Though widely accepted that a puppy should reach 8 weeks of age before being removed from his mother, there are other factors to keep in mind when bringing him into your home. In addition to the puppy's age, you must understand both the breed and the circumstances of his original home. Furthermore, consider the age of any children in your household.
Puppies are individuals, and so while one may be content to leave his mother after eight weeks, another could find the transition traumatizing. A puppy first needs to be fully weaned from his mother's milk and properly socialized to learn how to be a dog from both his mother and siblings. Likewise, a puppy kept too long in a home will be less inclined to leave or easily bond with a new family.
You must gauge your own experience with dogs in addition to the people from whom you are getting the puppy. Adopting a puppy from an experienced breeder or owner ensures the puppy has the best possible start with regard to training, nutrition and vaccinations. On the other hand, a puppy coming from inexperienced owners, perhaps those who did not plan their dog's pregnancy, may not have the best foundation. If you're a first-time dog owner or don't have much time to dedicate to training, consider adopting an adult dog at least 2 years old. If you have owned dogs and understand the daily requirements for keeping them happy and healthy, adopting a puppy is perfectly fine.
Most parents are familiar with the endless promises children make, begging and pleading to get a puppy. No matter how many times your child says she will take care of the puppy, understand that this responsibility ultimately rests in your hands. It is best to start children 5 years and younger with a fish, then progress to a rodent, such as a guinea pig, for children 5 to 10 years of age. This will teach them empathy for another living creature and the daily chores involved in promoting the well-being of their pet. Only after these lessons are learned can a child begin to understand the chores that come with owning a puppy, including feeding, grooming, walking and taking him to the vet. Simply put, the puppy is not a toy to be put away when she becomes bored with him. In a household with teenagers, once college becomes a factor, know that the puppy will remain in the home rather than live in a tiny dorm room or off-campus apartment.
Pairing puppies with young children is not a great idea, as a puppy is still a baby. You must make time to raise your child, train the puppy, bring him along wherever the family normally goes and supervise all kid-canine interactions. If you cannot accomplish this, a dog at least 2 years old is a better option for your family. Puppies also grow into adult dogs and so you must consider all aspects of the breed, including its size, temperament, specific needs and behavior. Small breeds, like the Chihuahua and Yorkshire terrier, can become injured by children roughhousing, pulling on the puppy's ears and tail, for example. While larger breeds tend to be calmer, they can easily push over small children. Medium-sized dogs, such as the Labrador retriever or border collie, are often a great choice for families.
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images