Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
Before tackling this week of development, it helps to take a glimpse at the weeks before. At seven weeks and under, puppies are still with their mom and littermates. This is the law in many states. The website Animal Law offers a table of state laws that provides the minimum age that puppies can be sold. Some states allow the sale of puppies at seven weeks, but they are rare exceptions.
Prior to 7 Weeks
By seven weeks, the mother dog has grown irritable from feeling the pup's sharp teeth and nails upon nursing and her reluctance to nurse (she'll get up and move away) paves the way for the weaning process. With no opportunity to nurse, puppies are encouraged by breeders to explore novel foods by offering gruel and mush so as to eventually transition the pups to solid foods. Weaning may start as early as three weeks and is generally completed by the time the puppy is seven to eight weeks of age.
Puppies removed prior to seven weeks are more likely to be anxious and fearful compared to puppies sent to homes when they are seven 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 eight weeks. An example of this is 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 through several physical and behavioral changes. The following is what to expect during a puppy's 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
At seven 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. 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 three to four 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, or play. These instincts may be thwarted in puppy mill dogs, who are forced to potty in small cages.
By seven 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. 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 six and eight 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
Puppies in their seventh week of life are officially in the secondary socialization period which takes place when puppies are in the process of leaving their moms and littermates to enter their first homes.
During the secondary socialization period, puppies are prone to approaching strangers with confidence and novel stimuli with little fear. This time frame is short-lived, hence why puppies need to be socialized during this time.
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Socializing With People
Make sure to expose your seven-week-old puppy or puppies to a variety of people—including those 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 at seven weeks they will start to approach people much slower compared to a few weeks prior. Come 14 weeks, the pups may not approach people at all.
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.
Competition Among Littermates
Social competition tends to start among littermates at this age. Puppies may start "mock attacking" each other, and play fighting is very common. These "attacks" are important for the puppies from a behavioral and physical standpoint. They allow the pups to practice motor skills and develop good social skills.
The pups will wrestle and chew on each other all the time. 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. Next thing you know, the pups are wrestling. You might hear a sharp yelp from time to time, but it's completely natural.
Pups at this age are refining their bite inhibition and learning that teeth can hurt, so they begin to exert controlled pressure. If play gets too out of hand, the mother dog may intervene. This is part of puppy education and a reason why it may not be recommended to separate puppies from their littermates and mom until they are at least seven-and-a-half to eight weeks old.
Bonded to Littermates
By seven weeks, although competitiveness among siblings prevails, bonding remains strong. Thus the distress vocalizations in seven-week-old pups are quite prominent when isolated even briefly from their littermates at this time. 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 "heartbeat" options that help pups adjust without their littermates and moms.
Another great anxiety aid is the use of DAP diffusers. 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.
Research by Pettijohn et al. showed that toys had no effect on relieving a puppy's separation distress, but that social stimuli did, and in particular, the presence of humans appeared to be preferred to dogs for relief at seven to eight weeks of age.
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 tends 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 her 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 given in the crate, toys are provided, and a comfy blanket helps the pups choose this sleeping area.
Open to Training
Who said that seven-week-old puppies are too young for training? The belief that puppies should be at least six 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.
- For further reading on puppy stages: 12-week-old puppy development, 16-week-old, puppy development.
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 Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 09, 2020:
With siblings, it is best to get to gradually teach them to be independent to prevent litter mate syndrome. You can read more about it here; https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Pros-and-Cons-of-Raisi...
Helene on April 26, 2020:
Hi we adopted 2 8 wk old sibling girls and need to know if it’s better to keep in separate cages most of the time ??
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 15, 2019:
Hi Linda, thanks for stopping by. Those are puppies I am fostering for a bit. After losing our other dog, we wanted to keep a bit busy and help out pups in need. They are doing very well in learning polite skills!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 14, 2019:
This is an interesting and informative article. I've learned a number of things that I didn't know. Thanks for increasing my knowledge, Adrienne. Your puppies look very polite in the last photo.