It is during puppy hood that many physical, behavioral, and health patterns become established, hence the extreme importance of careful holistic rearing. Puppies are born after about nine weeks of gestation.
After about twelve days, the eyes open to give the pup limited vision. His visual needs at this stage are restricted to the nest area. Sight develops progressively, as does independence. The dog’s skeleton is very soft and pliable at first, as it is composed mainly of cartilage, until ossification gradually turns cartilage to bone during the puppy’s subsequent growth and development.
Play between litter mates starts to unfold the instinctive behavior of the growing dog. The mother will also teach certain behaviors during play and interaction. This phase is vital to the eventual social development of the adult. Hence a puppy should not be removed from his mother before eight weeks of age.
FEEDING AND CHEWING
The pup is able to deal with regurgitated meat or meat scrapings from an early age. The twenty-eight puppy teeth erupt from the third week of life. These will eventually irritate the mother during nursing, so gradual weaning will commence. However, it is not until the full complement of (normally) forty-two adult teeth develops, between four to seven months of age, that the pup can deal effectively with chunks of raw meat and bones. If a natural diet is planned, then it is important that the young pup is given bones (see page 20) and meat during his development, in order for him to learn the necessary skills and habits for safe application of such a diet.
A young puppy usually wants to chew, especially during periods of teething. This need can be satisfied by providing bones and chunks of meat, thus saving damage to furniture and clothing and preventing the subsequent friction between human and dog that may occur from such damage.
Furthermore, exposed electric cables seem to be endlessly fascinating to a teething puppy, with risk of serious injury or death.
It is important not to overfeed or overexercise a young puppy, especially in
the case of large breeds, so that skeletal growth and development can occur in a healthy and timely way. If growth is too rapid or exercise too strenuous too early, then damage to the young skeleton can occur, leading to problems later on.
PLAYING WITH AND HOLDING A PUPPY
When playing with a young puppy, remember that the milk teeth are very sharp. If there are young children in the household, they must be supervised when playing with the pup, so that both learn together how to play sociably and safely.
If a pup is to be picked up, it is important to exercise great care not to drop him; he may wriggle enthusiastically and boisterously. While the pup is discovering his home environment, be very careful with doors in the house and in the car to avoid injury.
- It is valuable to get a health check done by your local vet, who is trained
to spot early signs of disease and developmental or congenital issues.
- In a male puppy, check that both testes have descended, and seek advice if not.
- At about six months of age, the puppy’s teeth should be checked for proper teething the process by which milk teeth fall out and are replaced by adult teeth.