. Make the pup’s trips to the vet a pleasant one, ask your vet to oblige and make it a pleasant experience for her. Under no circumstances should elective surgery such as ear cropping, or hernia repairs, be undertaken at this time in the puppy’s life, unless it is life threatening.
(Delano Henriques started training dogs and counseling their pet parents professionally in 2005. He has done a dog training course in South Africa (2008) and started ‘Delriques Kennels’ which is a boarding and training center for dog.)

Best time to get home…
I hope everyone understands puppy development timeline  that, eight weeks is the best time to get a pup home. But sadly in India, most breeders do not follow these norms and pups come leaving their mothers as early as 25 days. Making it even more important to understand ‘the critical periods of a dog’s life’!
Bringing a pup home a first day guide

(Delano Henriques started training dogs and counseling their pet parents professionally in 2005. He has done a dog training course in South Africa (2008) and started ‘Delriques Kennels’ which is a boarding and training center for dog.)


The life stages of dogs

In the cradle…

Right after a puppy is born, he can’t walk, hear or see; however, his sense of smell is already fully developed. He instinctively finds his mother’s teats and will firmly suck on them. In the first three weeks, his mother’s milk will provide him with all the nutrition he needs.

The first weeks…

Beginning in the third week, a puppy’s senses begin to awaken. His eyes and auditory canals open, so he can communicate with his brothers and sisters for the first time. At around the 21st day, he’ll make his first attempts at walking and barking. By the fourth week, the senses of the puppy are fully developed so that he is able to carefully observe his environment. He will examine and sniff everything. At this stage of life, his ability to learn is as great as it will ever be. So this is the stage where you should spend a lot of time with your puppy to help him grow up to be a sociable dog. However, an intense relationship with his brothers and sisters is just as important. He can begin to eat solid food from the fourth week on, like the Pedigree Puppy Food.

The first months…

Between 8 and 12 weeks, the puppy is in the socialization stage, and can move to a “human pack”. The best time for the separation from mother and brothers and sisters is at 10 weeks of age. The first months if you adopt a puppy at about the 10th week, take him to the vet immediately. He/she will check his health status and will advice you on the right timing for vaccinations and worming. Your puppy now needs a lot of loving attention to be able to cope with the new environment and the loss of his brothers and sisters. You should praise him often and say his name at the same time. Also, you should set his boundaries with a stern “no” and begin with house training. The puppy’s development until the 16th week is called the “phase of hierarchy” by dog researchers. Now your dog will need a “leader of the pack”. This is also true for his diet. It is your decision what and when your dog is fed and what he is not to eat. So make sure your puppy’s special requirements for nutrients are met in this phase of quick growth. Give him a variety of experiences such as riding in a car, riding in a bus or on an elevator, visits to restaurants, gatherings of people, and contact with children, other dogs, and other animals. This way he’ll be an agreeable, strong-minded companion as an adult dog.


The phase of puberty is usually rather short and will last from between one month and six weeks. It starts around the sixth month, and can manifest itself in many different ways: often your dog will behave badly and won’t want to learn anything new. Sometimes he may forget what he has learned so far, or at least pretend to. In this phase, you should be persistent and keep on with his education program.

The adult dog…

A male has finished puberty when he starts to lift his leg to urinate. A female will be out of puberty when she goes into heat for the first time, this may happen between the seventh and eighth month, but may take up to one year. You should not have your female dog mated or bred when she is in heat for the first time because her organs are not yet fully developed. After her first heat, her diet should be changed to that of an adult dog. You can feed her Pedigree in many different types and flavors.

The senior dog…

Different breeds of dog are considered senior at different ages. It may also depend on the individual dog. Your dog will become less active, his metabolism will slow down, and he might put on weight. At this time, it’s important to change his diet and give him smaller portions two to three times daily. This will relieve his digestive system and ensure an even intake of nutrients. Your dog might need a special diet, which you can get from your veterinarian. In general, the first signs of old age will appear between the eighth and tenth year. The head and muzzle might become grey, and he may experience a deterioration of sight and hearing. His sense of smell is normally not affected too much by aging. Your senior dog will still love to play – even if his fitness level has declined somewhat. And if he has some little house training “accidents,” he’ll be quite embarrassed. So it’s best not to scold him.