Saturday, February 19, 2011

How Your Puppy Develops

*~How We Develop**

Stage 2: 2 - 4 Weeks

The puppy's eyes will open at or around the beginning of this second stage of development. His new sense of sight will be limited and very sensitive, so to avoid eye damage, care must be taken to protect him from bright lights. Despite these limitations, the puppy will now begin to recognize and interact with things in his environment, including (most importantly!) his mother and littermates. Many experts consider this the "toddler" stage of development as the puppy becomes more alert and learns to crawl, stand, and ultimately walk. With this new mobility, he will also begin to attempt to better explore his surroundings.

As the second stage progresses, the puppy's body becomes better at regulating its own temperature. However, he still depends mostly on his mother and the ambient temperature in the environment to maintain a healthy balance. Rapid or extreme temperature changes can be harmful to his system. The first teeth emerge during this stage, and as the puppy learns to lap he will become more comfortable and better equipped to drink milk from a bottle or dish if necessary rather than relying on his mother as the only source of nourishment. In addition, the puppy's instinct to relieve himself away from the den will kick in, and he should no longer require any external stimulation to urinate or move his bowels.

Near the end of the second stage of development, the puppy's sense of hearing continues to improve, and sight and smell should already be well-developed. The order in which these senses fully mature will continue to inform the way he experiences the world around him: nose, eyes, and then ears. It's important at this stage to encourage the bond between the puppy and human beings by exposing the puppy to gentle handling by human caretakers.

4 - 12 Weeks

Week 4 to week 12 typically comprise the third stage of puppy development. During this stage, the senses begin to mature and socialization becomes an important part of the puppy's life. It is critical during this key phase that the puppy be able to interact with other dogs and with people.

For the first few weeks of this phase, it's likely that the only other dogs the puppy will have access to are his mother and littermates. His normal body temperature should be approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and his system will begin regulating that temperature naturally. Additionally, the instinct to squat will take over and external stimulation will no longer be required for the puppy to move his bowels.

Early socialization will manifest as a basic kind of play with the puppy's littermates - wrestling and a reserved play-biting known as "inhibited bite." This is the way in which the puppy will begin to learn about social structure and pack ranking. Rules, boundaries, and limitations set by his mother begin to take shape. Physical co-ordination and eyesight are still not fully developed, but the puppy's mobility will have progressed beyond wiggling, rolling, and flopping around.

Weeks 5 through 7 are a good time for the puppy to begin his early socialization with people. His sense of hearing should be well-developed enough to allow the possibility of command conditioning using positive reinforcement, as well as name recognition - the puppy will begin to respond to the name that his human handlers have chosen for him. But remember: he will always be animal first, then species, then breed, and THEN name.

The puppy's fear response to sudden startling sights and sounds will begin to emerge at or around this point in his development, so exposure to any normal household objects and noises and association with positive experiences is very important. Also, the kind of play that puppy is used to with his littermates, including the "inhibited bite," or "mouthing," may begin to appear in his interaction with his human handlers. It is crucial to remember that this kind of behavior can often escalate and lead to dominance or aggression, and should be discouraged.

Even during this late phase, make sure to stay alert about the possibility of infection. The health of the puppy should be carefully monitored, as should any and all interaction with human handlers who may pose a risk of communicable disease. The puppy should receive another worming at this stage, and then regular monthly wormings from this point on. And you should discuss with your vet inoculations that could help to boost the puppy's immunities. Sometime around week 6 or 7, the puppy should begin the weaning process, moving from mothers milk onto formulas and then ultimately solid foods that his human handlers will provide.

Week 8 is where you can expect to come into your new puppy's life if you have chosen to adopt through a reputable breeder. Make sure that you coordinate with the breeder and your veterinarian to determine that the puppy has been wormed prior to the adoption and to find out what shots, if any, the puppy may still need.

Because the puppy has spent his early weeks developing in the company of his mother and his brothers and sisters, his mental processes should be mature enough to handle the move from the breeder to your home, and he should be receptive to training. Still, just because your puppy has been socialized doesn't mean he doesn't still need your guidance from day one! Don't forget to get right to work setting your new pack's rules, boundaries, and limitations and consistently enforcing them. Your new puppy is easily influenced by your pack leadership, so keep it balanced and consistent! Housetraining and introduction to the sights and sounds of your puppy's new home should begin right away. Positive experiences associated with the various new elements of your puppy's life will help ensure a smooth transition. And don't forget that your puppy is still a social animal! If you have no other dogs or pets, try to find calm, vaccinated dog pals for him to interact with. This could prevent issues that may arise later on from lack of socialization


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