For the first few weeks of a puppy’s life all the nutritional needs are met by the mother’s milk. Unless the supply is inadequate supplementing should not be required. This period is known as the Neonatal period (birth to 2 weeks of age)
During this time puppies are relatively helpless and reliant on their mothers. Neonatal puppies have limited movement and are not yet able to stand and support their own weight. Important to note is they have reduced ability to regulate their body temperature and rely on their mother and other members of the litter for body heat. During this period puppies are only able to feed by suckling from the mother. It is essential that puppies consume colostrum in the mothers milk within the first 24hours after birth. Colostrum provides essential antibodies.
Handling puppies for short periods during the first two weeks of age has shown to be beneficial to their behaviour in later life.
The transitional period 1 to 2 weeks of age
During this time the puppy eyes begin to respond to light and movement. Ear canals open between 18 – 20 days and movement skills such as standing and walking start to improve.
Social behaviours, such as growling, tail wagging and play fighting begin to develop along with lapping and chewing. Puppies start to show some interest in trying their mothers food. Having said that they sill obtain all their nutrition from the mothers milk.
Along with the neonatal period, regular handling of puppies for a few minutes a day has been shown to be beneficial to the adult behaviour.
The socialisation period 3 to 12 weeks of age
Experiences during this stage, negative and positive, can have a profound effects on the behaviour of a dog later in life. Similar to the transitional stage this period is full of changes. The more notable is the appearance of play signals increasing in complexity, investigative behaviour begins to increase and puppies will readily approach new people and situations with interest.
This period of socialisation is particularly influential in the development of a stable temperament in the adult dog. Many social and behavioural problems observed in adult dogs are believed to be linked with poor treatment or insufficient interaction during this stage of puppy development.
Milk teeth begin to appear at 3 to 4 weeks of age and puppies increasingly eat solid food. As puppies make the transition to solid foods, puppies need to access clean drinking water. You’ll notice the mother will gradually begin to discourage her puppies from suckling and the litter will be fully weaned by 6 to 8 weeks old. The best time for puppies to leave their mother and litter to go to a new home is around 8 weeks of age.
A puppy separated from its mother earlier than 8 weeks may be detrimental as a puppy may not be fully weaned and will miss out on important social development time with its mother and other litter members. Rehoming after 8 weeks may mean that the new owners miss out on important socialisation experiences. 8 weeks is the recommended transition age.
How a puppy is fed is critical for its future health. The diet has to supply all the nutrients required for maintenance, whilst catering for the rapid growth and continued development at this active life stage.
Puppies have a higher demand for:
Calcium & Phosphorous
Vitamin A & D
Omega 3 & 6
Water is the most vital nutrient for life and is a major constituent of an animals body, making up 75% of the body mass at birth. Access to fresh drinking water in a suitable container appropriate for their size is essential.
Importantly puppies need approximately 2 x more protein than adult dogs and 3 x more Calcium & Phosphorous each day.
To meet their high nutritional demands, puppies must eat large amounts of food relative to their size. Therefore food should be divided into several, up to 5 small meals per day, rather than 1 or 2 large meals.
When taking home your puppy make an appointment with your local veterinarian. Map out of feeding plan, vaccinations, micro chip and a health check.
A puppy is a beautiful addition to your family, keep in mind that for your dogs life he/she is totally dependent on you for its health and happiness.