A step-by-step guide on the development stages of a Golden Retriever puppy from birth till adulthood. Understand what to expect each week.
Table of Contents
Week 1-2: Newborn Stage
During the first two weeks, golden retriever puppies are completely dependent on their mother. These first moments are crucial, setting the groundwork for the puppies’ future health and development. They are born blind, deaf, and toothless. Their world is defined by touch and scent, which they use to navigate towards their mother for warmth and nourishment.
The puppies will spend most of their time sleeping, interspersed with periods of feeding. This is because the mother’s milk provides them with the necessary nutrients for their rapid growth and also helps to strengthen their immature immune systems. During this neonatal stage, their mother will stimulate them to urinate and defecate by licking them, as they cannot do so independently yet.
Physically, the puppies’ weights will double in these first couple of weeks. Their fur, which is very short at birth, will start to grow, and by the end of the second week, their eyes will start to open. However, their vision will be blurred, and they will not be able to see clearly until several weeks later.
Given their vulnerability at this stage, it’s essential to provide them with a safe, warm environment and to monitor their health closely. Ensure they are gaining weight appropriately and show no signs of distress or illness. If you are fostering a litter without a mother, seek the advice of a veterinarian immediately, as newborn puppies require specialized care.
It’s also noteworthy that human interaction should be minimal during this period. However, gentle handling can be introduced towards the end of the second week, as this can contribute positively to their early socialization experiences.
Read more about Golden Retrievers here – Retrievers: Your Ultimate Guide to Understanding this Beloved Breed
Week 3-4: Transitional Stage
By weeks 3 and 4, your golden retriever puppy’s ears open, and they begin to hear and respond to sounds. They start to stand and walk, albeit wobbly, and teeth start to appear. Socialization with their littermates begins at this stage.
Week 5-7: Socialization Stage
This is the period where your golden retriever puppy development week by week becomes more exciting. The puppies become more active and start exploring their environment. It’s also when they learn essential social skills from their mother and littermates. Training and socializing them with humans and other animals can begin during this period. See this Blue Cross guide for more on puppy socialization.
Week 8-12: Ranking Period
Between weeks 8 and 12, golden retriever puppies experience substantial changes in their environment and behavior. This period marks the time when they are ready to transition from their birth home to their new homes. This transition is accompanied by a broadening of their social experiences, understanding of social hierarchy, and more targeted learning.
During this period, puppies begin to understand the social order within their group, whether it be their littermates or humans. Their interactions become more complex, and they may begin to exhibit behavior such as play-biting or fighting for toys, which are normal behaviors as they learn about ranking and boundaries. It’s important to remember that while these behaviors are a natural part of their development, they should still be guided to ensure they learn appropriate behavior.
As the puppies transition into their new homes, this is an excellent time to begin house training. You can start by establishing a routine, which includes regular meal times and frequent opportunities for them to relieve themselves in a suitable location. Crate training can also be initiated at this stage, but remember to do so gradually and with positive reinforcement to avoid causing any fear or stress.
Obedience training should also be introduced during this period. Simple commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘come’ can be taught. Consistent, short training sessions work best as puppies have a short attention span. Positive reinforcement, such as praise or treats, can make the learning process more enjoyable and effective for your golden retriever puppy.
Socialization continues to be an essential aspect of this stage. It’s the prime time to expose your puppy to a variety of experiences, environments, and people to ensure they grow up to be confident and well-rounded dogs. Care should be taken to ensure all experiences are positive, and any signs of fear or discomfort should be addressed promptly and appropriately.
The puppies’ physical development continues at this stage too. Their teeth will have erupted, and they will be more active and coordinated, keen to explore their environment. They should be fed a balanced puppy diet to support their rapid growth.
Week 13 Onwards: Adolescence to Adulthood
From week 13 onwards, your golden retriever will enter a significant phase in their life – adolescence. This period, much like human adolescence, is marked by physical, behavioral, and psychological changes as they transition from puppyhood to adulthood. They continue to grow, and around the age of six months, they will experience a growth spurt, with males generally becoming larger than females.
During this time, puppies lose their baby teeth, which are replaced by permanent adult teeth. This teething process can cause discomfort, so it’s essential to provide them with safe chew toys. Moreover, you might find some baby teeth around the house, and this is completely normal.
The onset of adolescence also marks the beginning of sexual maturity. It’s around this time that female golden retrievers experience their first heat, whereas males begin to show interest in females. This development may lead to behavioral changes and increased independence. Therefore, it’s advisable to consider neutering or spaying your puppy around this stage, after consulting with your vet.
This period can be a challenge in terms of behavior. Your golden retriever might test boundaries, exhibit stubbornness, or have selective hearing. Consistency in training and patience is crucial during this phase. Reinforce previously learned commands and continue introducing new ones. Training should be an ongoing process to ensure that your puppy matures into a well-behaved adult dog.
Socialization remains equally important. Continued exposure to different environments, animals, and people will help in their behavioral development and keep them from becoming overly fearful or aggressive. Remember to keep these experiences positive and avoid situations that could lead to fear or trauma.
As your golden retriever puppy grows, their dietary needs will also change. Transition them gradually to adult dog food around one year of age, based on your vet’s recommendation.
Keep in mind that although golden retrievers grow quickly in the first year, they reach full maturity around two years old. Their training, socialization, and experiences during this time will shape their behavior as adult dogs.
Tracking your golden retriever puppy development week by week will equip you with the knowledge to provide the best care possible. Remember that every puppy is unique, and these stages serve as general guidelines.