Puppy Stages: 7-Week-Old Puppy Behavior and Development
Prior to Seven Weeks
Before tackling this week of development, it helps to take a glimpse back into what happened just prior. By 7 weeks, mother dog has grown irritable from feeling the pup's sharp teeth and nails upon nursing and her reluctance to nurse (she'llget up and move away) has paved the path to the weaning process.
With a reduced opportunity to nurse, breeders attract puppies to explore novel foods by offering gruel and mush so to eventually transition the pups to solid foods. Weaning may start as early as 3 weeks and is generally completed by the time the puppy is seven to eight weeks of age.
At seven weeks or under, in general puppies are still with their moms and litter mates. This is the law in many states. The website Animal Law, offers a table of state laws providing the minimum age puppies can be sold. Some states though allow sale of puppies of seven weeks, but they are exceptions to the rule.
Puppies removed prior to seven weeks are more likely to be anxious and fearful compared to puppies sent to homes when they are seven weeks and a half and eight weeks of age. They also may lack proper bite inhibition and inappropriate social skills.
Some dog breeds may be better off staying with their mother and littermates even longer than 8 weeks. An example of this are Maltese puppies who are better off sent to their new homes at 12 weeks, this is because Maltese puppy development is much slower compared to other breeds.
At seven weeks, puppies go trough several physical and behavioral changes. Following is what to expect during a seven-week-old's puppy development.
Seven weeks of age is thought by many breeders to be the ideal time for a puppy to go to its new home: its canine socialization skills should have developed sufficiently, and its receptive to all of the new experiences associated with move in a new environment.— Dr. Christine Zink
7 Week Old Puppy Physical Development
At 7 weeks, puppies are at a high growth stage and are using everything you feed them to grow.
The puppy's bladder at this age is pea-sized, and when active and awake, pups may drink a lot and urinate as often as every 20 minutes to an hour. They will pee after sleeping, during play, basically most of the time they are awake. At night, they may be capable of holding it for up 3 to 4 hours and you may therefore have to get up at least twice a night for a quick potty break.
By this age, pups have the instinct to pick areas to go potty that are away from the locations where they sleep/eat/drink/play. These instincts may be thwarted in puppy mill dogs who are forced to potty in small cages.
By 7 weeks, puppies have developed all their milk teeth. Don't underestimate their innocent name: baby teeth are very sharp and puppies will use them to nip anything that moves, and that includes shoes, pants, arms, hands, and fingers. Fortunately, puppies grow out of this stage as they mature, but it's important to implement some puppy bite inhibition games and teach puppies to gauge the force of their jaws by teaching puppies to take treats gently.
Between the ages of 6 and 8 weeks, many puppies are given their first vaccinations. The vaccine takes about a week to take effect but their immunity is still not enough to be safe for exposure. Puppies at this age therefore should be kept off of any public ground where other puppies and dogs frolic until at least a week following the puppy's last vaccine booster. Consult with your vet for any questions about how you can prevent life threatening infectious diseases in your puppy based on your location.
Embracing the Secondary Socialization Period
Seven-week old puppies are officially in the secondary socialization period which takes place when puppies are in the process of leaving their moms and litter mates to enter their first homes.
During the secondary socialization period, puppies are prone to approaching strangers with confidence and approach novel stimuli with little fear. This time frame is short lived, hence why puppies need to be socialized during this time.
Make sure to expose your 7-week old puppy/puppies to a variety of people and people using accessories such as hats, canes and umbrellas. Research has shown that a puppy who has had the opportunity to meet a large variety of people, places, and things, will be more likely to accept novelties, throughout his life.
The time is ticking with these fellows, as already at seven weeks, they approach people much slower compared to a few weeks prior. Come 14 weeks, and the pups may not approach people at all, further points out Linda White.
While socialization is paramount, care must be taken in avoiding putting the pup in situations that expose him to potentially life threatening infectious diseases. Puppy classes and puppy parties may be safer options. Read how to organize a puppy party.
Did You Know?
Most of a dog's brain growth (80 percent) is formed between the ages of 4 weeks and 4 months. The remaining 20 percent occurs from 4 months to a year.
Competition Among Litter Mates
Social competition tends to start among litter mates at this age. Puppies may start "mock attacks" on each other and play fighting is very common. These "attacks" are important for the puppies from a behavioral and physical standpoint. They allow pup to practice motor skills and develop good social skills.
The pups will wrestle and chew on each other all the time at this age. You may notice one puppy grabbing a toy and another trying to steal it or a puppy greeting the owner and the other pushing the puppy out of the way, and next you know, the pups are wrestling. You might hear a sharp yelp from time to time, but it's all natural.
Pups at this age are refining their bite inhibition and are learning that teeth can hurt so they exert controlled pressure. If play gets too out of hand, mother dog may intervene. This is part of puppy education and a reason why it may not be recommended to separate puppies from their litter mates and mom until they are at least 7 and a half/ 8 weeks old.
Bonded to Litter Mates
By 7 weeks, although competitiveness among siblings prevails, bonding remains strong. Hence, the distress vocalizations in 7-week old pups are quite prominent when isolated even briefly from their litter mates at this time (Scott and Fuller 1965). However, this attachment has been found to significantly decline by week 10.
Puppies who are adopted out at seven weeks and are crated, may benefit from the use of a "Snuggle Puppy" at night. A Snuggle Puppy is a dog behavior aid that consists of a stuffed animal that comes with an area to insert a heat pack and some models also have "heart beat" options that help pups adjust without their litter mates and moms.
Another great anxiety aid, is the use of DAP difusers. The diffuser plug-ins emit synthetic versions of pheromones that mother dogs release when the pups are nursing and are known to have a calming effect. DAP stands for dog appeasing pheromone. A popular DAP plugin is Comfort Zone Adaptil.
I have used Snuggle Puppies with success in helping new puppies cope with the stress of being away from their mothers and litter mates. Most pups get much better after a couple of days and their distressed cries diminish quite dramatically.
Objection to Restraint
At six to seven weeks, puppies may object strongly to being crated or other forms of restraint. This natural response to restraint peaks at this age, causing loud, frequent and prolonged vocalizations. In general, such vocalization tend to reduce significantly once the puppy matures and reaches 12 weeks.
"This is more a process of the puppy maturing than the puppy becoming "accustomed" to his crate, explains dog trainer Linda White in the book "First Steps with Puppies and Kittens: A Practice-team Approach to Behavior."
Breeders usually start getting puppies used to crates from a young age so to aid them once they transition to their new homes, should the new dog owners elect to use crate training to their advantage. Lots of positive associations need to be made with the crate so that the puppy feels safe and comfortable in it. Contrary to popular belief, dogs aren't den animals in the real sense of the term. Tasty treats are fed in the crate, toys are provided and a comfy blanket helps the pups choose this sleeping area.
Open to Training
Who ever said that seven week old puppies are too young for training? The belief that puppies should be at least 6 months old to start training is now old school. It stems from the olden days when puppies were trained using harsh tools and aversion-based corrections .
Nowadays, with more and more dog owners and trainers embracing modern, positive reinforcement based techniques, puppies can start training from a much younger age. You can start training your puppy from day one, as soon as he gets home.
At seven weeks, puppies may not have long attention spans, but they are capable of learning basics such as sit, down and come. At this age, puppies can also learn some basics such as how to walk politely on the leash.
Don't forget to get your puppy used to being handled and work on exercises to prevent resource guarding in puppies.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Adrienne Janet Farricelli