When puppies are born, they're organs are very underdeveloped. Their eyes and ears are sealed shut and they can't see or hear anything. Puppies typically open their eyes between 1 and 2 weeks after they are born, but their eyesight is still far from normal.
Puppy Eye Development
When the puppies first open their eyes, they can only see rough shapes and track movement. If you're curious to see how well they can see, try silently moving a toy in front of them and see if their eyes track the toy. Be careful not to make any noise while doing the experiment because they will start being able to hear at this point and may just be tracking what they hear.
Newborn eye color also changes with time. The eyes will appear to be bluish/gray at first, but will slowly change to their true adult color by about 8 weeks. At 8 weeks of age, the puppies eyesight should be nearly as good as an adult's vision!
The Importance of Keeping Your Newborn Puppy's Eyes Shut
Newborn puppy eyes are still very premature. The optic nerve, which connects the eyes to the brain, is still in it's infancy. Even the eyeball itself is still developing. Their eyelids are essential in order to protect their vulnerable eyes from the sunlight and stop any dirt or bacteria from getting in.
Their eyes are so delicate that exposure to very bright light could cause permanent damage. That's why it is so important that their eyelids remain shut until they open their eyes on their own. Luckily, eye problems with puppies are rare, but if you notice any swelling of the eye, or any discharge from the eye, go see your veterinarian right away.
Newborn Puppies Are Completely Reliant On Their Mother
For the first couple weeks, newborn puppies are completely reliant on their mother to survive. They can't see, they can't hear, they can't eliminate on their own, and they don't generate enough body heat to keep themselves warm. So how is it possible for them to survive? How did dogs manage to survive in the wild with such vulnerable offspring?
The Advantage of a Short Pregnancy
When a baby deer (fawn) is born, not only can it see and hear right away, it can get up and walk in around 20 minutes after birth! This remarkable difference between puppy development and fawn development is because as deer evolved, the fawns that could get themselves up and walking sooner were much less likely to be eaten by predators! The trade-off is that a deer's gestation period is much longer at around 200 days versus a dog's shorter gestation period of 60 days.
In the wild, dogs are considered to be the predators. They get their food by hunting prey.
Pregnant dogs are not as good at hunting because hauling around babies in their belly makes them slow! If you are slow, you won't be able to catch the prey because they will outrun you. And unfortunately, if you are too slow, then you don't get eat because you can't catch your meal!
As dogs evolved, the ones that could give birth faster were more successful because they could get back to hunting at full speed faster! Imagine not being able to catch anything for 7 months! I'd be pretty hungry!
Being pregnant for a shorter period of time means there is less disruption to the mother's ability to hunt and feed herself. But this trade-off means that the puppies are born premature and require a lot more care to survive. When the mother needs to go hunt again, she keeps the her puppies safely hidden away in the den. When the mother catches her meal, she stuffs herself so she doesn't need to eat for a couple days. This allows her to give a lot of uninterrupted time to her babies.