Puppy Tips from Cesar Millan
Your puppy’s development
Stage 1: Birth – 2 weeks
After an initial gestation period of approximately 2 months, a puppy is born blind and deaf – less developed than a human baby. This first stage of development is often referred to as “neonatal.” For most of this stage, the puppy is entirely dependent on its mother In addition to their sensory handicap after birth, their movement is severely limited, they cannot regulate their own body temperature, and they require special stimulation to remove waste products. They can, however, cry, and the suck reflex is already strong. Smell, touch, and taste are all active and strong. Within the first week after birth, puppies will normally double its own weight.
The puppy’s ear canals will open right around the 2 week mark, allowing it to hear sounds for the first time. The sense of hearing will fully develop over the course of the next few stages. Socialization is important at every stage of a puppy’s life, but is perhaps most important during the neonatal period. The puppy will be learning the basics from its mother and littermates; movement, social etiquette, and most important of all: rules, boundaries, and limitations!
Stage 2: 2 – 4 Weeks
The puppy’s eyes will open at or around the beginning of this second stage of development. His new sense of sight will be limited and very sensitive, so to avoid eye damage; care must be taken to protect him from bright lights. Despite these limitations, the puppy will now begin to recognize and interact with things in his environment, including (most importantly!) his mother and littermates. Many experts consider this the “toddler” stage of development as the puppy becomes more alert and learns to crawl, stand, and ultimately walk. With this new mobility, he will also begin to attempt to better explore his surroundings.
As the second stage progresses, the puppy’s body becomes better at regulating its own temperature. However, he still depends mostly on his mother and the ambient temperature in the environment to maintain a healthy balance. Rapid or extreme temperature changes can be harmful to his system. The first teeth emerge during this stage, and as the puppy learns to lap he will become more comfortable and better equipped to drink milk from a bottle or dish if necessary rather than relying on his mother as the only source of nourishment. In addition, the puppy’s instinct to relieve himself away from the den will kick in, and he should no longer require any external stimulation to urinate or move his bowels.
Near the end of the second stage of development, the puppy’s sense of hearing continues to improve, and sight and smell should already be well-developed. The order in which these senses fully mature will continue to inform the way he experiences the world around him: nose, eyes, and then ears. It’s important at this stage to encourage the bond between the puppy and human beings by exposing the puppy to gentle handling by human caretakers.
Stage 3: 4 – 12 Weeks
Week 4 to week 12 typically comprise the third stage of puppy development. During this stage, the senses begin to mature and socialization becomes an important part of the puppy’s life. It is critical during this key phase that the puppy be able to interact with other dogs and with people.
For the first few weeks of this phase, it’s likely that the only other dogs the puppy will have access to are his mother and littermates. His normal body temperature should be approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and his system will begin regulating that temperature naturally. Additionally, the instinct to squat will take over and external stimulation will no longer be required for the puppy to move his bowels.
Early socialization will manifest as a basic kind of play with the puppy’s littermates – wrestling and a reserved play-biting known as “inhibited bite.” This is the way in which the puppy will begin to learn about social structure and pack ranking. Rules, boundaries, and limitations set by his mother begin to take shape. Physical co-ordination and eyesight are still not fully developed, but the puppy’s mobility will have progressed beyond wiggling, rolling, and flopping around.
Weeks 5 through 7 are a good time for the puppy to begin his early socialization with people. His sense of hearing should be well-developed enough to allow the possibility of command conditioning using positive reinforcement, as well as name recognition – the puppy will begin to respond to the name that his human handlers have chosen for him. But remember: he will always be animal first, then species, then breed, and THEN name.
The puppy’s fear response to sudden startling sights and sounds will begin to emerge at or around this point in his development, so exposure to any normal household objects and noises and association with positive experiences is very important. Also, the kind of play that puppy is used to with his littermates, including the “inhibited bite,” or “mouthing,” may begin to appear in his interaction with his human handlers. It is crucial to remember that this kind of behavior can often escalate and lead to dominance or aggression, and should be discouraged.
Even during this late phase, make sure to stay alert about the possibility of infection. The health of the puppy should be carefully monitored, as should any and all interaction with human handlers who may pose a risk of communicable disease. The puppy should receive another worming at this stage and then regular monthly wormings from this point on. And you should discuss with your vet inoculations that could help to boost the puppy’s immunities. Sometime around week 6 or 7, the puppy should begin the weaning process, moving from mother’s milk onto formulas and then ultimately solid foods that his human handlers will provide.
Week 8 is where you can expect to come into your new puppy’s life if you have chosen to adopt through a reputable breeder. Make sure that you coordinate with the breeder and your veterinarian to determine that the puppy has been wormed prior to the adoption and to find out what shots, if any, the puppy may still need.
Because the puppy has spent his early weeks developing in the company of his mother and his brothers and sisters, his mental processes should be mature enough to handle the move from the breeder to your home, and he should be receptive to training. Still, just because your puppy has been socialized doesn’t mean he doesn’t still need your guidance from day one! Don’t forget to get right to work setting your new pack’s rules, boundaries, and limitations and consistently enforcing them. Your new puppy is easily influenced by your pack leadership, so keep it balanced and consistent! Housetraining and introduction to the sights and sounds of your puppy’s new home should begin right away. Positive experiences associated with the various new elements of your puppy’s life will help ensure a smooth transition. And don’t forget that your puppy is still a social animal! If you have no other dogs or pets, try to find calm, vaccinated dog pals for him to interact with. This could prevent issues that may arise later on from lack of socialization.
