Puppy Development Ages and Stages – A Week By Week Guide

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This is your complete guide to puppy development from birth to six months old. Enjoy photos of newborn puppies and watch them develop into beautiful Labradors.

Find answers to all your puppy development questions such as “When do puppies open their eyes” and discover what puppies get up to as they grow and develop into adult dogs.

Newborn puppies

Newborn puppies are born at the end of nine weeks of pregnancy, with their eyes and ears tightly closed.

They already have a fur coat but they cannot yet control their own body temperature. They are dependent on their mother or another heat source to keep them warm.

newborn Labrador puppies snuggle together to keep warm when their mother is away

Newborn puppies may cry if cold, but do not have the strength to cry for long.

The pups are not completely helpless, they can use their front feet to drag themselves towards a heat source or their milk supply.

Newborn pups have no teeth yet, but can move their heads about to search for a nipple, and they can latch on and suck strongly.

Their mother leaves them only to eat, drink and for bathroom purposes.

While she is away, the puppies will crawl together to preserve their body heat, or crawl under a heat lamp source to keep warm.

In every other respect newborn puppies are completely dependent on the care of their mother.

They have little control over the rear end of their bodies. The mother dog washes them and licks their bottoms to encourage elimination, licking up and swallowing anything they produce to keep her babies and their nest scrupulously clean.

1 week old puppies

Your puppy will grow rapidly during his first week to ten days and may even double his birth weight.

He’ll look plumper and stronger too.  And his face will look just a little more ‘dog’ like.

one week later and the puppies have doubled their birth weight

Changes are taking place under his eyelids to prepare them for opening.

A puppy’s eyes don’t open suddenly, it is a gradual process. And usually begins during the second week of life.

2 week old puppies

Some big changes have taken place during the last week.

Some two week old puppies will have their eyes fully open and most will be at least partly open. Ears open at this point too and your puppy will begin to hear.

The Labrador puppies in this picture are two weeks olds.

Two week old fox red Labrador puppies
Two weeks old and the puppies eyes are now open!

You can see that their eyes are now open and the puppies are beginning to look a little more dog like.

The breeder will be handling the puppies more now. It’s an exciting development! And most puppies are wormed for the first time at two weeks old.  And things are about to get much more interesting.

At some point between two and three weeks of age, puppies will begin to stand up.

3 week old puppies

The last week has brought a dramatic change in strength and mobility. The puppies’ rear legs start to catch up with the front.

Most three week old puppies can stand and sit, and are beginning to totter about.  And they are also starting to develop their individuality.

No longer are they just a row of identical little fat furry sausages!

This little three week old puppy :-

Can easily be distinguished from his brother

This is also the point at which puppies start teething – cutting their first deciduous baby teeth.

marvin the mooseObviously the teeth are appearing for a reason!

And some breeders will start to offer the first tastes of solid food at this point.

Especially if the litter is a large one and putting a strain on the mother dog.

It is lovely to watch a litter of three week old puppies beginning to interact with their brothers and sisters.

This is when play begins and you’ll even hear the puppies start to play growl at one another.

4 week old puppies

By four weeks old most puppies are looking much more dog like. They are running, playing enthusiastically, and have started to wag their little tails.

The puppies will show the beginnings of bowel control as they move away from the other puppies to defecate. And solid food is becoming a major part of their diet.

These little pups are tucking into some puppy food, though the little guy in front doesn’t seem too impressed!

four week old puppies having their dinner in the fresh air

If the weather is warm enough, puppies will be spending some time outdoors now. Mealtimes are a messy process, so feeding puppies out in the yard can be a good idea.

Some mother dogs will lose interest in cleaning up after their pups at this point or soon afterwards. feeding2

Keeping things clean and sweet smelling now becomes the breeder’s responsibility. And many puppies will be wormed again this week.

Vocalisations are becoming stronger and the litter will greet their mother noisily when she returns to them, and try hard to follow her out of the whelping box.

5 week old puppy

By five weeks old, the mother dogs is spending increasing amounts of her day away from her puppies.

They are now eating solid food several times a day and gradually being weaned of their dependency on her milk.

Puppies will still suckle ravenously when their mother returns and she will now often feed them standing up and only for a short time. She will also be teaching the puppies not to bite too hard.

This is a key point in the development of the puppies’ relationships with people and they should be increasingly spending time with humans and learning to be familiar with the sounds and sights of a human family environment.

Puppies being raised in kennels must be brought into a home environment regularly from now on to ensure they develop into confident, friendly dogs.

6 week old puppy

At six weeks old, many puppies are fully weaned and eating five or six small meals of solid food each day.

Six week old Labrador Puppy and a great week by week puppy development guide
six weeks old and full of mischief

A six week old puppy doesn’t depend on his mother’s milk any more but he does need her help and guidance.

In some countries, puppies are often taken to their new homes at this age, but it is not a good idea, and can result in a puppy that has poor bite inhibition and is challenging to manage.

Bite inhibition training continues and the puppies are learning not to bite too hard from the reactions of their mother and siblings.

Six week old puppies need this important interaction and won’t be ready to leave home for another couple of weeks.

Puppy growth is not quite so rapid now, but the puppies will still grow strongly for the next few months. Many puppies will be wormed again this week.

Check out our puppy growth article for weight and growth charts for Labrador puppies.

