How Old Should A Puppy Be Before It Leaves The Litter?

20 10 2008

This question is often asked by both new dog owners and those that have been blessed with canine interaction their whole lives.  Before we jump into the substance, I must stand on a soapbox (or two soapboxes, since I have four paws that I need to support) for a few seconds.  We all know how cute puppies can be, but there are many loving dogs that have grown up a little (or a lot) that are in need of homes.  They can be found at every animal shelter and at the pound (also known as “Puppy Jail”).

If you are looking for a puppy specifically, it is apparent that many breeders are not as well-versed in the rearing of pups since many of puppies are taken away from their mother way far too early in their development, sometimes as early as three weeks old.  This is usually a sign of a breeder who is in business solely to make money, rather than share the gift of a dog’s love and companionship.

Without getting into the biology of it all, I will use a scenario that people may understand a little better. When you are following the cooking instructions for a cake, and the instructions say to cook the cake for one hour, you probably would not take it out of the oven after only 45 minutes. Why not? The cake is not done.

Puppies are not “done” at only four or six weeks either.  In fact, their development has barely begun.  The following few weeks are very important in the life of a puppy as he develops.  Removing him from the litter early can have a negative impact on him for the rest of his life.

When a puppy is between three and seven weeks, he is learning how to be a dog.  Sudden changes, such as new surroundings or the absence of his mother and siblings should be avoided.  Loud noises are not tolerated well at all.

Both sudden change and loud noises contribute negatively on a growing pup.  He has also just begun to recognize the people and other animals in his life.  He is learning from his littermates that biting hurts, and Mom is teaching them to accept her as the leader of the pack.

Mom is also starting to potty train during this time as well.  She nudges each pup from the nest to teach him that soiling the the area in which a dog lives is unacceptable.  Puppies need to learn from their littermates, and from their Mom, until they are at least eight weeks of age.

This article is a part of our Potty Training Page.



5 responses

28 10 2008

Puppies should not be taken from their Mom or littermates until at least 12 weeks of age. A puppy is just maturing and learning pack order during the 8-12 week period. And reputable breeder will not allow a puppy to leave to another home until 12 weeks.

10 11 2008
Edward A. Schimmelpfennig

I have purchased a Pug puppy from a breeder who appeared legitimate, and perhaps she is. However, the dog was only five weeks old when released from the litter, and I am afraid that I have been “clipped” and will not have a quality experience. Is there any group to whom this should be reported, and/or what should I expect if I ask the breeder to take the dog back? I am very upset by all of this and my own ignorance on the subject.

10 11 2008

A lot of people are ignorant on this subject. Unfortunately some of the ignorant are breeders. It is obvious that you care about this so the first question you want to answer is: Do I love this puppy? Next, you should ask yourself if returning the puppy would be good for it.
Be thankful that the puppy is five weeks old, some pups are released at four weeks. I doubt that the breeder would be willing to take the puppy back. Especially if you point out that you think the pup needs a little more time with its mom. Also, remember that even though you didn’t get your puppy from a rescue group, you did, in fact, rescue this puppy. Even though your pup is young, you can still have a good experience. Continue to educate yourself and get your pup to a vet for a checkup ASAP. Remember, Spike is only a few clicks away!

8 02 2009

Hi I am getting an australian cattle dog puppy, I have owned this breed before. The last time I picked my puppy up too young she was only 5 weeks old and this led to problems for me and her. This time I am leaving the puppy with the breeder until he is 12 weeks old, I think this is the right thing to do. My sister says different! Know I am really confused. Can you help?

8 02 2009


What is your sister’s reasoning for not waiting?


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