Developmental Stages of Puppy Behavior
Although feeding time is important, it’s also vital to include petting, talking, and playing, in order to help your
puppy build good “people-skills.” Well-socialized mothers are more likely to have well-socialized puppies.
Puppies “feed” off their mothers’ calm or fearful attitude toward people.
Puppies are usually weaned at six or seven weeks, but are still learning important skills as their mother
gradually leaves them more and more. Ideally, puppies should stay with their littermates (or other role-model
dogs) for at least 12 weeks.
Puppies separated from their littermates too early often don’t develop appropriate “social skills,” such as
learning how to send and receive signals, what an “inhibited bite” means, how far to go in play wrestling, and
so forth. Play is important to help puppies increase their physical coordination, social skills, and learning limits.
By interacting with their mother and littermates and attending puppy preschool classes, puppies learn “how to
be a dog.”
Skills not acquired during the first eight weeks may be lost forever. While these stages are important and fairly
consistent, a dog’s mind remains receptive to new experiences and lessons well beyond puppy-hood. Most
dogs are still puppies, in mind and body, through the first two years.
The following chart provides general guidelines for stages of development.
0 - 2 weeks
Most influenced by their mother.
Touch and taste present at birth.
2- 4 weeks
Most influenced by their mother and littermates.
Eyes open, teeth erupt, hearing and smell developing.
Beginning to stand, walk a little, wag, and bark.
By four or five weeks, sight is well developed.
3- 12 weeks
During this period, puppies need opportunities to meet other dogs and people.
By four to six weeks they’re most influenced by their littermates and are learning about being a dog.
From four to 12 weeks they’re most influenced by their littermates and people. They’re also learning
to play, developing social skills, inhibited bite, and physical coordination.
By three to five weeks they’re becoming aware of their surroundings, companions (dogs and people)