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Physical changes

Puppies go on a remarkable journey of growth in the first year of their lives. As newborn pups they can't hear or see, but by 4 to 6 weeks old have all the senses working well and be able to walk and even run.

  • By 6 to 11 weeks old, puppies start to have much better bladder control and start sleeping through the night.
  • At around 3 to 4 months they will become stronger and start to engage in more robust activities.
  • Play fighting should be avoided or they will think this behaviour is acceptable
  • They also become sexually mature which can lead them to become increasingly rebellious.
  • By the end of their first year, puppies can differentiate the smell of one human from another and will have developed about 80% of their coordination and agility, as well as being about 80% of their adult size.
  • They will shed their baby coat as they develop their own distinctive coat and will have all 42 teeth which makes it easy to tear through furniture and other belongings.


  • When puppies are newborn they remain with their mother and litter mates, avoiding too much interaction with people.
  • Over their initial few weeks, handling by humans increases and is important to get them used to frequent handling to make grooming, cleaning teeth and administering medications much easier.
  • Traumatic experiences in the first 2 – 3 weeks can harm puppies for life so tried to try to avoid loud scary noises that make them scared and anxious.
  • By the fifth week, although still with the litter, they can be more exposed to everyday life being around other pets, family members and general background noise.
  • They should be occasionally isolated to get them ready for separation from mom and the litter.
  • Sleep and play areas should be separated so puppy can leave the sleeping area to go to the bathroom. This will make housetraining much easier.
  • At 6 - 11 weeks the puppies start to go to their new home from the breeder.
  • It is time to start exposing them to people outside the family and teach them some simple commands. Now is the time to enroll them in puppy school.
  • 3 to 6 months is a key time for consistent obedience and behavioural training, when playfulness is in abundance and they discover their independence.
  • Short, fun, training sessions with positive rewards are recommended as you allow your puppy to socialize more fully around other people and animals.


  • Puppies will feed on their mother's milk until 4 or 5 weeks when Mum will start to wean them. Puppy food can then be slowly introduced by mixing one part water with 3 parts food to make it easier to digest.
  • From week 7 they should be fully weaned from their mother, able to eat dry puppy food and be able to lap water.
  • Throughout all stages of puppyhood it is important to make sure they are getting the right amount of calcium, protein and calories. See information on puppy diet.
  • At 3 months, teething can become an issue sometimes causing lack of appetite. Give them something that relieves the pressure of teething e.g. Ice cubes or their favorite Chew Toy that you have put in the freezer for a couple of hours.
  • Don't let them chew on anything they can swallow – because their curious nature will probably ensure this happens.
  • Try to feed at the same time each day, introducing good habits to avoid obesity in adulthood.

Vaccinations and other preventative treatments

  • Pups need their first treatment for intestinal worms at 2 weeks of age with another at 4,6, 8 and 12 weeks of age. Following this they will need to be dewormed once a month for 6 months then every season for the rest of their life.
  • At 6 weeks start on flea prevention
  • First puppy vaccination due at 6 to 8 weeks
  • At 10-12 weeks a second vaccination may be required. Depending on the vaccine protocol used by your veterinarian, a third vaccination may also be required at around 16-18 weeks of age.
  • By at least 8 weeks puppies should be on a heartworm prevention depending on the month and the area in which they live.
  • By six months puppies should have received all their vaccine shots
  • They can now be spayed or neutered
  • Brush and comb their coat daily
  • Brush their teeth daily
  • Maintain heartworm, flea and intestinal worm, and tick prevention in areas where they are a problem.
  • Puppies should have fecal tests done at least twice in their first year to ensure that they have been sufficiently dewormed.

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