Getting a new puppy is so exciting! From deciding on the breed you want, choosing a rescue or a breeder, and picking out a new collar and toys. You’ve puppy-proofed, you’re set to go. There’s just one question left. When is the right age to bring your puppy home?
The age your puppy leaves his litter plays a huge role in how he’ll develop socially and mentally. This is why a responsible breeder is careful about the age at which their puppies leave their biological mom.
If you are familiar with why it’s important for puppies to be a certain age before they go to new homes, it will make the wait easier. So stick with us to learn about when to bring a puppy home and what to do if you have to bring home a puppy that’s younger than recommended.
When Should You Bring Your New Puppy Home?
Most breeders agree that the best age for puppies to go to their new homes is between 8 to 10 weeks of age. Some breeders, mainly those who breed small dogs, may push that to 12 weeks, so the puppies are a little more sturdy.
What makes these ages the best for puppies to leave their litters? There are a few things that come into play.
Puppies nurse exclusively for anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks. They are usually weaned and entirely on solid food by 6 weeks, but some may nurse as long as 7 weeks. This transition can be a little stressful for a puppy. At this stage, they are still nursing for comfort as well as for food. Puppies that are weaned too early can suffer from nutritional deficiencies and may even refuse to eat. By 8 weeks, a puppy is fully weaned and used to solid food.
Learning How To Be A Dog
An important part of puppyhood is learning how other dogs act. Puppies start noticing the world around them at about 3 weeks old. This is the age at which they’ll start to play with their brothers and sisters. This is a very important stage. This is when they begin to learn that you don’t bite when you play and how to properly communicate. This is very important as puppies get older. Dogs that are denied this experience may be fearful and have attachment issues or other negative behaviors.
Over 12 weeks of age, there may be negative effects from staying in the nest too long. They may begin to develop bad habits based on the personalities of their littermates.
Socialization With People and Peers
A key period in socialization for dogs is between 6 and 16 weeks of age. This is when they will learn how to act around strangers, how to adapt to a new environment, and how to act around dogs that aren’t their littermates. Around this time, their personality is beginning to blossom. This is the time when they will start to be able to form close attachments with people and be more accepting of new things.
At around 18 weeks, adolescence sets in, and puppies will begin to show some fear of new things. This stage will eventually pass, but socialization prior to this will help a dog emerge from the “teen years” with more confidence.
This is why most breeders send their dogs to their permanent homes no later than 12 weeks. This gives you the best chance to bond with your puppy and get them used to their new home and new people before “teenage” anxiety sets in.
Most responsible breeders put a great deal of work into making sure a puppy has a head start on socialization. They have handled them, groomed them, taken them to the vet, and slowly begun to introduce them to life away from their mother and littermates.
What If A Puppy Leaves The Litter Too Early?
Puppies that are removed from the litter too early can suffer from some serious behavioral consequences. They may be more anxious, they may be more reactive in a new situation, and they may even display aggression. It’s common for them to have problems self-soothing and can be destructive if frustrated. They may have problems interacting with other dogs because they don’t know the proper behaviors to display. These behaviors can all be worked on through positive reinforcement training, but it can make them more difficult dogs to train.
What To Do If You Rescue A Young Puppy
Unfortunately, there may be some situations where a very young puppy is no longer with its litter. If you have stepped up to rescue or foster a very young orphaned puppy, there are ways you can help them grow into a well-adjusted dog.
Treat your puppy with a great deal of patience. There is a huge difference between a 5-week old puppy and an 8-week old puppy. A 5 week old has barely left the newborn stage. A 5 week old is in the early stages of learning how to communicate and interact with the world. Any younger, and the puppy will require bottle feeding and constant care.
You will need to step in and make sure your puppy is properly socialized. Make sure you bring your puppy around other dogs, as long as they are fully vaccinated, for supervised visits. Being around other dogs is vital so they learn proper dog behavior. As they grow, introduce them to people and do little things like take them for car rides. You’ll also want to expose them to as many new experiences and environments as you can.
Bringing home a new puppy doesn’t have to be a scary process. For more in-depth help with caring for a new puppy, take a look at Dog Friendly Living’s Puppy Prep Course. You’ll learn all about the various stages of puppyhood and how to socialize a puppy. You will also learn valuable training tips about setting boundaries, potty training, and how to reward your puppy.
We’re here for you! This course will give you the tools you need to make it through the puppy stage and raise a well-rounded, well-adjusted dog.