The first weeks of a puppy's life are an important period of physical and emotional development. A puppy's mother provides vital nutrition, warmth, personal care and attention. Weaning a puppy from its mother is a gradual process that should start at about 4 weeks of age and finish between 7 to 8 weeks of age. Therefore, it's not recommended to take a dog away from its mother before 6 weeks of age.
Newborn puppies are entirely dependent on their mother during the first few weeks of life. The mother's milk provides adequate sustenance until about 4 weeks of age, when the mother and litter's human guardians can begin the transition to solid food. A puppy's vision and hearing only begins to function at about 3 or 4 weeks of age. Prior to this and until at least about 8 weeks, the mother dog keeps the puppies warm and safe.
As puppies age, their littermates teach them how to interact with other dogs and canine signals that keep dogs safe in their adult years. This canine socialization tends to occur as the puppies' senses become functional at about 3 to 4 weeks. Learning how to react when encountering a dominant dog and how to give appropriate signals can give puppies the tools they need to prevent fights and altercations later on in life.
Human guardians can begin to wean puppies at about 4 weeks of age. This transition should be undertaken slowly to give both the puppies and the mother time to adjust. Begin by separating the mother from her litter for a few hours at a time and offering high-quality soft food to puppies while they are away from their mother. Puppies should be kept dry and warm while away from their mother. A vet is the best source of information and guidance when weaning the puppies.
Socialization with humans should begin once the puppies are weaned from their mother, at about 7 to 8 weeks of age. It's important to remember that all puppies, up until about 12 weeks of age, are still young and sensitive. Puppies are easily frightened and if they are scared at this stage of life, they could have permanent emotional scars that they will carry with them into adulthood. Remember to be gentle, loving and consult your vet when you need guidance.
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