When Are Puppy Dogs Ready to Be Taken From Their Mother?

Early separation leads to a poorly socialized dog.
i Cute sleeping puppies!! image by jeanctc from Fotolia.com

Photos of newborn pups have a way of making you want a puppy. Scrupulous breeders will know the importance of keeping the puppies with the mother for at least eight weeks, and should be firm about this with you, no matter how keen you are to take your puppy home.

Why Eight Weeks?

A puppy needs his mom. If she isn't around, he can't complete all the key developmental stages that ensure a stable adult dog that socializes well and has good eating habits. Of course, the puppy's breeder plays an important part in the process as well, but Mom knows when her pups need to be weaned and shows them the basics of obedience as well. Also, the puppy's eyes don't open until he is between 2 to 3 weeks old, and he only starts to get mobile as his sight develops. Over the next few weeks he has to pack in a lot of learning that can be broken down into stages, none of which should, ideally, be missed by removing the puppy from the litter.

Getting Mobile

Now that the puppy can see and move around a bit, he begins to recognize his siblings, his mom and the people around him. In the space of one week -- between weeks 3 and 4 -- the puppy goes through rapid sensory development and this is the starting point for him learning how to be a dog. At this stage puppies don't like any sudden change, or things like loud noises. Essentially, anything negative that happens around the puppy at this developmental stage can have an adverse effect on his personality and future development.

Learning To Play

Between 4 and 7 weeks he makes a lot of progress. In week 4 he starts socializing with the rest of the litter. While learning to play with the other pups he also discovers that biting isn't acceptable. His mom starts to teach her pups some basic manners, particularly accepting her as leader of the pack, a role you the owner will need to take on when he comes to live with you. His mom will also start weaning him in week 4 and he gets used to having puppy food. Breeders usually handle the pups on a daily basis to get them used to contact with people, but even then the pups shouldn't be separated from the mother for more than 10 minutes.

Early Separation Effects

According to Charlie LaFave at Owned by Pugs, a puppy that is separated from his mother before 7 weeks is often nervous, prone to excessive barking and more likely to bite. He is also likely to be difficult to train and won't socialize well with other dogs or people. Ideally, the longer the puppy stays with his mother beyond 8 weeks, the more well-adjusted he is likely to be. One final note: the Animal Law Center at Michigan State University's compilation of U.S. state laws on the legal age for puppy sales shows that across the majority of states, sales before 8 weeks are illegal.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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