You know, between birth and the time eyes open, really, not much seems to happen with puppies. They’re either strong and vigorous or, perhaps, weaker and in need of support, but as long they’re fundamentally healthy, then each day goes by with an incremental uptick in weight, but not much really changing.
Then their eyes open, and they make the very first extremely clumsy play gestures and start to get up on their tottery little legs. Books say eyes open from 10 to 14 days. For me, it’s usually more like 14 to 18 days. Regardless, everything happens faster from then on.
Hopefully they’ll try actual food. Even if they won’t, suddenly they’re much steadier and learning to walk on tile floors. Two days later, they’re wobbling around for ten minutes after nursing. Two days later again and they’re suddenly bouncing, not wobbling, and awake for a whole hour at a time, inconceivable the previous week.
I would say that with any luck at all, the puppies’ second month is truly enjoyable for everyone: lots more daily work, but much lower stress, with a tremendous payoff in cuteness, which increases by leaps and bounds through the four-to-eight week period. I start casual housetraining at five weeks, partly because it’s good for the puppies and good for eventual owners, partly because I don’t particularly like cleaning up messes, so it’s worth it to me to make an extra twenty trips up and down the stairs every day, taking puppies out, giving their cleanliness instinct a chance to develop. Also, usually I’m at least thinking of keeping a puppy myself, so obviously the more quickly the puppy is reliable indoors, the better.
Besides all that, outside time gives puppies a chance to develop both physically and mentally. From week 5 to week 6, my puppies learn to deal with uneven ground. They fall off a three-inch-high step and learn to understand edges. They gather their courage and venture a few feet from me or from one of the babysitter dogs. They also meet people — these pictures below were taken by a visitor (whose phone camera is better than mine!). This is the period where puppies benefit greatly from people coming to the home — it’s too early for them to go anywhere.
Then they come in and crash for hours.
This week, from Week 6 to Week 7, the puppies will get a LOT more physically competent and a LOT more independent. They’ll start zipping off on their own, exploring the far reaches of the yard and wrestling (inevitably) on top of the hostas. They’ll probably transition to hard kibble. They’ll stay awake MUCH longer, though they’ll still crash hard when they’re tired out. They’ll spend a lot more time out in the living room with the other dogs, and they might take their first very easy trip in the car and to town. I take them two at a time, first to my mother’s house, which will be their first different place. We’ll cross the street by driving around and around the circle drive to show them how car rides work. Then they’ll get to visit an office in town where people are always delighted to sit on the floor and play with puppies.
But none of that is quite yet. This week is a big transition week from dependence to independence. There’s no rush. They’ll let me know by their behavior when they’re ready for the next steps. Right now, they’re exploring the yard and learning the world exists and is filled with good experiences.