Most puppies are placed in homes around 8-12 weeks of age, leaving their mothers and littermates behind. If you are planning to get a young puppy, it will likely be around 8-12 weeks old.
An eight to 12-week-old puppy will still be quite small, even if the puppy is a large dog breed. These little pups are physically vulnerable and a bit clumsy. They need plenty of supervision and should be comfortably crated when alone.
Expect your young puppy to sleep a lot during this stage. Most puppies will sleep about 18 to 20 hours a day to support their fast-growing brains and bodies. Puppies from eight to 12 weeks old may seem to go from zero to 60 out of nowhere, then suddenly pass out to nap within minutes of being in hyperdrive.
Before 12 weeks of age, most puppies have trouble fully controlling their urination and defecation. They are still prone to frequent accidents and cannot usually make it through the night without urinating. House training should begin as soon as you bring your new puppy home, but be prepared for the first few weeks to go slowly. Stick to a regular schedule, taking your puppy outside every time she eats, drinks, or wakes up from a nap. House training usually gets a bit easier after 12 weeks of age.
Your puppy won't begin to get adult teeth until about 12 weeks of age. However, some of the baby teeth, or "milk teeth," may begin falling out between 8-12 weeks old. Symptoms of teething typically won't start until 12 weeks old.
Puppies from 8-12 weeks of age are in a very important socialization period. This is often called a "fear stage" as puppies may seem to be afraid of everything. This stage is also a period of rapid learning.
Because your new puppy will not be fully vaccinated, you must make sure she is not walking on the ground in public or getting exposed to unknown animals. Find safe ways to introduce new sights, sounds, and environments. Expose your pup gently to new situations, acting as if it is all very normal and routine. Practice handling your puppy so she can get used to being held and touched in unfamiliar ways. Introduce your puppy to things like vet visits, nail trims, and baths, keeping everything positive.
Expect your young puppy to react with fear in some situations. However, avoid coddling or comforting a fearful pup. Instead, reward your puppy for relaxing in new situations and exploring new things. Don't push your puppy to accept a situation that scares her. She will eventually learn that there is nothing to worry about if you remain calm and upbeat.
Health and Care
Around eight weeks of age, your puppy will need to visit the veterinarian for her first puppy vaccines, deworming, and an examination. The breeder or adoption group might have administered her first vaccines and deworming and even taken her to her first vet visit. However, you should take your new puppy to your own veterinarian within a few days of getting her just to make sure she is in good health. Be sure to bring any records provided by the breeder or adoption group so your vet can keep to the schedule.
The puppy vaccination series is completed around 16-18 weeks of age. Until this time, it is important to prevent exposure to diseases. Don't allow your puppy to walk in public areas or interact with unfamiliar animals. Your puppy can play with healthy puppies and adult dogs that have been vaccinated and dewormed. Make sure you know the owner of the other dog and can trust that the dog is healthy.
Food and Nutrition
Puppies begin to be weaned off their mother's milk around three to six weeks of age and are typically fully weaned between six to eight weeks of age. By the time you get your new puppy home, she will have been eating puppy food for at least a few weeks. The breeder or adopter will provide you with information about the type of food being fed. It's best to start with the same diet whenever possible. Allow your new puppy to adjust to her environment for a few days or weeks before you choose a new food for her. If you do decide to change her diet, be sure to gradually transition to the new food to avoid gastrointestinal upset.
Your puppy needs proper nutrition to grow and thrive. Make sure you are feeding her a high-quality puppy food that is labeled for growth. Most puppies between eight to 12 weeks old will do best if fed about three times a day, spaced out somewhat evenly. This helps prevent blood sugar drops, especially in very small breeds.
Feed at least the amount recommended on the packaging for your dog's weight, adjusting as needed to promote growth. Check your dog's weight every few days to see if the feeding amount needs to be adjusted. Ask your veterinarian to make recommendations about food type, amount to feed, and frequency of feeding.
If you wish to feed homemade puppy food, you will need to do so very cautiously. Consult with your veterinarian to get help with selecting a complete and balanced recipe, using the right ingredients, and feeding the proper amount of calories.
Avoid giving your dog hard chews, bones, antlers, hooves, and hard dog toys. Puppy teeth are not designed for chewing and hard chews may cause oral pain or injury. Choose softer chews and toys designed specifically for puppies.
Even though your puppy is still a baby, it's important to start training as soon as she comes home with you. Start simple, teaching your puppy her name and getting her used to some of the house rules (like where she is and is not allowed to go). Let her get used to to the feeling of a collar, then add a leash. You may start by letting her drag the leash around so she understands the feeling and gets used to the leash. Soon, you will be able to start training her to walk on the leash.
You will also need to start working on house training as soon as possible. Begin by taking your puppy to a designated "potty spot" immediately after eating, drinking, or waking up from a nap. It will likely take several weeks for your puppy to start having better control over her bodily functions.
Your puppy's brain is still developing, so she may not be the fastest learner at first. You can begin to introduce some basic commands like sit, stay, and down. Go slow, keep it positive, and be patient. Have fun with your new four-legged family member!