The First Eight Weeks – The Life and Times of Bouncing, Biting, Baby Berners
By Mary-Ann Bowman, Ph.D.
Most of us get our puppies at approximately eight weeks of age. Arriving with their sweet faces and sharp teeth, they rearrange our entire lives. But a puppy existed before she lived with us – she did not simply arrive on the earth at eight weeks, after all! Those first eight weeks are so important and eventful, and yet few of us get to participate in that time period. The purpose of this article is to give you a glimpse into the whelping box, so to speak, and share that tender time in a puppy's life.
Fig. 1: Relative Size
Newborn puppies are blind, deaf, and not well able to regulate body temperature. They arrive weighing approximately 16 to 20 ounces, sometimes more and sometimes less. We recently had a puppy born that weighed about the same amount as a cube of butter! It took a lot of work, but that puppy is now just fine and aptly named, "Faith".
During this first week it is nearly impossible to get the puppies' mother to leave them, and this is a very good thing. The constant nursing stimulates milk production, and her cleaning of the puppies stimulates their urination and defecation processes. And yes, the mom typically eats all that fun stuff – gross, but it makes for a nice, clean whelping box!
Fig. 2: Nose Pigmentation
If all is going well, puppies typically double their birth weight in the first week (see Fig. 1: Relative Size). Think about it – if you weigh 150 pounds, you would have to gain about 21 pounds a day to do what a puppy does in that first week! In addition to plumping up, a puppy gets stronger and more mobile (and vocal) in that first week, which reduces the risk of a puppy being suffocated under his or her mother.
Something else very cute begins in the first week: the arrival of pigment (see Fig. 2: Nose Pigmentation). At first it just looks like the puppy has a dirty nose, but almost by the hour you can see that starting to darken and form lovely freckles on the muzzles and noses.