7 week old puppy

The week that follows is, for most puppies, the final one with their brothers and sisters. All that remains is for plenty of great socialization experiences to be packed into this week, with final checks on health.

Many breeders will arrange for each seven week old puppy to have a vet check this week.

And though some vets advise against it, some puppies are also given their first vaccinations before they leave for their new homes.  You can read more about vaccinations and vaccination schedules in this article: Puppy Vaccination FAQ 

Some breeders will now have the puppies trained to pee and poop on puppy pads or newspaper, and some will have been whistling the puppies at meal times to get them used to coming to a human signal.

As the week draws to a close, some of the puppies will leave for their new homes, and by the end of this week, most puppies will leave their mother for good.

8 week old puppy

For most puppies this is the first week in their new home. Potty training is now underway and puppy socialisation plans are being made.

Most puppies go to their new homes at 8 weeks old

If your puppy didn’t have his first vaccination before you collected him you need to arrange this in the first day or two. It’s a good idea to get him checked over by your vet in any case.

It’s an exciting time with some settling in challenges for new puppy owners and some adjusting for the new puppy to life without mother and siblings

Check out our articles for new puppy owners

9 week old puppy

The nine week old puppy has usually been in his new home for a week or so.

He’s beginning to feel like part of the family, but in many cases this is the point at which new puppy owners have a whole lot of questions to ask.

We’ve an article that focuses specifically on the nine week old puppy , and I think you’ll find it helpful.

At this point, many of you will be thinking about training your puppy too, and you’ll find it helpful to check out our training ages and stages article.

The next four weeks is a vital stage in your puppy’s development and your main job is socialising him.

This means taking him to lots of new places and exposing him to lots of new experiences, there is lots of help and information in that link.

In most places you’ll need to carry him to avoid the risk of infection.  Check out our  article – “When Can My Puppy Go Out” for more information

3 month old puppy

Three months is the point at which the window for socializing your puppy – making sure he grows up confident and friendly – closes.  That does not mean socialization can stop.  Puppies isolated at this point will soon lose that friendly fearlessness.

You have an important job now, building on what has been achieved so far, and especially introducing your puppy to the world at ground level.  This part of his education can begin once his vaccination cover is complete.

He should be fully immunised at around this point,  but check with your vet for confirmation of the actual date.

Three months also marks the point at which many puppies will drop down from four daily meals, to three.

This can cause problems for some puppies because the portions are larger

If your puppy gets an upset tummy when you make this change, just go back up to four meals again for a few days, and give smaller portions for a few days when you try again.

4 month old puppy

Some four month old puppies will potty trained.  Many will need another month before they can cope without frequent bathroom breaks and the occasional accident.

At four months old your puppy will begin to lose his baby teeth.  This can also be a time at which biting can be most challenging.

You’ll need to be firm and patient.

If you are finding it harder than you expected, sit down with a cup of coffee and our puppy biting guide.  And try not to worry, this stage will soon be over!

5 month old puppy

Many five month old puppies will be fairly reliably clean and dry in the house, provided that they are not left alone for too long. A few will need another month or two to complete the process.

Medium to large puppies like Labradors will already be half their adult height or more, and your puppy’s coat will now be a sleek grown up version.  That puppy fluffiness will have gone.

For many puppies, five months is an awkward, gangly time.  A five month old puppy may have shed the last of his soft puppy lines and be looking quite skinny.

Your puppy is getting stronger now too, and if you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to make sure he learns how to walk nicely on the leash.

In a month or two, he’ll be a lot harder to control if he is still pulling.

6 month old puppy

At six months most puppies drop down from three meals a day to two.

By the end of this month most puppies will have finished teething but an urge to chew may continue for another few months in some breeds, Labradors included.

Some female dogs will have their first season during this month, but for many, it will be another three or four months before this happens.  Be aware though, if you haven’t had your female dog neutered, that the possibility of pregnancy is on the horizon

Six months is a major milestone for your puppy.  He is now looking very much like an adult Labrador.  A little smaller, a little more puppyish, but he’s nearly there.

Because he looks quite grown up, people expect a lot of him.  But inside, he is still very much a puppy.

The beginnings of adolescence and with it an increasing independence of spirit can bring its challenges.  So we have an in-depth guide to help you with your six month puppy.

Your growing puppy

It’s a great idea to keep a record of puppy development as you watch your little one grow.

You can buy nice little puppy record books

Ask your breeder for some early photos and information to help make the record complete.

Or you could even start a blog and keep a record of your puppy’s development online.

Before you know it, those puppy days will have flown by but your record will still be there for you to enjoy.

As your puppy moves into the second half of his first year and approaches maturity, many of the challenges you will face are likely to be training and behavioral ones.

You’ll find masses of help and information in the training guides on this website and on our sister site.

If you are about to bring home a new puppy, you might enjoy my Happy Puppy Handbook

It’s a complete guide to the first few months with your new pup

If you need help at any stage in your puppy’s development, or simply a listening ear and a chat to other puppy parents, do join our friendly forum.

It’s free to owners (and prospective owners) of any breed of dog.

1 COMMENT

  1. I was very lucky, but didn’t realise it. My puppy was potty trained within two weeks but was afraid to climb the stairs to get to the back yard. I decided to help him and placed little pieces of chicken on each stair. In about 30 minutes, he had lost all his fear. Next thing I noticed, he descended the stairs and ran to the spot I had been carrying him and did his thing. A few little midhaps in the following weeks but nothing serious.

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