A Puppy’s Life: Going to Their Forever Home

During the first month or so of a puppy’s life, not very much happens. They are born, learn to walk, and grow teeth. These seemingly tiny changes are just stepping stones leading to readiness for their forever home.

Let’s learn about how puppies grow and change between the first month and moving to their forever home.

Physical Growth

At about one month of age, puppies should be spending most of their time with mom. They will slowly start to gain their independence though. While they are growing, they will gain enough strength to walk on their own. This means they’ll be exploring a lot more as well. You should do your best to handle the puppies and bring them to new places and people as much as possible.

At this point, they are strong enough to go out on their own. Soon they will be going out and exploring. Though they will come back to the safety of their mother. They will also continue to drink their mother’s milk. With their sharp teeth growing in, mom will probably be ready for them to wean. At this point, a puppy should be given high-quality puppy food. Dry puppy food can have warm water poured over it to soften it and make it easier to chew. Caregivers should slowly decrease the amount of water added to the food until the puppies are only eating dry food.

Diet and Exercise

It’s very important that you feed high-quality puppy food to puppies. Until now, they have been getting all their nutritional needs met by drinking their mother’s milk. Once you begin transitioning them to solid food, they need food that’s meant for puppies. Many breeds can continue to eat puppy formula food well into a year of life. They should be transitioned to a more appropriate food beyond that time.

As for exercise, you shouldn’t have to do much beyond just watching to make sure no one gets hurt. Puppies that are just over a month old will be playing, jumping, and making wonderful, cute sounds. For the most part, their brain is growing, and they are learning how the world works. They will learn from their brothers and sisters where their place in the pack is. And, they will also learn about who they can trust.

Bonding Outside their Littermates

Once puppies reach about five weeks, they start spending longer time away from their family. It’s a good time to handle the puppies. Get them used to every kind of experience you can.  By week seven or eight, a puppy may enter what is referred to as the “fear period.” This is a period of time where even the most curious puppies can seem to grow scared of anything new. This is why it’s important to expose them to as many new things as possible. Exposure is key to proper socialization.

Going to Their Forever Home

Once a puppy is ready to leave its family and go to its forever home, it’s vitally important to make sure its health is up to par. They will need to be vaccinated starting at about six weeks of age. For the most part, a breeder should start this, but anyone who receives a very young puppy will want to also get their vaccination records.

Once a puppy goes to its forever home, its new owner should go to their vet to verify the dog’s health. Some illnesses or infections can be spread between dogs, and you’ll want to confirm your dog has a clean bill of health. Things like parasites and worms can put a puppy’s life in danger and can usually be treated very easily.

When a puppy goes to their forever home, be sure to have the important supplies they’ll need to thrive:

  • Toys
  • Food and water bowls
  • A crate
  • Training pads for very young dogs
  • High quality puppy food
  • A well-fitting leash and collar
  • Dog treats

Training a Puppy

A puppy can start training at about three to four weeks of age. They won’t be able to do much, so most tricks or commands are out of the question. Instead, you should focus on potty training and crate training. Remember that even a two- or three-month-old puppy can sleep up to 20 hours a day. They may as well get used to being in a crate if they are going to be sleeping. Take opportunities to crate your dog even if you are not going out. Don’t let them spend hours in the crate, but a good ten-minute rest can get them used to being in there. Be sure to take them out to go potty after any time spent in the crate. Even if your dog is not fully potty trained yet, it will just reinforce good habits.

You can try teaching a 2-month-old puppy some simple commands like sit. Don’t expect too much from them though. Just keep trying and they should be able to get it eventually. You should also try fitting a puppy with a collar and leash. They might not like it at first so go slowly. Try putting the collar on and see how they respond. If they don’t like it, you can try only doing small increments. Eventually, they’ll get used to the feeling of the collar and you can add the leash.

Setting Reasonable Expectations

Dogs develop at their own pace. As a dog owner, you need to set reasonable expectations for training and behavior. A young dog teeters between sleepiness and chaotic energy. Giving them outlets to expend that energy while sprinkling in basic training is the best way to approach dogs who have just arrived at their forever home. If you’re ever in doubt about your dog’s behavior, talk to your dog’s veterinarian.

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