Giving Puppies A Good Start
Birth to about 8 weeks of age is a powerful, influential period in puppy
development.  During this time, puppies are strongly impacted by their dam and
learning how to react to the world around them.  Experiences during this early
stage of life can have an everlasting impression of dogs' personalities and
adaptability to everything they encounter throughout their lives.  Thlis stage is
the perfect time to take steps to help prepare pups to grow into well-adapted
confident dogs.

In the first two weeks, or
The Neonatal Stage, the dam is the puppies' primary
influence.  While able to smell, taste, and feel tactilely, their other senses are not
yet fully developed and movement is limited.  Even though somewhat limited in
the sensory department, puppies can still be influenced during this time.

The Transitional Stage of two to four weeks, puppies' eyes open, hearing
develops, and teeth begin to erupt.  They are now able to stand, walk and bark,
though the mother is still the primary influence.  This is a
critical imprinting
 and the puppies should become accustomed to being handled by people.
As their hearing develops, early familiarization with common sounds can also
begin.  Recordings of babies, thunder, gunshots and many other sounds are
available.  Playing these recordings as low background noise while the pups are
involved in another activity, such as eating, helps them get used to sounds and
thus less likely to become stressed later on.

The Primary Socialization Period lasts from around three to six weeks, and by
this time puppies' senses are developed.  Pups at this age are more attuned to
their surroundings, interact more with their littermates and are ready to learn
appropriate dog behavior.  This includes learning vocalization and what body
postures mean and how they affect their dam and littermates.  The mother
guides the pups in basic dog manners, leadership and submitting to her.  

At four weeks, as the pups are used to being handled, imprinting can begin.  The
pups can now be exposed to the myriad of things they will likely encounter later
in life.  Basic crate training can begin.  Puppies can be lured into a crate with
littermates and rewarded when they go inside.  Keep the pups together in the
crate at first and only leave the door closed for short periods of time.  Gradually
over the next few weeks, puppies can go inside the crate alone for short periods.
Feeding puppies out of different types and shaped bowls will accustom them to
eating from different things.   Using interactive toys at feeding time helps
promote active, problem-solving  minds.  Puppies can be taught to walk on
different surfaces to help prevent skittishness on unfamiliar  footing.  New toys
should be introduced, and pups should be encouraged to play.  Puppies can
become accustomed to wearing a collar and leash to help get used to the feel.  
Each new experience should be approached in a calm, positive way with praises
and rewards to encourage puppies to advance to new experiences with
confidence.  Never force a puppy into something if he appear uncomfortable.  

The second socialization period begins around six weeks and continues to 12
weeks.  This is the beginning of a rapid learning period that has a lasting
impact.  Continued interactions with littermates help puppies to hone their dog
social skills.  Meanwhile, new sights, sounds, and sensations will carry on into
Introductions to new animals, children and adults should be taken slowly in a
comfortable neutral environment with those who will interact in a calm,
appropriate manner.  Pups removed from the litter earlier than 8 weeks of age
will miss out of this essential socialization while in the safety of the litter.  This
could lead to problems interacting with the other dogs and apprehension to new
situations.  Orphan puppies in which the mother has died, as well as singletons
without littermates, also may have trouble adapting.  Puppies born into either
situation may require more work to help them gain socialization skills.
Encouraging pups to eliminate outdoors and rewarding them when they do help
to imprint the basis of housetraining.  A clicker used for training basics makes
quick work for imprinting new lessons.  Recall is perhaps the most important
lesson to teach puppies.  A clicker, treats and enthusiasm make it easy to teach
new puppies to come back when called.  
Not jumping up on people is another lesson taught at a young age.  Ignoring
puppies when they jump up helps to teach them they will receive attention when
all feet are on the ground.  Puppies can also be taught to stand calmly for
grooming and medical exams by rewarding calm behavior.
A puppy's first weeks of life play a major role in the development of the mature
dog.  Pups removed too early from the litter and not given appropriate
opportunities to learn from their dam and littermates commonly develop
behavior problems.  Giving puppies the best possible start  provides a solid,
confident base for taking on new experiences.

from "Tips from Triple Crown" taken from Purina Today's Breeder