German Shepherds are a medium to large breed size of dogs. As their name suggests, German shepherds’ origin dates back to Germany in the late 1890s. Introduced as working dogs, German shepherds helped farmers to herd and guard their flock.
Thanks to their intelligence and obedience, you are likely to find them today employed in police and military roles, search and rescue missions, as well as disability assistants. They also make great companions and often guard their family homes.
The German shepherd’s popularity has consistently earned them the top-ranking positions on the popularity scale in the US, UK, and other nations. German shepherds are the second-most registered dogs in the American Kennel Club. Despite their active role as service dogs, German shepherds are very loving, affectionate, and loyal to their owners. However, their over-protective nature shows around strangers and intruders.
Caring For Your Five Weeks Old German Shepherd Puppy
So you want to get yourself a German shepherd pup, but you have no idea where to start. Don’t worry. With a little guidance and lots of enthusiasm, you’re going to excel at canine parenting. Here are some critical steps that you can follow to properly care for your little friend, especially in the first weeks of their life.
The Neonatal Stage
The first two weeks of your puppy’s life make up the neonatal stage. Similar to other dog breeds, German shepherds are born “blind” and “deaf” since their eyes and ears are usually closed. They are generally very vulnerable and dependent on their mothers during this stage. Don’t be surprised to find an umbilical cord still attached to your pup. It will dry up and eventually fall off after a few days.
The first three days are usually very critical for these puppies. During this stage, their body temperatures are low, and their hearts beat very fast. Your pup will spend 90% of the day asleep and 10% nursing. Their bodies are tiny in size weighing between 0.08 to 1.3 lb (0.04-0.6 kg) at birth and get to about 2 lb by the end of the first week. You will also need to stimulate their bodies to excrete waste gently.
Initially, their bodies will typically curve into a comma shape when you pick them up since their nervous system is still under-developed. Due to their fragility, you’ll need to be very careful while handling them. By the time your puppies are five to six days old, they will start stretching their tiny legs. Their bodies will also begin to form a fuller arc when you pick them up as the nervous system keeps developing.
In their second week, German shepherd puppies begin to make crawling movements. At this stage, you should start initiating stimuli to your pup to encourage their system to gain weight. Towards the end of week two, their eyes and ears will begin to open. They will, however, not have a focused vision and will only see shapes.
The Transitional Stage
When your German shepherd is between two to four weeks old, they are undergoing the transitional stage. Their ears and eyes are fully open, and their first incisor teeth will appear. It is at this stage that German shepherds begin to gain some independence from their mothers. Their legs will have gained enough strength to graduate them from crawling to wobble walks.
Socialization amongst the litter also starts at the end of the transition stage. The puppies will start playing, fighting, and wagging their tails. They will even begin to excrete by themselves. By the end of three weeks, they can walk with a pretty good gait. Their curiosity will prevail, and they’ll start to explore their environment.
The Socialization Stage
Although the puppies begin to explore socialization in the transitional stage at about the fourth week, this process extends until they get to 12 weeks of age. The socialization stage is crucial to the sufficient growth of German shepherds. In this stage, you can begin to establish a bond with your puppy and introduce them to other pets. Doing so will ensure that they’re not antisocial or aggressive as they get more mature.
You can also start to introduce your puppies to toys and encourage their playfulness. Because they’ll be undergoing the teething process, they will also begin to bite and gnaw at each other. Don’t be surprised to see their mother growling at them in pain once in a while. As they keep growing, they’ll get bolder with their explorations. Their body temperatures will also get warmer, and their heart rates slower, reaching about 170 BPM (beats per minute).
Just when you’re getting used to your puppy’s friendliness, this trait will start slowly diminishing after the fifth week, and fear instincts will begin to develop. During this period, German shepherds learn how to interact safely with other canines. Development of your dog’s instincts is crucial for healthy growth, and this will go a long way in shaping them up, hence why socialization is necessary.
Beyond Week Five
By the time your puppies get to six weeks, they will start exhibiting adult dog behaviors such as demonstrating dominance among the litter and often mounting each other. They will also begin to sniff each other’s noses and tails as a way of greeting each other. You should also monitor their fear responses when interacting with other canines at this stage to ensure that they aren’t overwhelmed.
By the time they are just about seven weeks old, you can start teaching them essential skills like crate training, leash training, gentle grooming, and of course, obedience.
Food and Nutrition
Most breeders will only allow you to adopt a puppy after they are eight weeks and older. During this period, they usually feed on their mothers’ nutritious milk. The initial milk, referred to as colostrum, contains protein and is rich with antibodies to protect the puppies against diseases by building up their immunity system. Soon after, the special milk changes to regular milk, providing them with other essential nutrients.
If your puppy is not able to breastfeed the mother, or the mother passes on soon after birth, you should consult your veterinary doctor to prescribe a puppy formula specific for your pup. While you may think of feeding your dog on goat or cow’s milk, they, unfortunately, do not have the right nutrients for puppies.
By the time your puppy gets to three to five weeks old, you can start introducing them to new foods and flavors while they’re still nursing. Wet food will work best due to its softness and palatability. You can slowly introduce your furry buddy to dry kibble moistened with some warm water once they start approaching the six-week mark. At two months of age, they should feed on purely dry food. Finally, it is crucial to remember to keep your pup hydrated at all times.
While growth will vary from one litter to the next, most puppies will follow a similar pattern. However, your puppy will require a little help and nudging from you to grow up healthy and strong. You should always remember that as a dog owner, you will need to socialize and train your pup from a young age to prevent any aggressive tendencies.