Once the puppies eyes and ears open around two weeks of age (give or take a little) and up until around three weeks of age, the puppies have entered the transitional stage of life.
Around this time our puppies are moved from their large whelping crate to a small puppy pen. They’re starting to do more than pull themselves along in a shaky crawl, they’re actually using their “toddler” legs to maneuver around their home. This is the perfect time to introduce the litter box.
When I set up the puppy pen, I put in a big bed that takes up about half the pen, and the other half is just about the right size for their first litter box. This is when I use the commercially made litter system called UgoDog. It’s basically a low pan with two grates on top. What makes it perfect for this age puppy is they can crawl right off their bed onto the UgoDog. Their legs are not stable enough yet to crawl into a box with sides so this is the ideal set-up. Puppies naturally will try to move away from their sleeping area to eliminate, so it’s a pretty easy transition to the litter box.
(When I first moved them into the new pen, I set them onto the Ugodog since I just woke them up in case they needed to potty).
Now that their eyes and ears are open we try to start introducing them to a new toy or object each day; varying the shape, texture or sound. Here are a few examples.
This is why I frequent my favorite second-hand store. 😉
Once eyes and ears open and the first puppy shows a “startle” reaction to a loud noise, we do an exercise called “Startle and Recovery”. Puppies at this age are not fearful, they just react, then quickly recover from loud noises. (We never want to scare them with a loud noise). It’s just a quick startle and recovery reaction from the puppy to get them use to loud noises and things later in life.
Here’s a short startle and recovery exercise. (Sorry, it’s sideways..)
We’ll also start using other noisy things around them such as the vacuum cleaner, the blender, hair dryer, hair clippers, etc.
Around week three we are also clipping puppy toenails again (this will be an ongoing weekly thing). The puppies are weighed again (after about two weeks, we go to weekly weigh-ins until they are about five to six weeks, then it’s done as needed for de-wormings) and given their first dose of de-wormer.
This is about the time when we will start taking one puppy out at a time (around the house) and give it some one-on-one time away from its littermates for a few minutes each day. This will help with the separation process later when they go home.