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Puppies of all ages, breeds, shapes and sizes are highly appealing to us as dog lovers, and few of us would miss the opportunity to meet and befriend a cheerful, cute pup that we spot out and about. However, unless you’ve bred from your own dog or known someone whose dog had a litter that you got to meet when they were very young, the chances are that you haven’t spent a lot of time with new-born or very young puppies.
Even if you are looking to buy or adopt a puppy and are arranging visits to see litters with various breeders, you probably won’t be invited to view litters until the pups are several weeks old and beginning to approach the age at which they can be rehomed.
Whilst we all understand that puppies grow and develop very quickly after they are born, even very many enthusiastic dog owners aren’t totally clear on the speed at which puppies grow and go through their first experiences of things at a very early age, in their first two to four weeks of life.
In this article we will share five interesting things you probably didn’t know about new-born puppies, and their development during their first couple of weeks of life. Read on to learn more.
Most people who have learned a little bit about early canine development will know that puppies are born with their eyelids sealed shut, and that the eyes only begin to open after a couple of weeks, enabling those new pups to view the world for the very first time.
However, a less commonly known fact about new-born puppies is that they are also born deaf, because their ear canals are also closed at birth and only begin to form, open and enable pups to hear their first sounds at around the age of 5-9 days old.
Breeders will keep a close check on when their pups first begin to show signs of hearing things, to ensure that all of the pups are developing normally as they get larger.
During the first couple of weeks of a puppy’s life, all of their nutritional needs are met by suckling from their dam, which provides them with colostrum and milk that they need to support this earliest stage of their growth.
If the dam is unable or unwilling to feed her pups herself, bottle feeding takes over; but again, the pups are not ready for solids for a while yet.
At around three weeks of age, new puppies will begin to show interest in solid food, and their dam will introduce them to it and encourage them to start eating. This begins the process of weaning the pups off the dam’s milk, and for a while, pups will eat both solids and their dam’s milk until the milk supply dries up.
Crying and whining are normal behaviours we have all witnessed in puppies, but during the first couple of weeks of a puppy’s life, they tend to be pretty quiet. Whilst pups can vocalise and cry more or less from birth, puppies don’t tend to cry a lot during their first couple of weeks of life, and this is perfectly normal.
A puppy younger than this that cries – particularly if they cry often or for long periods of time – might be unwell or otherwise in distress, so this should never be ignored.
New-born puppies don’t eliminate waste on their own; in order to trigger a bladder or bowel movement after feeding, their dam will lick the pup’s rear ends to stimulate the muscles and encourage the pups to pass faeces and urine.
This happens up until the pups reach around three or four weeks old, which is the stage at which they begin to eliminate waste on their own without the need for stimulation.
In puppies that are bottle fed and so, reliant on people to tend to their needs, a slightly rough damp flannel must be used to stimulate elimination in the same way that the puppy’s dam would.
Puppies tend to find their feet quickly and soon start getting into mischief once they’ve mastered walking, but this doesn’t happen right away.
Puppies don’t develop the muscle tone and coordination skills to be able to stand up until they are around two weeks old or even a week or so older, and they will tend to be a little slow to get going at first and prone to falling over occasionally too!
Before this stage, puppies can crawl short distances, usually pulling themselves along with their front limbs whilst seeking a nipple to suckle. As their muscles grow stronger, their hearing develops and their eyes open they become more motivated to explore, and start taking their first tentative steps on all four paws.
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