Puppy Socialization & Development

Litter Care and Socialization

Birth to 1 week (Week 1)

• Gain approximately 1 lb first week (strive for 1-2 oz weight gain/day)
• Keep warm
• Monitor dam – temp and glands, provide low stress environment for dam, and gradually increased dam's food
• Start BioSensor Exercises 3rd day of life, but otherwise minimal handling
• First nail trim at 1 week then weekly thereafter (human nail trimmer)
• Private nurse as needed

Week 2

• Introduce canned food to pups at around 2 weeks
• Weigh daily – strive for 1-2 oz weight gain/day (gain 1+ lbs 2nd week) (should double birthweight by 10 days of age)
• Keep warm, gentle handling, and bottle feed as needed
• Rapidly increase dam's food
• BioSensor Exercises
• Eyes open, starting to walk, and toileting on their own
• Environmental enrichment – different textures
• Private nurse and pyrantel pamoate wormer

Week 3

• Start feeding small amounts of soaked kibble and milk at 3 weeks
• Weigh every 2-3 days as needed, especially any smaller pups
• Keep warm, increased gentle handling, and bottle feed as needed
• Gradually increase dam's food to approximately 1 cup per pup per day (adjust for milk production)
• BioSensor ends Day 16
• Transition to puppy pen with crib bumpers (start small – size of living area about same size as litter box)
• Ears open – gradually introduce to sound (classical music)
• Environmental enrichment – different textures, small stuffed animals
• Small puppy collars at 3 weeks
• Private nurse


Week 4

• Small water bowl in pen (monitor ability to drink and hydration, don't increase kibble amount until drinking.  If diarrhea or dehydrated, bottle feed goat milk and/or water as needed)
• Weigh 1-2x weekly (expect average 2-4 oz weight gain/day)
• Continue to adjust dam's food as needed for adequate milk production and maintenance of dam's weight
• Send dam into pen as needed to nurse if not going in voluntarily
• Pen bedding (easy to clean and good traction) and beds to cuddle in (especially if cool)
• Some pups scale low half-gate at around 3 weeks of age – keep padding around half-gate as crash pad in case of escapees
• Environmental enrichment – toys, crate doors to walk on, small crate to explore, low foot stool or aerobic step to climb
• Pups will still be sleeping a lot, do not over stimulate
• First trip outside, weather allowing- very brief and as a group
• Desensitize – low volume radio and/or TV on during day
• Basic manners (no attention for paws up or barking) and litter box training (spot clean litter box as needed)

Week 5 (for more details click HERE)

• Feed individually (don't overfeed – A common cause of diarrhea at this age is over feeding)
• Weigh 1-2x weekly (expect gains of 1 to 1.5 lbs/week)
• Send dam into pen as needed if not going in voluntarily
• Expand out puppy pen, remove bumpers, taller half-gate with crash padding
• Start letting pups explore outside the pen in small groups
• Don't create unnecessary stress by taking a pup away from its littermates
• Pups will still be sleeping a lot, do not over do the activities
• Desensitize – sound effect tapes, radio and/or TV on during day, bold human movements, unusual vocal sounds, sudden loud noises, wearing small harness
• More extended time outside
• Lots of human interactions, cuddling, focused handling, petting – rude petting (mouth, feet, tail)
• Gentle restraint cradling on back
• Encourage Sit and eye contact for attention, only pick up if sitting
• 4 weeks pyrantel pamoate wormer

Week 6 (for more information click HERE)

• Feed individually in crates or next to person with person's hands around food bowl – ~6 weeks, some litters have a spike in caloric needs so may eat as much or more at 6-7 weeks than at 8 weeks (probably due to steep growth curve that is gradually leveling out)
• Weigh weekly – expect gains of 1 to 1.5 lbs/week (don't overfeed)
• Dam starts weaning pups – gradually decrease her food amount and increase pups kibble accordingly
• Can try "do-not-nurse clothes" to encourage the dam to continue to interact with pups
• Pups will probably be able to climb over half gate, secure pen, but send dam in to nurse as needed
• Increasingly more time outside of pen, mostly in groups
• Introduction to wading pool (if warm enough), interactions with other safe older dogs, play tunnels, and fetch games
• Desensitize – CONTROLLED exposure to all sorts of novel stimuli (vacuum, hair dryer, loud TV), wearing small harness, steps – recommend padding with a comforter (baby pups tend to tumble -top heavy)
• Visitations start at 5 weeks – kids, men, different ethnic groups.  Encourage visitors to wear something unusual and/or bring something novel (like a kid's toy, athletic gear)
• Continue Toileting outside when possible
• Brief one-on-one sessions (especially for training) and "Puppy, puppy, puppy" recalls •Pyrantel pamoate wormer


Week 7 (for more information click here)

• Feed in crates and weigh weekly (expect gains of 1 to 1.5 lbs/week (don't overfeed))
• Encourage dam to still interact with pups, OK if she corrects
• Transition dam to normal adult maintenance rations, but still probably needs increased amount
• Big puppy collars
• Increasingly more solo opportunities to explore, identify pups that are less confident and provide more opportunities to gain confidence by self
• Start using small cat nail trimmer instead of human nail trimmer
• Car rides, outings, and/or sleep overs without dams in groups
• Baby puppy training, "find person" games, bite inhibition, and self-control (overstimulate pup and then passively wait for pup to calm down, and reward)
• Intranasal Bordetella vaccination (alternatively can wait until 8 weeks), fecal check prior worming

Week 8 (for more details click here)

• Dry/hard puppy kibble with a bit of water added
• Usually too big and active to weigh easily (Retriever puppies ideally weight 10-12 lbs at 8 weeks)
• Encourage dam to still interact with pups and correct them as appropriate
• Introduction to leash –  I use a harness
• Very short walks in neighborhood (i.e., to neighbor's house and back).  If reluctant to leave home turf, carry pup to neighbor's house and walk back home.  Don't restrain or pull pup, let it go at its own pace.
• Formal crate training, keep very short, possibly in pairs
• Vet examination, fecal check prior to worming, vaccination (DAP +/- Bordetella if not previously given), 1st HW tab (also treats round worms) OR pyrantel if no mosquito exposure entire 8 weeks ( winter litter)