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 stage,  and the
puppies should become accustomed to being handled by
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

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 adulthood.
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