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Puppy Power – Let's Break Down Puppy Development - Part 1 of 3

Traci Murdock

You’re so excited – you made the decision to get a puppy, you did the research to find out what breed would be best for your lifestyle, you tracked down a responsible breeder or found out where the shelters or rescue organizations were and discovered your perfect dog.

Then you bring him home and the fun begins – how do you help your puppy become the calm, polite mannered member of your family that you want him to be.

Let’s look at what it took to create that cute, little ball of fur bouncing around your living room. If you read the books and listen to the experts, you will learn that there are several stages or periods in a puppy’s life where learning and socialization are maximized. Behaviorists emphasize the importance of understanding the critical periods in a puppy’s development to raise the best puppies possible – experiences and learning during these periods or stages in the development of your puppy will stay with him for the rest of his life. We call these periods “windows of opportunity” because certain experiences need to happen, or not happen, at a particular time or the window closes and the potential benefits of those experiences are lost.

According to research by Scott and Fuller, 35% of the behavior makeup of a dog is attributable to genetics and 65% is attributed to the management, training, socialization, nutrition, and health care of the puppy. Even before your puppy is born there are factors at work that will affect his final development, but let’s talk about the time you have with your puppy.

Here’s what happens before your puppy is ready to make their way in the world – we’ll need 3 articles to cover all the details, so stay tuned!

The Neo-Natal Period (1-14 days) is when the newborn puppy is completely dependent on mom – responding only to the warmth, touch, and smell of their dam. Research shows that mild forms of stress (Bio Sensor or Super Dog programs) during this period create changes in newborns that help them better deal with their world during their entire lives. When tested later as adults, the stressed dogs were better able to withstand stress than their non-stressed littermates, matured sexually earlier, were more resistant to some forms of cancer and disease, withstood exposure to cold better, were more stable , more exploratory, and learned faster. Puppies were also more active, calmer, and less distracted when working.

During the Transitional Period (14-21 days) you see the rapid development of motor skills, the ability to eliminate of its own, the onset of usable vision, the initial emergence of teeth, and the development of hearing. This is the time to add toys and other visual objects to the nest and puppies can be moved to busy parts of the house and should be placed on new surfaces for a minute once a day.

To be continued . . . .

This article includes excerpts from Another Piece of the Puzzle: Puppy Development by Pat Hastings and Erin Ann Rouse, Editors. This is an excellent book to read as you prepare for your puppy and has many more details about the development of your puppy, both behaviorally and physically. The list of references included in the book at the end of Chapter 1 will also provide important additional sources of information as you help your puppy grow into best dog he can be.

For more info: If you are interested in learning more about clicker training or different ways to solve problems and communicate with your dog, there are many places you can start, including the link to As always, you can email me at with any questions or comments, or for help with specific issues that you are having with your dog. There are links to more resources at .


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