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Dogs: Ages and Stages (Part 1) - Prenatal / Neonatal / Transitional

Today we start a series of articles about the life stages of our best friends, dogs. In this first article we will talk about the three first stages of their lives: Prenatal, Neonatal and Transitional.


The prenatal stage is the one that takes place inside the mother's womb.

A dog's gestation lasts an average of 63 days and is characterized by the mother's weight gain and morning sickness between weeks 3 and 4.

Around the 40th day of gestation it is possible to observe the increase in the mammary glands and only from the 45th day of gestation is it possible to carry out the X-ray examination to count the number of puppies. This is because it is only during this period that the bones are visible.

In the last two weeks of gestation, it is possible to observe movements of the puppies inside the mother's belly.

Behavioral changes are visible in the pregnant female. Decreased desire to play, increased appetite and the creation of a nest are normal and expected behaviors.

When the female realizes that it is time to give birth, she usually hides and looks for a calm, silent, and dark place where the pups are born. It is not uncommon for females to give birth during the night and for owners to find the pups already nursing the next day.

Even an inexperienced mother has an instinct to lick her pups, clean, and eat the placentas to clean the nest.

Birthing problems can happen, and it is important for owners to be alert. Veterinary care is fundamentally important in case there is an emergency.


The Neonatal stage goes from birth to the 14th day of life, that is, the first two weeks.

it is a period where the puppies are completely dependent on the mother.

Canines are natural predators, for this reason, the puppy does not have to be born and get up looking for shelter as is happens with calves or foals. With no natural predators, they can be at the mother’s side, with no concerns.

The eyes remain closed for a period of 10 days and in this stage the puppies cannot regulate their own temperature, that is, they need to stay close to the mother to keep themselves warm.

The only “work” that the puppies have during this period is to be fed their mother's milk and gain weight.

In the second week of life, they begin to try to support their own weight with their front legs and to feel vibrations around them even though they cannot hear.


The shortest period of the dog's life is called Transitional, which lasts only one week between weeks 2 and 3. It is the moment where we say that the dog is semi-dependent.

During this period, they open their eyes and begin to lean on their paws, showing their first interest in venturing into the area around the nest.

They can already regulate their own body temperature, so exploring outside the nest becomes more interesting. The first teeth start to appear and around the end of this period (about 4 weeks of life), breastfeeding can start to be uncomfortable for the mother, so during this time, the weaning process will begin.

In the next article we will talk about the next stages. They are Socialization, Juvenile and Teenager stages.

Marco Magiolo is a bestselling author, trainer, and speaker. Connect with Marco on social media and subscribe to future newsletters and updates.

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