Milestones of Small Dog
Small dogs grow and develop quickly and often reach maturity before larger breeds.
Puppy development follows a predicable path yet each puppy is unique and each breed
is slightly different at the various stages of development. The old rule of each year of a
dog’s life is equivalent on seven years for human is not completely accurate. For most
small dogs, the average life span is approximately 16 years. Small dogs mature early
and females often have their first heat by the age of 6 or 7 months. By the age of 12 or
13 months, they are often ready to be bred.
Many changes take place in the first year of life. Puppies go from a relatively helpless
neonate who cannot see or hear or eliminate by himself to a fully grown, agile, sexually
mature adult all in less than 12 months. When do all of these changes take place?
First Two Weeks of Life:
At birth, your puppy’s eyes and ears are closed. In fact, only 3 senses are working—
touch, taste, and smell and even then they are not fully developed. They can feel and
respond to pain, discomfort and minor disturbances by whining or crying. Their body
temperature is well below that of a mature dog, and they are incapable of either
urinating or defecating on their own. Their first main mission in life is to find warmth and
food. They have no teeth, but their nails are fully developed and some may even need
trimming in the first week of life.
Their main activity at this time is to search out nourishment from their mom and sleep.
Newborn puppies sleep most of the time, often twitching in their sleep and move only to
reposition their body. Twitching occurs because at this point in their young lives, they
sleep is the REM stage, a stage characterized by high brain activity. Beyond that, they
have little interaction with litter mates or the environment other than to huddle close to
litter mates and mom for warmth. They depend on their mother to provide the food
they need and to help them potty. Mother also has the assigned task to clean up after
all pottying activity, a job that mother dogs accept happily.
their ears open. At first their vision is blurry but soon vision improves and the puppies
can now see the world at least from their vantage point. Even into adulthood dogs do
not have particularly sharp vision. Most puppies will have doubled their birth weight by
about 2 weeks of age.
Once their ears open they may begin to startle when they hear sounds. Even from the
very beginning, their range of hearing is nearly twice that of humans and into the
ultrasonic range. Puppies usually receive their first dose of worming medication at
around 2 weeks of age and are wormed about every 2 weeks thereafter as a
At three weeks of age, puppies become somewhat adventuresome and begin to mover
around more, though they are not very sure footed at this age. This might be
equivalent to the crawling stage in the human infant. But progress occurs rapidly and
by 3 ½ weeks most puppies are getting around well on their own four paws. Their eye
sight and hearing are improving daily. This is also the time that they begin to lap liquids
and mouth solid foods if the consistency is mush-like. They also begin to have limited
interaction with litter mates, but the majority of this interaction revolves around who is
going to serve as pillow and who is going to serve as blanket as they pile up in one
small corner of the whelping box. Puppies take turns sleeping on top of the pile and
cuddling underneath and don’t seem to mind either position.
Three weeks is the ideal time for socialization to begin.
Different textures can be added to their box and puppies can snuggle up against the
breeder who is wearing a variety of different textured clothes.
At four weeks he is also beginning to regulate his own temperature and feel the urge to
pee and poop on his own. He won’t always need Mama to stimulate him to go potty, yet
most good moms continue to clean up after their pups at least for a while. So potty
training is on hold for several more weeks.
By four weeks of age, most puppies have figured out what “real” food is and continually
eat more dog food, nursing less. They are far from being weaned at this age. They are
moving around more and sleeping less. This is the time where socialization to the
outside world begins. Puppies should begin listening to music or TV, hear
environmental sounds such as the dishwasher, hair dryer, can opener, and vacuum
cleaner. It is also a good time to introduce different textures into their world. They can
be given opportunities to walk on different surfaces such as wood, tile, concrete, grass,
carpet and dirt.
By five weeks of age, he is considered a toddler and will become very busy interacting
with litter mates and of course humans. If given toys at this age, he will explore but
rigorous play is still in this young pup’s future. Mama will try to encourage her
youngsters of this age to wean, making herself less available for free drinks at any time
of the day.
Puppies show first signs of “play fighting” with litter mattes, but it is too soon to
determine temperaments and canine pecking orders at this time. Some moms actually
regurgitate food for their young, although is not seen very much in domestic dogs.
At six weeks of age, puppies are ready for their first shots and they should have
already had a couple of wormings by now. Play takes on new dimensions and toys
become fascinating objects. Puppies want to explore and will find ways explore every
inch and cranny of their allotted space. During this period, breeders should continue to
offer stimulation in the form of sounds, smells, and textures and provide interesting
environments for puppies to explore. Mama continues to teach her puppy manners
especially “bite suppression. Puppies learn what appropriate canine behavior is and is
not through the use of play and observing other canine body language. These
behaviors will be repeated for two weeks until they become fully weaned and ready to
go to their forever home. Smaller breeds such as Yorkshire terriers, teacup toy poodles
and Chihuahuas may need more time with mama and the litter mates. A puppy of 8
weeks is curious, friendly, outgoing and fully ready to learn. If socialized correctly he will
be completely ready and eager to please his new human family.
At eight weeks of age, the puppy will be ready to go to their new home. The first few
nights will be tough for the little guy as he has not had too much experience being on
his own. Socialization is very important during this stage of puppy development and will
continue to approximately 12 weeks of age. The more new sights, sounds, and smells
that he can experience the better. Puppies that have lots of socialization experiences
and stimulus during this period will be much better equipped to handle change as they
grow. This is also a great time to begin training. The first training is potty training and
then simple commands. Basic obedience is best started at home and then enrollment in
a formal obedience class once he is fully immunized is always a good idea. If you do
decide to work at home, there will be a couple of things you will want to teach your dog.
Immunizations are vital to the health of young puppies and should take priority over any
attempts at socialization. For example your young puppy is not ready for a dog park
until all of is immunizations have been given. The best rule of thumb that I have been
able to determine is to treat a pup as if it were a newborn human infant. Anything you
would not do to an infant, you should not do to a puppy.
Twelve to Sixteen Weeks:
independence is noticeable. This is a very demanding stage of puppy development and
the well-behaved little guy who stuck right by your side will suddenly want to ignore you
and do his own thing. Behavior is a little erratic during this period and tends to fluctuate
from being a sweet cuddly baby to a stubborn tween. Teething begins in earnest and
the puppy tries to find anything and everything to chew upon, whether it is a favorite
wooden chair or a person’s toes.
This is the time when potty training usually occurs and beginning obedience training
such as how to walk on a leash, not necessarily how to heel. By the end of this period,
the puppy should have received his third set of puppy shots and a Rabies vaccination.
17 to 40 weeks:
Congratulations, your fur son has reached his teen years. Attitude is everything during
this period. He tries to break all the rules if given the opportunity and test the limits. As
long as socialization and training continue, the puppy does not grow into a juvenile
delinquent. He can attend puppy classes and learn basic commands. He will lose his
baby teeth and gain a full set of adult teeth. Dental care is important during this time.
He or she will reach sexual maturity some time during this age and it is a good idea to
have him neutered and her spayed. Most veterinarians recommend sometime by 6
months of age.
41 to 52 Weeks:
The end of this period marks the end of puppy-hood and the beginning of sexual
maturity at least for small breeds. Large and giant breed puppies take longer to
mature. Small breeds will reach their full adult size, height and weight. Large or giant
breeds will still be in the adolescent stage.