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Six-week-old puppies are just beginning to learn how to be puppies without their mothers. They are ready for lots of careful socialization with other animals and people, but they still need help figuring out things like where to go to the bathroom. They need plenty of positive reinforcement to learn the rules and plenty of positive human contact to make them feel safe and secure.
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For the first two to four weeks, a puppy is completely dependent on its mother — unless it's an orphan, in which case it will need someone's round-the-clock help. After a month or so, the puppy's teeth start to come in and the mother dog will naturally want to wean the puppy, and the puppy will start to be more interested in the mother's food and in spending time away from here exploring. From four to six weeks, puppies will explore more and will spend more time playing with their littermates.
Feeding a 6-week-old puppy
According to the AKC, six- to 12-week-old puppies should be fed a specially formulated puppy food that meets the nutritional needs for normal development. Tempting as it may be, don't feed your puppy adult food, because it doesn't have the building blocks of nutrients for puppy growth. Choose a large-breed puppy food like Purina Pro Plan for large breed dogs to give your large dog specific nutrients for slower growth over time. Small breed dogs, on the other hand, grow more rapidly to their full size. Royal Canin makes a highly recommended small dog puppy food that supports dogs that will grow from nine to 22 pounds.
Not all puppy foods have DHA, which is a recommended fatty acid that supports healthy brain development, but Purina Pro Plan Focus does. Blue Buffalo's Life Protection Formula Puppy Food contains real meat as the first ingredient and also contains DHA and ARA, fatty acids present in mother's milk that help your puppy grow strong and healthy.
Moisten your puppy's dry kibble with broth or water for about a month for large breed dogs and for an additional 6 or 7 weeks for small dogs by 12 or 13 weeks. Feed a small amount four times a day to give your puppy continuous nutrients and energy.
Vaccination time for a puppy
Even though 6 weeks is prime time to begin introducing your puppy to the sights, sounds, and smells of the world, you don't want to socialize your puppies with other animals until the puppies have been vaccinated. It's too easy for them to pick up diseases such as parvo or distemper that can be fatal to puppies. Most vets will begin inoculations for puppies at age 6 to 8 weeks.
The vet-recommended vaccination schedule for puppies is to receive shots every three weeks until approximately four months of age when the last doses are given. Stay current on your puppy's vaccinations because they work to prevent many common diseases and illnesses that are so easily preventable and also set your puppy up for a healthy life. In many cases, vaccinations such as rabies are required for dog owners.
Sleeping environment for a puppy
It's generally considered a good idea to teach your puppy to sleep in a crate at night. That keeps them in one place during the night, without them wandering away and getting stuck somewhere or having going to the bathroom in an inopportune place in the middle of the night.
Choose a sturdy crate with a cushion in the bottom and a well-fitted cover that your puppy can't pull through the bars and chew on, like the Midwest Homes crate and Midwest Homes fitted cover to create a den-like atmosphere. You can help your puppy sleep better by giving them some attention and playtime before bed — maybe even play with them a little bit in their crate. Keep the crate near you, because you may hear your puppy whimpering for a late-night potty break; that's common until they are housebroken.
Potty training a puppy
Potty training a puppy can take a while. Puppies can't hold their bladder for more than a few hours, so they will need regular walks outside. Start a routine by walking them to the place where you want them to go, if you have a regular spot in or near your yard. Start using your training phrase such as "time to go" or "do your business" so they begin to associate the walk with their bathroom break. When the puppy goes, give them a lot of praise and a treat.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary says to keep your puppy supervised until they've had a week with no accidents. Keep an eye out so that you can notice signs your puppy wants to go, such as circling or sniffing. If your puppy does have an "accident," which it inevitably will, stop him and take him to the "go" spot. Praise him if he does what you ask and don't yell if you catch them in the act because puppies often can't help it. Clean up the mess with an enzymatic cleaner such as Rocco & Roxie's Enzyme-Powered Pet Odor and Stain Remover to break down odors so they won't use that spot again.
Indoor-outdoor puppy safety
Whether you intend your dog to grow up to be an indoor or outdoor dog, set up a corner of the house or yard that's just for them. When your puppy is still young, don't let them go outside unattended — many unexpected things can happen. Your puppy needs to learn not to eat questionable things off the ground, for instance. Unvaccinated dogs are at risk of catching some soil-borne diseases such as parvo when they are outside. Provide outdoor water and shade for your puppy, and watch that they aren't accidentally attacked by other dogs.
Caring for a 6-week-old puppy is a challenging but very rewarding time that will set you up with a strong relationship with your puppy in the future. They do best with supervised play time, a potty training routine, vaccinations on the recommended schedule, the most healthy puppy food, and a safe place to sleep at night.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.