The process by which a helpless puppy develops into a strong, intelligent adult dog capable of learning advanced training concepts is a fascinating one. In a matter of months your puppy goes from being blind, deaf and unable to walk to performing amazing feats of playful athleticism and forming deep connections with humans and other animals.
Development of the Senses
Your puppy is born with his eyes and ears closed. Starting at the age of 2 weeks he begins to distinguish sights and sounds. During the following week he gains basic control of his body, allowing him to interact with his mother and litter mates. Between 3 weeks and 3 months, his senses sharpen to adult levels and his reflexes improve, allowing him to run and jump. This heightening of the senses coincides with periods of heightened fear, making it doubly important for you, as an owner, to provide a stable, secure environment.
Relating to Other Dogs
Your pup shares his early weeks of life in the nest with his mother and litter mates. During this period he learns the basics of being a dog. By playing and wrestling with his litter mates, he gains an understanding of pack position and dominance behaviors that he will use when interacting with other dogs for the rest of his life. It's very important not to remove him from his mother and siblings, or punish him for normal puppy behaviors like chewing or play fighting, during his first seven weeks.
Relating to Humans
Between the ages of 5 and 7 weeks, your puppy can begin to learn the difference between interacting with other dogs and interacting with humans. During these early days it's important to keep his interactions with people positive and gentle, since this period has some overlap with the periods of increased fear described earlier. A lack of human interaction during this period can make your puppy shy of people as an adult. Traumatic interactions can also have lifelong consequences.
Maturation and Adulthood
Your puppy continues to grow and mature until he is between 18 months and 3 years old. As he matures he will test boundaries by exhibiting dominant behaviors, so it's up to you to reinforce good behavior and discourage bad behavior. As he becomes an adult he can learn more advanced training concepts and will benefit from a gradual increase in exposure to other dogs and different situations, presented in a nonthreatening way.
By Rachel Steffan
About the Author
Based in central Missouri, Rachel Steffan has been writing since 2005. She has contributed to several online publications, specializing in sustainable agriculture, food, health and nutrition. Steffan holds a Bachelor of Science in agriculture from Truman State University.