Puppies’ eyes usually open about five days to two weeks after birth.
It’s a good reminder that, despite their reputation as curious, energetic cuddle companions, puppies’ bodies are still developing after they’re born. They’re unable to socialize, devour puppy food or do much else during their first days.
In addition to a lack of vision, some of their other senses and motor functions also need time to fully form. So if you’re wondering, “When do puppies open their eyes?”, and are curious about how it relates to their overall development, read on to find out.
When Do Newborn Puppies Open Their Eyes?
Until five to 14 days of age, puppies’ eyes remain shut—for good reason.
Along with the rest of their central nervous system, a newborn puppy’s optical nerves are still developing, making them very sensitive to light. Their eyes are actually still forming behind those closed lids.
It’s a good thing that a newborn puppy’s eyelids are shut. This helps protect nerves and membranes from dirt and light.
Most puppies open their eyes one at a time over the span of a few days. Make sure you let this process happen naturally. For their health and safety, don’t force it.
What Can a Puppy See After Opening Their Eyes?
If you’re asking, “When do puppies’ eyes open?”, you might also be interested to know what they’re able to see at this point.
When their eyelids open, young canines’ vision is blurry and they’re not able to focus very well. Additionally, they’re sensitive to bright light. Keeping them in a dimly lit area may be helpful until their vision fully develops, which usually happens around three to four weeks of age.*
In terms of appearances, the iris (the muscle that controls the dog’s pupil) will first look hazy and blue-gray. Over the next few weeks, however, the iris will change to its permanent color.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs can see color.
It’s true they see fewer colors than humans, but they can see well in low-light environments. They’re also sensitive to motion and shapes, making them good at detecting the presence of strangers or prey.
Keep this in mind as your puppy starts to socialize and engage with their environment.
When Do Puppies Start Walking and Opening Their Eyes?
In addition to opening their eyes, puppies start to develop other motor functions and senses during the first few weeks of life.
Crawling begins around 7 to 14 days of age, and many dogs are able to walk by day 16. During their third week, they usually exhibit a relatively normal gait.*
As puppies’ eyes open, so too do their ears. Just as their vision needs time to develop, they can’t hear well until they’re three weeks old or so.
Once it develops, though, your puppy should have excellent hearing; dogs can hear approximately four times as well as humans. They’re able to discern a wider range of frequencies as well.
Unlike vision and hearing, puppies’ sense of smell is strong from birth, and up to 100,000 times more sensitive than humans’. Puppies’ keen sense of smell allows them to find their mother and her milk.
What to Do After Puppies Open Their Eyes
If you’re asking, “When do puppies open their eyes?” and want to know how to best care for them at this time, check out our guide to puppy development by week, which describes the growth and milestones of your young dog.
Remember, your veterinarian can always answer questions and advise you as well.
* Hoskins, J. D., & Partington, B. P. (2001). Physical Examination and Diagnostic Imaging Procedures. In J. D. Hoskins (Ed.), Veterinary Pediatrics: Dogs and Cats from Birth to Six Months (Third edition, pp. 3). W. B. Saunders.