AKC eNewsletter

The First Seven Weeks: Raising Well-Adjusted Puppies

By Wendell J. Sammet, The American Kennel Club's 2002 Breeder of the Year

Wendell J. Sammet with the AKC 2002 Breeder of the Year Award.
As breeders, we have the opportunity to start work early in producing our next generation of well-adjusted breeding and show stock as well as family pets. We can start when puppies are about 10 to 14 days old. Making the time to handle and talk to your puppies on a daily basis, socialize them and being aware of their early developmental needs will result in a tenfold return for the life of the dogs on the investment of time and care you put in during puppyhood.

Handling and Talking
Gently pick up each puppy, and roll her in many positions. While speaking softly and holding the puppy in your hands, roll her over on her stomach, on her side, on her back, and so on. A puppy's hearing isn't fully developed until she is about 10 to 14 days old, the same approximate age that a pup's eyes open. While rolling your puppies into different positions on daily basis, notice the reactions you get from each pup. Some will be very relaxed no matter what positions they are in. These puppies will learn easily and adjust well to their environments. They will be your candidates for breeding and show stock.

It's important to do this exercise with pups at least once a day. Twice a day is even better. Take turns with other people to exercise the pups. Invite friends and relatives to take a turn so the puppies get used to different people handling them. Continue this until the pups are about 3 weeks old (not so much the changing of positions as the holding and talking).

Some puppies will become tense but, with continual attention, will improve and make good pets. Others that squirm and squeal at first may also improve over a period of time, again with continual attention. Take much care when selecting new homes for these puppies to ensure that the new owners will continue the nurturing care you have begun.

Socialize your puppies at an early age.
When puppies are 3 to 6 weeks-old, proper socialization is critical. They need to be with their littermates to play, scrap, bark and chew on each other. At this stage the pups can hear and see well, and they have a sense of smell that is becoming more complex. To build the puppies' confidence and waylay fears and potential future problems, the dam should remain with the pups as long as she desires. Be careful to note the dam's disposition while she is with her pups; it can reflect onto them. The pups' nervous systems continue to develop rapidly at this time. Expose them to unfamiliar places and loud noises. Feed them in one area, and let them out in another to relieve themselves. This makes house training a bit simpler. Provide different areas for play, perhaps a room with lots of activity, as well as different outside areas with open space.

Pups' Developing Needs
The 5-to-7-week-old period is another extremely important time in a puppy's development. During this period a pup is totally dependent on the environment you provide to stimulate and foster its development. The pups also require attention from others for proper socialization.

Rapid growth occurs during this time. The puppy is more stable on his legs, he has full sight and hearing, and his brain is physically mature for the final stage of physical development. A pup is ready to perform his physical processes and has the ability to learn what you teach him.

Many animal behaviorists agree that socialization reaches its peak at the 49th day (7 weeks). At 8 to 9 weeks, the pup can go to his new owner and home. He has received human contact and love. He has been exposed to different environments and house breaking. Now you can choose with confidence your pup for future breeding and showing. And you can place the puppies you choose to sell according to their temperaments in homes with new owners. Different personalities will match different homes and families. The individual attention, interaction and love that puppies receive during their first seven weeks are invaluable and will reap lifetimes of rewards.

Wendell Sammet, the 2002 AKC Breeder of the Year, has spent more than a half-century in purebred dogs. He began with great success in Dalmatians, but he soon made his mark in Poodles under his Ale-Kai Standard Poodles Kennel name. Through the decades, he has prided himself in breeding for health, temperament and breed type. Wendell has always found time to serve as a mentor for newcomers and as an advisor to his peers in both the Poodle Club of America and the Dalmatian Club of America.

  Ronald N. Rella, director, Breeder Services
Theresa Shea, editor | Email: AKCbreeder@akc.org
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© The American Kennel Club 2005