Newborn puppies are undeniably a precious sight. The little ones begin their lives in totally fragile states, needing their trusty mother's assistance for everything from staying warm to eliminating. Wee puppies even spend the first days of their lives without any hearing at all -- courtesy of ears that are tightly closed.
If you look closely at a newborn puppy, his ear canals are firmly closed. As a result, he can't hear much of anything that is going on around him, whether your speaking voice, the nightly news on the television, the pouring rain outdoors or the sound of his littermates moving around next to him.
Ears Opening Up
Although neonatal puppies' ears start out closed, they don't remain that way for too long. Their ears generally begin opening up during the second week of their lives, between the 13th and 17th day.
Puppies' ears might open up during their second week, but it takes a little bit of time for their hearing to develop to complete potential. This usually occurs by the time the fluff balls are approximately 8 weeks in age. However, it can also happen earlier than that.
The closed ear canals of puppies cause them to barely hear anything after birth. This is beneficial, however, as quiet environments permit their ears to advance better. The hearing process entails pressure shifts that lead to movements within the ears of dogs. If a puppy's fragile ears are subjected to these movements before they're totally prepared to do so, it could lead to severe hearing detriment. Puppies' ears, essentially, start out closed for vital protection purposes.
Not only are newborn puppies' ears closed, so are their eyes. Their eyes typically open up for the first time once they're between 8 and 10 days old -- also in their second week. They also achieve complete vision around the same time frame that they attain complete hearing -- say 8 weeks maximum. When puppies' eyes initially open up, they also temporarily have a bluish-gray look to them. Puppies start out devoid of much hearing and can't see. They can't urinate or pass stools without their mother's help. They aren't equipped with teeth. They need their mother for warmth. They can't even stand up or walk. In a nutshell, dogs are highly altricial creatures who need outside assistance at birth -- and lots of it. In this respect, puppies are just like newborn human babies.
By Naomi Millburn
Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine: Whelping Your Puppies
UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program: Canine - Guide to Raising Orphan Puppies
The Official Website of the City of Austin: Nursing Mothers and Their Puppies
Sacramento SPCA: Puppy Development and Socialization
Do Dogs Dream?; Stanley Coren
ASPCA: Newborn Puppy Care
The Humane Society of the United States: Puppy Behavior Basics
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.