Puppies. When is too soon?



Today I want to talk about something that is a common problem. Puppies are being taken from their mom too soon. This can lead to a lifetime of issues for the growing pup. A puppy should be no less than 12 weeks old before being adopted & ideally should be older.

The usual reason puppies are sold off so young, sometimes only 4 or 6 weeks old, is  because the breeder wants to reduce costs associated with keeping the puppy for an additional two or three weeks. In short – greed. Worse is when a puppy is taken too young & then put on display in a pet store. This is a recipe for disaster.

Puppies separated early from their litters are significantly more likely to develop behavior problems as adults. For example, anxiety, fearfulness, noise phobia, aggression, & obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Between three & five weeks of age, a puppy will begin to learn from their interaction with the other pups in the litter, and develop the basics of understanding normal play & interaction with other dogs. The mother is integral to this process too, & will serve as a supervisor & guardian to the young dog, putting them in their place when needed & encouraging them to learn.

While with their litter, your pup will learn vital skills including bite inhibition, respect for adult dogs, & how to communicate with other dogs properly. Removing a pup from the litter before they have these basics can make it much more difficult to socialize when it’s older.

Behavioral scientists & researchers for the most part agree that the five standard stages of dog development are as follows:

  1. The Neonatal Stage (birth – 2 weeks) – The puppies eat, sleep, pee & poop. There is no other social interaction at this stage.
  2. The Transitional Stage (2-3 weeks) – The puppies move from just eating & sleeping to become more aware of their surroundings as their eyes & ears open.
  3. The Socialisation Stage (3-13 weeks) – The puppies move from just eating & physical survival to interacting with the members of their society & learning the social rules of their society. *Overlap – The Critical Period (6-13 weeks) This is not a separate stage of development but a component of the Socialization Stage. But this period of development is so crucial to the development of social skills & to the dog’s understanding of key socialization elements that it merits its own mention. It is within this developmental stage that a dog’s potential as a companion animal is either fostered & nurtured or impeded & even destroyed. It is also within this stage that at least 50% (nurture vs. nature) of the dog’s eventual temperament is developed.
  4. Adolescence (13 weeks – 6 months) – The puppies are now autonomous but are still learning about the social complexities of their society. At this stage varying amounts of latitude are given for socially immature dogs displaying inappropriate social behaviors. Behavior is corrected by the members of the society.
  5. Adulthood (begins at approximately 6 to 8 months old) – These are fully autonomous dogs that are required to know the rules of the society & operate within the parameters of these rules. Dogs that challenge the rules or don’t conform to the rules may be physically forced out of the group.

Transition from one stage to the next is gradual. The progressions are smooth & there is considerable overlapping of behaviors from stage to stage.

It’s understandable that people want to get their new pup home as soon as possible & experience the very adorable young puppy stage. But waiting just a couple of extra weeks to take your pup home comes with a wide range of benefits for the dog.

As always, do your research & due diligence. I always recommend adopting from a rescue or shelter. But if you go to a breeder, insist on meeting the parents & be sure your new family member is more than 8 weeks old. And never buy a dog or any animal from a pet shop. Don’t support puppy mills.

CEO Olivia

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