Stage 4: 3 – 6 Months
Stage 4 begins your puppy’s introduction to independence, but may also create some possible frustrating situations for you. With her senses more or less fully developed, and her improved physical coordination, the puppy is entering into a phase that is remarkably close to toddlerhood in human beings. Think “terrible twos” on a canine level.
During this stage, the puppy will attempt to determine the social rankings within her new “pack”. This may include the same kind of play-fighting that she engaged in with her brothers and sisters, but now directed at you and the rest of her new “littermates.” In wild packs, these kinds of dominance games serve a vital function. Puppy is testing her boundaries within her social circle, seeing if she has what it takes to physically challenge her peers and even you, her pack leader. If you don’t step in and discourage this kind of dominance-seeking behavior early on – or, worse yet, if you allow your puppy to “win” at dominance games such as wrestling or Tug-of-War – it could set the stage for more serious challenges to your leadership down the road.
Play-biting may also escalate during this stage, and it should be considered vitally important to correct this behavior rather than allow it to continue. Be sure to correct immediately to allow the puppy to connect the behavior with the correction, and be consistent!
Between months 4 and 6, you may find your puppy exhibiting signs of a return to the flight phase that she went through during or around week 8. However, unlike at 8 weeks, when the puppy’s flight was fueled by her reaction to the startling new environment, this new phase will be more closely associated with the independent and rebellious stage that she’s going through. A collar and leash will provide the crucial physical connection between you that can keep her from bolting when you approach. Do not allow her to roam off leash in any open or highly populated public area until she demonstrates to you that she is willing to accept your commands. And don’t forget your most powerful tool: your calm-assertive energy and balanced pack leadership!
Hide your designer shoes! During stage 4, you can expect your puppy to begin teething, which means that unless you provide her with suitable chew toys to occupy herself and relieve her discomfort, she is liable to destroy some of your treasured belongings. Many people take this kind of destructive behavior as a form of “personal” rebellion by the puppy, but think about it. Doesn’t it make sense that the puppy would seek out as attractive items that are most saturated with your scent? If your puppy does find and mangle a precious possession of yours, DO NOT react with anger! Remember to maintain balance and provide firm, calm corrections. Once you have corrected your puppy, immediately provide her with an acceptable substitute to make the connection in her mind. Frozen bones may provide pain relief for a dog in great discomfort and also a reward for responding to your corrections with calm-submissive energy.
During this stage, many new owners become concerned by the sight of blood on their new puppy’s chew toys. Don’t panic. This is a completely natural part of this phase of the puppy’s development as she begins to lose her milk teeth. Still, if you have persistent concerns, be sure to discuss the matter with your family veterinarian. Ask about proper dental care – when and how to brush (ideally once a week or more) and which products to use. Certain products such as raw bones may be perfect both for soothing the dog’s chewing instincts and for removing plaque and tartar buildup around her teeth and gums.
Finally, this stage will usher in the beginnings of sexual maturation in your puppy, which may lead to some extra frustrations. Marking and scenting can become a problem around the house even if the puppy has been successfully housebroken. The best and safest way to avoid these problems while simultaneously decreasing the chances of many future health risks is to have her sterilized if you haven’t already done so. Sterilization is a still debated topic among many dog owners and veterinarians, but most veterinary professionals agree that a safe and optimal time to have the procedure done is when the puppy is about 6 months old.
Children and Puppies
Greeting a puppy:
1) Teach the child about “No Touch, No Talk, No Eye Contact.”
2) The introduction between puppy and child should be delayed until the child’s excitement has passed and he or she is in a calm state of mind, able to focus on adult instruction. Never allow the child to make the first move.
3) Keep an eye on the child’s energy levels and note the puppy’s reactions. Once you are satisfied that the situation is safe and under your control, show the child the proper way to give affection.
4) Safety first! Don’t be afraid to say no… if the situation appears unsafe for puppy or child, inform the child that the dog is in training and can’t be pet.
Keep an eye on the scene at all times! Puppies and children should never be left alone together without adult supervision.
1) Set some ground rules for off-limits play. Be sure that the child understands not to pull the puppy’s ears or tail.
2) Keep watch for signs of rough play, and correct the child or redirect his or her energy when needed.
3) Observe the puppy’s body language. Step in when you believe the puppy has had enough of playtime.
Heath Issues and Cleanliness:
Children are more vulnerable than grown-ups to the illnesses that pets can carry. Here are some helpful tips to avoid risks to your child’s health.
1) Make sure the puppy sees a vet regularly.
2) Make sure your child washes his or her hands thoroughly both before and after playtime.
3) Do not allow playtime around or near the areas where the puppy or dog relieves himself.
4) Any and all excrement should be picked up from the lawn and surrounding areas frequently and properly disposed of.