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April 2024

Understanding Puppy Development

Sheepadoodle Puppies For Sale In Ohio goes through various stages of development. Understanding these stages can help you ensure your puppy has positive experiences that will lead to a well-adjusted adult dog.

From birth to two weeks old, puppies are blind and deaf, relying on their mother for food and care. They learn social skills, including bite inhibition, rank structure, and physical coordination through interactions with littermates.


Newborn puppies are helpless and reliant on their mother, but within just a few weeks they develop into bouncing, inquisitive little dogs. This rapid change is a fascinating time to watch, but can also be daunting for new puppy owners. To make it easier to understand, we’ve put together a week-by-week guide to a puppy’s development. From complete reliance on their mum to playful, inquisitive puppies ready for the next phase of their lives in a loving home.

During this period, the mother provides her puppies with their first source of immunity through her colostrum, which is the first milk they drink after birth. Puppies that don’t receive enough colostrum can suffer from several health issues, including Neonatal Septicemia. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can occur when puppies don’t get enough maternal antibodies to fight off infections.

At this stage, puppies are becoming more coordinated and can play with their litter mates. Play is one of the most important developmental activities that puppies engage in, as it teaches them how to communicate with each other and develop their motor skills. Puppies will begin to chew more, too, which is a way for them to explore their environment and learn about textures.

This is a vulnerable stage that can be impacted by a variety of sources of trauma, such as excessive handling, loud noises (like thunderstorms and fireworks), and medical procedures like vaccinations and spay/neuter. Puppies who experience trauma during this time can develop fears and anxieties about people, other animals, and even certain objects or situations.

Another source of trauma that impacts puppy development is attachment trauma, which can lead to separation anxiety later in life if puppies are overly attached to their people. Providing puppies with adequate exposure to different people during this period helps them avoid developing attachment and fear-based behaviors.

Early Socialization

The socialization period that begins at around three weeks of age is critical in shaping your puppy’s behavior and temperament for life. During this time, puppies learn to identify what is safe and comfortable, what is scary, and what is the appropriate level of play with other dogs (dominance versus submission). This knowledge will serve them well throughout their lives.

During this critical period, a puppy is a clingy, curious, exploratory, fearless little thing that will be easily influenced by her environment. If a puppy is not exposed to enough stimulating environments in the form of people, other dogs, and different terrains, she will develop fears and anxieties that will affect her behavior as an adult dog. If she is exposed to too much stimulation in the form of a chaotic home, inappropriate handling techniques, and over-stimulation from too many puppies and other dogs she may be too stressed to be receptive to training and human contact as an adult dog.

Puppies spend every moment they are alive with their moms and littermates, learning to be a dog from them. If a puppy is taken away from her mother too early, she will be less confident and outgoing with humans and other animals and will be more likely to become fearful of unfamiliar or scary species as an adult. This is a normal process, but it can be reversed through proper remedial socialization and classical conditioning.

Anxious, fearful puppies do not make good companions, as they are not fun to live with and are more likely to be reactive and aggressive towards their owners. It is highly advisable to seek out experienced and knowledgeable puppy class trainers, as the quality of the class and the instructor’s “dogmanship” will greatly impact the level of stress and enjoyment that your pup has in a class environment.

Puppies are naturally inquisitive and like to investigate new items, surfaces, and environments. When introducing your puppy to new objects, encourage her exploration with food, toys, and positive associations to build a desire for these new experiences. Do not force her to interact with any objects or surfaces she is reluctant to investigate, especially if they are at a higher elevation, slippery, or unstable. Wait until she voluntarily approaches the item or surface and then offer her a reward to create a positive association.

Developmental Milestones

Puppies go through a lot of change during their first few months of life. They move through several puppy developmental stages that influence their behavior and socialization as they grow into adult dogs. Understanding what happens during these important milestones is critical to training and managing a well-behaved dog.

During the neonatal period, puppies are heavily influenced by their mother. She teaches them how to behave, eat, and urinate. Puppies learn to play and gain social skills from their litter mates, such as inhibited biting (biting during play, not to hurt). The mother also teaches her puppies how to communicate with each other, using body language and vocalization. She licks the anogenital region of her puppies to stimulate urination and defecation, and she keeps them warm by cuddling them.

At around two weeks of age, the puppies begin to emerge from their neonate stage. Their brain development speeds up, and they are more able to interact with their environment. They can now crawl, vocalize, and use their eyes to respond to sound. Puppies will actively seek their mothers and can become frightened or stressed if they are separated from them. This is a time when early human socialization is important, as puppies need to learn that humans are a safe and fun place to be.

The second phase of puppy development occurs between four and 16 weeks, and is known as the “socialization window.” It’s during this time that a puppy is sponging up life lessons from all their experiences, and these will shape their future personalities.

This is a great time to start exposing puppies to a variety of people, including those of different sizes, genders, and ages. Puppies should also be introduced to a wide range of objects and sounds, as this will help them learn that the world is a safe place. It’s a good idea to begin toilet training at this point, too.

By the end of this puppy development phase, a dog should have learned to sit and stay on command, be crate trained, come when called, and wait politely for meals. They should also have nailed housetraining and should be interacting with other dogs and humans safely and positively.


Puppies need plenty of play to burn energy, but they’ll also spend time exploring their surroundings on their own. They might run, chase balls or sticks, splash in puddles, or even play tug of war with their favorite toy. Vigorous play strengthens the puppy-human bond, helps relieve excess energy, and provides a safe way for them to explore new things. If a pup’s exercise needs aren’t met, that excess energy can result in destructive behavior such as chewing and barking, digging, or climbing on furniture.

As puppies grow older, their brains continue to develop and they’re able to learn more about the world around them. This is a good time to begin teaching them basic commands and tricks, such as sit, down, stay, heel, come, and rollover. It’s also a great idea to start training them to walk on a leash and socialize with family members and friends in a safe and controlled manner.

One of the most important “fear imprint periods” occurs in dogs from 8-11 weeks, so it’s important to expose your puppy to as many people, places, sights, and sounds as possible in a safe and controlled way. This will help them learn that the world is a positive place and that their humans are there to guide and protect them.

A study investigated the effects of a series of challenging exercises on the early socialization of dog puppies. The puppies were divided into a treatment and control group and each group was exposed to age-appropriate noise exposure, novel objects, and problem-solving tasks over 3-6 weeks. The results showed that the treatment group was bolder in their exploration of a novel object, whimpered less after hearing a loud noise, and solved the problem-solving task with more persistence than the control group.

However, at six months of age, the effect of the challenge exercises was no longer apparent. This may be because the study was conducted very early in the socialization period and it would be necessary to continue the challenge exercises for a longer period to see the effect.