Adding a puppy to your family is a really exciting time, and waiting those weeks until you can bring your furry little friend home may seem like you’re waiting forever.
Once you have picked out your family’s puppy, the breeder will likely tell you that you can bring the puppy home when he or she is about 8 or 10 weeks old but you might be wondering why it can’t be now?
The appropriate age to bring a puppy home at isn’t random at all. There have been many years and litters worth of puppies to show that your little one needs to develop certain skill sets to help them become adjusted. Staying with their litter can help with that, and that’s why there are suggestions you don’t bring your puppy home until a certain age.
Does it really make that big of a difference – 6 to 8 weeks? Well, yes it does and here’s what can happen in those few weeks to help your dog become the very best companion possible.
Can I bring my puppy home at 6 weeks if they let me?
Unfortunately, the short answer is you shouldn’t – it’s not ok, and not in the best interests of your dog. Reputable breeders will understand that puppies should not be adopted into a new family at this age and will give a suitable time frame you can expect to bring home your new little friend.
What is so important about those few extra weeks?
By the time a puppy is six weeks old, he or she is going to be fully weaned from the mother so it’s not as though they can’t eat or drink on their own. During this time, they are likely eating kibble designed for puppies and drinking water from a water dish. They may even be starting to understand pee-pad or outdoor potty training.
All of this is the reason behind why you shouldn’t adopt a puppy at 6 weeks: it is a time for them to learn and discover the world. Even though the puppy doesn’t need its mother, the mother and litter mates will help teach your puppy socially acceptable behaviours and play.
The last two weeks a puppy spends with its mother and litter mates are extremely important, and they will learn so much. Here’s a closer look at what your puppy will be learning during this time.
Puppies learning bite inhibition is a long process, even for the best dogs, but it starts when they are very young. As anyone who has had a puppy knows puppies have razor sharp teeth when they are 8 weeks old, and biting doesn’t only hurt you – it will hurt their littermates, too.
Now you might be thinking ok, great but so what? Well, during those two weeks when your puppy plays – which they do, a lot – they will probably try to bit their mom or littermates but they will teach them not to hurt when they bite.
For example, an 8-week-old puppy could crush chicken bones in one bite but a mom will teach the puppy to not cause actual harm when playing.
You will still have to work on this with your puppy, but taking him or her home at 6 weeks means you have to do a lot more of this teaching.
Tolerance of Touch
When you went to visit your puppy, you probably notice the breeder was jostling the litter around a lot: lots of picking up, moving the puppies around and touching them. Staying with their litter increases a puppies tolerance to touch and helps them get used to being handled by humans.
Puppies that are removed too soon from their litter environment may have issues with being touched in certain areas or be sensitive to being touched in general. This kind of adversity to touch can lead to some kinds of aggression as your dog grows up.
As many dog owners know, puppies like to play a lot: they jump and wrestle and love to tumble around with their littermates. Staying with a litter of puppies that are the same age as your dog gives them the chance to play, but additionally the puppies and their mom will correct any play that is out of line.
These few weeks of just play and learning what’s not acceptable can really set the stage for your puppy to adapt to playing with dogs and socializing with other dogs as they grow.
Health Check ups
During the time your puppy spends with its litter, responsible breeders will also bring the puppies to the vet at the appropriate age for a check up and often times this will be when the puppy gets his or her first set of puppy shots.
Getting a check up at the vet gives the breeder a chance to make sure the puppy is healthy, and if any health concerns are found they can disclose them to you and discuss.
Dealing with a breeder who has taken the puppies to a vet – and has the paperwork – is a great sign that you’re working with an experienced breeder who isn’t just looking to make money.
But what if the breeder says it’s ok?
Reputable breeders will know all of these reasons for keeping a puppy with their litter, and they will not offer to let you pick up a dog early. If the breeder says you can bring the dog home at six weeks, the dog is big for his or her age or is developing quickly be very suspicious.
Around the age of six weeks is when puppies start to take more time to take care of, become more expensive to feed and are generally messier to clean up after.
Some breeders may say the mother unexpectedly died after giving birth so it’s time for the puppies to go to their homes, but this isn’t a good reason. Even if the mother did unfortunately pass way, there is no reason not to keep the litter together as they can definitely thrive even without a mother at six weeks.
It can be really tempting to see adorable six, or even five, week old puppies and want to bring one home. These breeders are usually only in it for the money and do not have the dog’s best interests in mind, so it’s really important to do your research when selecting a breeder to get your puppy from.
So, what can you do in those two weeks?
Well there is a lot you can do to make sure your home is ready for puppy, especially if this is your first dog.
Like most families, you will want to bring your dog to some kind of obedience school or training classes. Training classes allow you to teach your dog what you want him or her to do, but it also helps you to bond with your dog so you have a positive relationship early on.
Check out the yard
Do you have a fenced in yard? Perfect – but you might want to make sure that there aren’t any holes or gaps in the fence that your puppy might be able to wiggle under.
This is also a great time to make sure your yard is safe for a puppy and anything laying around that your puppy might get into is put away.
This is probably the most fun part of getting a dog: all the toys, supplies and treats you can buy for him or her. You can take this time to pick out a collar, leash, bed, blankets and toys.
You can also do some research into what kind of food you will want to feed your new dog, if you don’t already know. Most lines of food have puppy options as well as adult dog formulas so you can keep the same brand for the life of your dog. If there’s a product you like, make sure it meets your dog’s nutritional needs.
Can you visit your new puppy?
Absolutely! Many breeders will encourage a couple visits with your family so that your puppy gets used to your smell and you get to spend some time with your new friend. These visits can also be important for your dog to be introduced to your family slowly but still in an environment they feel safe so that when they go to your home you aren’t completely foreign to them.
This is a really exciting time for you, and a puppy can bring so much joy and laughter to your home. For the health of your puppy – long term – it’s important that you don’t bring your puppy home before about 8 weeks of age.
If a breeder offers you the option to bring home the puppy early, or the breeder is advertising puppies ready to find a home younger than that age, it’s best to avoid them.
Those extra couple weeks are vital to your puppy’s socialization and development, plus they get extra play time with their litter and mom – which they may never see again. Give it a couple weeks: it will fly by so quickly and you will be happy you waited.