When Is a Puppy Ready for Adoption?

He's small now, but make sure you can still handle this German shepherd puppy when he grows up.
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Puppies are adorable, but they also require attention, care and training. When you adopt a puppy, he will look to you for protection and affection as he grows old with you. Picking one who best suits your personality and the time you are able to invest is as key as knowing when a puppy is ready to leave his mother.

Understanding the Early Stages of Canine Development

From birth to two weeks old, puppies are very vulnerable and entirely dependent on their mothers. They keep their eyes closed, and cannot smell or hear very well. They don't even have any teeth. At three weeks, they open their eyes and begin to respond to taste and smell. Most puppies will also try walking for the first time at three weeks old. After their three-week mark, mothers begin to discourage nursing. It is ideal, therefore, to begin exposing puppies to affectionate human interaction to prepare them for adoption.

Picking the Breed That Is Right for You

It is very tempting to adopt a dog because the latest movie has that one cute Dalmatian or that taco commercial has that hilarious Chihuahua. You might have had your heart set on a Great Dane since you were a little kid and now that you are grown up you can finally bring him home. Read about different breeds first, and ask yourself if you are ready to give that puppy what he needs from the moment he comes into your home and on through his old age. If you live in a studio apartment, your Dalmatian won't have much space once he isn't a puppy anymore. If you are older, trying to walk an energetic Great Dane once he's all grown up might be difficult, if not impossible, for you. If you have a roommate who can't stand little dogs, having a territorial Chihuahua might pose a problem. And regardless of breed, puppies are experiencing the world around them for the first time and will have lots of energy. Be ready to make that commitment.

After Weaning

Puppies typically begin getting weaned from their mothers at six weeks, so they are usually ready for adoption when they are seven to eight weeks old. You should not adopt a puppy younger than seven weeks, as he is not ready to be parted from his mother. Some puppies don't get weaned until they hit the 12-week mark. So when you adopt a puppy, he should not be nursing at all anymore and should already be eating solids.


While you might be planning on going through a breeder, consider adopting a dog from a local rescue organization or directly from the city pound. Dogs end up at the pound for many reasons, including owners who have been evicted, owners who surrender their dogs because they start new families or have to move. Therefore, the pound is overwhelmed with not just mixed-breed dogs but dogs of all breeds, sizes and ages. Sometimes mothers and their litters end up at the pound, so they will even have young puppies. Many rescue organizations require a fee to cover the expense of pulling the dog from the pound, placing him with a foster, spaying or neutering the dog, and getting him microchipped. The cost is far less than paying $1,000 or more to breeder, or a pet shop, which tends to sell sickly dogs that come from puppy mills or backyard breeders. Know from whom you are adopting.

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