You’ve been waiting patiently for the big day. Finally, the breeder’s female Pitbull has given birth to her litter of puppies. The following 12 weeks until they will find new homes mark a critical time for these pups. They’ll do a lot of growing and maturing in this short time. Perhaps the question that is foremost on your mind is, when do pitbull puppies open their eyes?
The short answer is that it occurs between 14–18 days, depending on the puppy. The reason behind this lag tells a fascinating story of canine evolution, maternal care, and dogs’ survival strategies. The result is an animal that is well-adapted to the challenges and adventures it will face in its world.
Precocial Versus Altricial Young
You may wonder why a puppy is born with its eyes closed in the first place. It’s worth noting that they also can’t hear. Animals follow either one of two strategies when it comes to having young. A lot depends on their place in the food chain and the means they need to survive. Scientists refer to these two pathways as precocial or altricial.
Precocial young can navigate their world soon after birth. Think of a calf or horse struggling to get on its feet for its first meal. At the extreme end of the spectrum are the Common Wildebeest that can evade predators within a day of birth. It makes sense when an animal must flee to survive. Remember that there is often just one roll of the dice to escape.
Altricial young are born helpless and totally dependent on their mother, such as your Pitbull puppies. It makes sense when you think of canines in the wild. They depend on stealth to capture their prey. Hunting for food isn’t going to be easy with squealing pups in tow. It’s a better strategy to keep them warm and safe in a hidden den. The same scheme works for domesticated dogs.
From Birth to 12 Days Old
A puppy’s main concern during the neonatal period after birth is to get fed and stay comfortable while doing it. The mother is very anxious during this time, having to help her young with elimination. She is the puppies’ world at this point, being unable to see or hear.
The Transition Stage: The Big Reveal
The Transition Stage from 13–21 days is an exciting time. It is the time of the big firsts. The puppies are beginning to move around and get more active. They are becoming aware of their environment and starting to react to the stimuli around them. The pups will respond to sounds and light around them.
The puppies will start to find their voices, too, with yelps and little barks. They’ll try out their legs, with some wobbly steps. The pups will begin to play. But it’s slow going at first as they are also learning what pain from bites from sharp puppy teeth feels like—as will you!
Then, they’ll open their eyes for the first time.
The Pitbull puppies’ eyes will look strange in the beginning. You’ll notice an opaque film over their corneas that protected them when they were shut. It’ll soon dissipate. The color portion of their eyes, the iris, will look bluish, which adds to their odd appearance.
As you may expect, their vision isn’t very keen at this point. It’s still a hazy world around the puppies. They’ll have a hard time tolerating bright lights or strobes. That’s because the puppy’s eyes are still developing. It’s part of that altricial pathway, where they are born with some body structures yet to mature.
It’s helpful to put these facts into context. A precocial animal, such as a deer, has a gestation period of about 200 days. Compare that to the 63 days for a dog. It’s easy to understand why your Pitbull pup will have a hard time seeing at first.
Their eyes will take several weeks to mature. You’ll notice the hazy film go away slowly. They’ll also get their proper eye color. Things will move quickly during this time. By eight weeks, they’ll have their adult set of peepers with the vision to go along with it.
How Dogs See
The start of your puppy’s night vision is also occurring at this time with the development of the tapetum lucidum behind his retinas. This structure gives them an edge for seeing in dim conditions by magnifying the light that a dog detects. It’s also what makes an animal’s eyes appear green or blue in the headlights of an oncoming car.
Your Pitbull puppy will see his world differently than you. He won’t see a full spectrum of colors because your pup has fewer cones than you do. Surprisingly, he isn’t as good at picking out the finer details of distant objects, either. However, dogs can spot movement much better than people, which helps them hunt. That’s why they’ll often see the fleeing rabbit before you do.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not colorblind. Instead, they have a more limited range of what they can differentiate. However, dogs have another eye structure that humans lack, called the nictitating membrane or third eyelid. Its purpose is to protect the eyes. It’s an excellent adaptation for an animal that hunts, sometimes in low-light conditions.
The first time that your Pitbull puppy opens his eyes is a profound milestone in his young life. It literally opens up a new world to explore and discover. As you’ve seen, it’s part of a vital survival strategy for both the mother and puppies. She can hunt to keep them well-fed while the puppies can focus their energy on growth and development in these first critical stages.
The transition from helpless to sighted is an exciting time for you and your pet. That’s why it’s helpful to introduce your puppy slowly to his new surroundings. When you’re both ready for some outdoor adventures, be sure to check out Fi to keep your canine best friend safe. Enjoy the journey!