Congratulations! Between 8-12 weeks, your puppy has arrived home and the intense bonding process between puppy and family has already begun.
You've entered a crucial learning period which will provide the foundation for your puppy's mental and physical development. Newly away from his biological mommy and litter siblings, your puppy is experiencing a high level of curiosity in his new environment. Anything within reach will be investigated, and likely chewed as a result of that curiosity. In fact, you'll notice your puppy "mouthing" a lot which is how he grows familiar with the world around him. Basic personality characteristics will begin to emerge but a lot of your puppy's traits will form based on how he is treated and cared for by the family.
Your puppy is starting to take an active interest in human beings and will look to you for direction on how to behave. So, imagine your puppy as a sponge, ready to absorb all of the information you can provide. This is your opportunity to not only teach him new things, but also to set the tone and dynamics of the relationship. It's important to socialize your dog with other people outside of the family as well as other vaccinated dogs. Basically, however you'd like your puppy to interact with the world, start introducing it now. So, if you plan to transport him regularly, start taking him for car rides. If you want to make him comfortable with loud noises, don't be afraid to vacuum the house or run the blender.
As far as physical growth, you may have noticed your puppy is a bit rambunctious and messy - clumsily running around and emptying his bladder and bowels often. At this stage, you should be taking puppy out every two hours - remember, frequent trips outside mean less accidents and clean up for you! As far as appearance goes, puppies are heart melting for a reason - enjoy those big eyes, soft features and sleepiness; and snuggle/hold him often - if your puppy is meant to grow up to be a large dog, you won't have that opportunity for much longer!
In this vulnerable age, keeping your puppy safe is key. The natural immunity passed on from his mother is starting to wear off, and will soon be taken over by rounds of vaccinations. To avoid the dangers of your puppy contracting illness, specifically Parvo, do not allow your puppy around other non-vaccinated dogs. This means: Stay away from dog parks, and even walking down the street if it's a highly foot-trafficked area. About a week after the final vaccinations (around 17 weeks-old), you'll be able to take your pup everywhere - so just be patient!
Just like with a new baby, you may be worried about your puppy's health before the first vet visit. Here are the symptoms to keep an eye out for which may require a phone call to your vet:
- Diarrhea - if it lasts more than a day, is extremely watery or discolored
- Vomiting - if it persists more than a day, or is extreme
- Unwillingness to Eat or Drink - if puppy is not interested in food or water
Remember, use your best instincts - if something seems off, don't hesitate and reach out to a professional.
Finally, there is no better time to start training than now. The earlier your puppy begins basic training, the faster he will learn. There are many different methods and philosophies to training your pup, but a steadfast rule for all is to remain calm, be patient and reward good behavior. Good luck!