A Guide To Your Lab Puppy's Schedule (First 8 Weeks)

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Labradors mature somewhat slowly but still become quite different each week. This is a guide to your lab puppy's schedule (first 8 weeks).

Puppies are much less work if the mother is raising them and much more work if she is not. Sometimes, a mother dog will reject a litter, and you will have to take care of them. Other times, there may be too many pups, and the smallest may be unable to feed.

During the first week, a Labrador Retriever is blind, deaf, and unable to walk. It learns to walk/see/hear between one and two weeks and begins learning and socializing after three or four weeks. At six weeks, a lab will be eating solid food, exploring, and spending less time with its mother.

Dogs will also experience teething during the first eight weeks, usually starting at about three weeks. During the sixth and seventh weeks, it is very important for a dog to play as much as possible. Introduce your dogs to solid food gradually - start with a mix of moistened dog food and milk.

Usually, a breeder takes care of dogs for the first eight weeks. However, many people take care of puppies themselves. I have taken care of two litters of Labrador Retrievers, one with their mother and one by myself.

Labrador Retriever Puppies Compared to Other Puppies

Lab puppies are very high energy. This means they might bite and chew furniture if you don't prevent this.

You don't have to give your puppy access to your whole house. Give it a limited space until it knows how to behave.

Lab puppies are cuter than at least most other baby dogs. Even as puppies, labs are their owner's loving companions. Labradors also mature slower than most other breeds.

Lab Puppies Under One Week Old

Newborn puppies are at least as helpless as newborn human infants. They can't even see or hear when they are first born.

Some animals become partly capable very shortly after they are born. For example, a large animal like a giraffe or a hippo can get up and walk only a few minutes or hours after it is born. Dogs, humans, and some other animals remain helpless for longer.

Newly Born Puppies Can't Regulate Their Body Temperature

A human, adult dog, or older puppy can keep its body temperature stable because the body has ways of heating and cooling itself. If a person's body temperature goes just a few degrees higher than normal, they have a fever. A person or animal won't live for long if their body temperature goes far outside of the normal range.

Normally, a lab puppy's mother will help keep the baby dog warm enough. The mother dog's body heat will keep the puppies at the right temperature until this is no longer necessary. Other puppies also share warmth with each other.

Usually, the mother can keep the dogs warm enough, but this is not always possible. Don't let the temperature in the air become too extreme. Never keep your puppies outside in hot and especially not cold weather.

How to Keep Lab Puppies Warm Yourself

During the first four days, you need to keep the temperature in the shelter at 85-90 degrees. You can use a heat lamp to achieve this. After the first four days, you can lower the temperature to 80 degrees.

Even if the mother is present, you should still keep the shelter at that temperature with a heat lamp. It is particularly important if the mother is not with the puppies and still important if the mother is with them.

Newborn Puppies Spend All Their Time Eating and Sleeping

A new puppy doesn't have the energy or ability to do much other than eat and sleep. The dog will snuggle up to its mother to keep worm, nurse, rest, and not much else.

The puppy will only want to gain weight and not much more than that. It takes longer than a week for a puppy to become interested in learning anything or the world around it.

A new puppy may spend as much as 90% of its time sleeping. Young puppies are only supposed to feed and grow. They are not interested in doing anything else and don't need to learn anything yet.

One to Two Week Old Puppies

During the second week of a puppy's life, it will learn to see and hear. Its eyes and ears will open, only partly at first, and it will learn to observe the world around it.

By a week and a half old, a dog will have some fuzzy but useable vision that will continue to improve. A dog's hearing will also improve from only sensing vibrations to clearly making out sounds.

A dog won't be able to hear clearly at the end of the second week - that takes two and a half or three weeks. Dogs may also learn to stand and walk before the second week. They are not very energetic until later in your lab puppy schedule.

Pay Attention to How Fast Your Dogs Are Developing

Your dogs should be gaining weight and developing fast. If your dog is not developing properly (underweight, not seeing/hearing, not walking) then you need to talk to your vet.

Giving the dog supplements or diagnosing and treating the dog's health problems may help the dog develop normally. The earlier you treat your dog's developmental problems, the more likely your dog is to turn out normal and healthy.

Keep the Crate Clean

During the second week or any other week of your puppy's early life, you need to keep the crate clean. Lay sheets of newspaper down to clean up messes easily.

Give your dogs towels to lie down on and keep them clean. Your puppies might also like to lie down under blankets. However, this is not completely safe as they are small enough to get stuck under them.

Usually, the mother will keep all of the puppies clean. However, not every mother does a great job of taking care of each of her puppies. If you notice that the puppies aren't clean, use a wet washcloth to clean them.

Two to Three Weeks

During the third week of a dog's life, it should be able to walk around and play. A smaller puppy's front legs are too weak to support its weight, but by the second week, it should be able to walk.

They will mostly be able to regulate their own body temperature at this point. They won't be as attached to their mothers, although the mother dog still has a role in their life until much later. They are still small and frail, but they are much more capable than before.

Sometimes, teething starts between two and three weeks. Teething is not usually more than a little painful for your dogs. Talk to your vet if your dog seems to frequently be in pain.

Three to Five Weeks

A three-week-old puppy will usually have fully developed senses, including hearing. Now it is time for the dog to start learning and not merely growing. You can pick the dog up for longer at this age, and introduce it to other dogs.

Dogs need as many new experiences as possible at this age. It should be around different people, other dogs, and unfamiliar experiences. This will teach your dog to not fear the unfamiliar.

Five to Eight Weeks

At this age, your dog will play a lot to build up its coordination and muscles. They must have the opportunity to play with other dogs. They can play either with their littermates or with dogs they aren't related to.

Dogs this age mostly eat solid food but still drink their mother's milk. Their mother still interacts with them and still matters to them. You can continue to give a dog this age some milk formula even though they get most of their nutrition from solid food.

Most dogs, even at this age, are still with their breeders. However, they are increasingly active and need new experiences. Don't treat these dogs like new puppies.

After Eight Weeks

After eight weeks, you should start teaching your dog everything you want it to know. Teach it to follow you and not wander away from you, not bark at strangers, obey you, and respect your leadership.

Your dog expects you to lead it. At best, it will see you as a leader that is nice but still has plenty of authority.

Make sure you are consistent with your rules. If you arbitrarily allow one thing one day but don't allow it another day, your dog won't understand or respect your rules.

Don't Teach Your Dog to Obey Commands too Early

Teaching your dog to sit, like down, and stand up should be left for later. Don't try to teach a four-week-old puppy these commands. It is better to do this after about three months.

About THE AUTHOR

Mark Brunson

Mark Brunson

Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.

Read more about Mark Brunson