If you are about to buy or adopt a puppy or are expecting a litter from your own dog, it is vital to do plenty of research so that you will know what to expect, be able to plan accordingly, and give your new pup the best possible care, regardless of whether you are the breeder or a potential buyer.
However, one thing that new puppy owners and first-time dog breeders tend to have in common is that often, despite your research, you will find out that there are lots of things you didn’t even know you don’t know until you are faced with them! Understanding the developmental stages of very young puppies can help you to chart and monitor their progress and development, and watch out for all of those “firsts” that the pups will go through along the way.
Knowing things like when the pup’s eyes will open, when they will start eating solid food and when they can be weaned are of course essential – but some other common firsts might only occur to you later on – such as wondering how old pups are when they first learn to bark.
In this article, we will consider this question and provide some basic guidance on the development of the canine voice, and when you can expect your new puppy to be able to bark for the first time. Read on to learn more.
Pups tend to be surprisingly quiet when they are first born, snuffling around, moving little and generally being neither very active nor noisy. Pups are born with their vocal cords formed, but just as the pup’s eyes and ears don’t open until they are a couple of weeks old, the vocal cords and breath control required to make sounds generally do not develop until this stage either.
Pups under the age of around two weeks old are highly unlikely to cry or whine, and it is only when they begin to open their eyes and start to walk properly that they are likely to start making their first audible sounds. These sounds are likely to be quiet and simple, such as whining – actually crying is only likely to occur if a pup isn’t getting enough milk, is unwell, or is otherwise distressed.
When it comes to a litter of pups together, their language skills will tend to develop as a group – once one pup starts making full use of their voice, the other will pick up on this and emulate it, so that over the course of just a couple of days a near-silent litter may suddenly become very audible!
By the time the pups are three to four weeks old, they will begin to make sounds and may often be quite talkative, using whines and other simple noises to communicate with each other, and get the attention of their dam.
Pups don’t usually actually begin to bark, or bark for the first time until much later on – generally around two months of age. This is about the earliest that you will normally hear the formative barking sounds from any pup – although they are more likely to sound like yaps or rusty yelps rather than a bark, even in large breed pups like the Rottweiler, which will tend to have a low, deep rumbling bark when they are older.
However, it is not at all unusual for a pup not to begin barking quite so young too – in many cases, a pup may go on to their new home at twelve weeks or older without ever having barked!
Your pup’s first bark may not occur until they are aged three to four months old, or even older – and pups that start barking regularly and use this form of vocalisation commonly when young will tend to be quite chatty and quick to bark as adults too.
If your pup gets very excited in play, is frustrated, or something shocks or annoys them, they may suddenly find their voice and begin to bark – which may end up being as much of a shock for them as it is for you! However, even common triggers will not necessarily lead to your own pup beginning to bark, and some dogs are naturally simply quieter than others and less prone to vocalising.
As is the case with many canine behaviours, dogs are excellent mimics, and often copy and follow the behaviours of other dogs around them. If you have another dog that barks, your pup is more likely to start barking earlier on, just as male pups may not begin cocking their legs to pee until they start seeing other male dogs doing this.
When you begin socialising your puppy in earnest from the age of around four months older, their steep learning process and interactions with lots of other dogs may lead to the onset of regular vocalisations, and begin to demonstrate how vocal your pup will be as they get older, and what type of things are likely to make them bark.
It is important to start setting firm rules during this time – such as that your pup is not allowed to bark for attention, and to stop them being overly reactive towards people approaching the house.