Today is the day! It’s the day you and your family have been waiting for! You finally get to bring your new puppy home! Puppies are oh so cute, and oh so little! They trip and fall over their feet which they still aren’t sure how to control. Don’t forget about the puppy breath that is always accompanied by those razor sharp teeth. Often times we have wanted our new puppy’s “gotcha day” to come sooner than it has, sooner than it really should be. Many people don't know that you can actually find puppies at local humane societies and rescue groups as well as older dogs. Whether you have decided to adopt your puppy from a local rescue or purchase from a breeder, there is often a date set as to when you can take your new puppy home. Unfortunately, that date doesn’t necessarily always reflect the RIGHT time to take your puppy home. While we absolutely love puppies, we should stop and think- How young is too young to take our new puppy home?
I’m sure we all have friends or family members who have accepted new puppies into their home anywhere from 6 weeks to 12 weeks old. We often are conflicted with two very different questions concerning puppies leaving their mother and littermates; When CAN my puppy leave its mother? and, When SHOULD my puppy leave its mother?
Let’s get legality out of the way. In the United States, approximately 25 states have laws in place that prohibit the sale of puppies under a specific age. The majority of these states stipulate the law at 8 weeks. There are many reasons as to why the majority of these states have a stipulation with a few being; weaning, behavior and socialization.
Many people will tell you that a puppy is completely weaned from its mother at 6 weeks of age. While this statement is not necessarily wrong, let’s think about how immature the immune system is for that puppy. Just like humans, the immune system continues to get stronger the older one becomes- so why not wait a few more short weeks for your new puppy to have a mature immune system ideal for getting your puppy out in public to work on socialization. Not only is the immune system and overall health something to consider when getting your puppy, but learned behavior is too!
Puppies learn so much when they are with their littermates and mother as they develop and grow. When puppies play, they nip and jump. As they continue to grow, this play can become very rough. Staying with their littermates and mother longer can help puppies learn how rough is too rough while playing, and can also help with overall dog socialization. Socialization is crucial for puppies- not only dog socialization but also human socialization. It is very important for a puppy to experience everything the world has to offer while they are young and take in experiences like a sponge. We find the crucial age for puppies to be socialized is between the age of 5 to 16 weeks. Because of this, we don’t want a puppy to leave its littermates and mother too young and lack confidence while going through new experiences. But, we also don’t want a puppy to only be with its littermates and mother up to 12 weeks old and not be exposed to the different sights, sounds and smells of the world. Often times breeders and rescues will expose puppies to different floor textures, sounds and even kiddie pools filled with different objects for the puppies to play with. This allows them to become acclimated to the different sounds the objects make banging up against each other.
For a puppy the world can be an overwhelming place, but if socialized properly the many different people, places and things can be great experiences that make for a well balanced adult dog. There are many public stores that are dog friendly that make for the perfect puppy socialization place such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Tractor Supply, Rural King and pet stores. We always like to call ahead to make sure the individual store we are going to is dog friendly - but once there, who can’t resist to pet and play with a puppy!?
While we don’t always want to wait this long, the ideal age for a puppy to leave its littermates and mother would be 8 to 10 weeks. By this time, the puppy has a stronger immune system, has developed some puppy manners to better read dog body language when socializing with K9 companions and should have the confidence to go through new situations crucial for socialization. It is worth the wait! When bringing a new puppy home, consider the long term benefits of leaving your puppy with its littermates and mother until it’s 8-10 weeks old.