If you are planning on giving puppies away to brand new homes and lives, it is important that you don' t separate the little guys before 8 weeks of age. If you do so at an earlier age, you prevent the cuties from racking up invaluable socialization experiences.
The mother dog's milk -- and plenty of it -- is the key to a blossoming, lively and healthy puppy and adult dog. Her milk means nourishment to her young, plain and simple. Puppies take about 8 weeks, or slightly less, to fully wean. They'll nurse from mom solely for a month, then mom will begin to push them away, and you'll step in with moistened puppy meal. It'll take right up to 8 weeks before nursing ends completely. If you give a puppy away before 8 weeks, you run the chance of the poor thing not having completed weaning in full. Wait it out and make sure that your puppy is 100 percent weaned before you give him to his new owners. If he's not eating solid food exclusively, then he's simply too young to leave his canine family.
Waiting until at least 8 weeks is imperative socially. Puppies don't only develop physically in the early weeks of their lives, they also do so mentally. A lot of this involves plenty of interplay with their littermates and mothers. When puppies are around their siblings, they have many opportunities to play with them and learn what it's like to be around fellow canines. They learn the ropes for everything from restraining their bites to being patient when it comes to meals. If a puppy gets separated from his family before 8 weeks, the lack of interaction could bring upon negative consequences -- think an adult dog who bites painfully and is perhaps overly aggressive, meek or rambunctious. Early social experiences are vital for ensuring that dogs grow up to be balanced individuals. Don't take this away from a puppy by removing him from his family too soon.
Other End of the Spectrum
At the other end of the spectrum, puppies from young ages also require interplay with human beings, whether they've found their "forever homes" or not. Wee doggies who are from 8 to 16 weeks in age need to be around people -- and to be touched -- to ensure positive relationships into adulthood. If a puppy gets to 16 weeks in age and has only been around his doggie family, a strong chance exists he might take on an overly apprehensive temperament around people. You can take a puppy away from his family too early, and you can also keep him in their exclusive company for too long. Be smart and consider the well-being of your pup. Don't adopt him out until he's 8 weeks old at the youngest. Also, don't allow him to get beyond 8 weeks old without experiencing close contact with humans, whether you or his upcoming human family.
Puppies can get a lot of positive peer experience with canines who aren't their siblings, too. When a puppy goes to a new home, it's good to establish routine doggie "play dates" to encourage his healthy growth and relationships with pets and people alike.
- Georgia SPCA: Puppy Development
- Milford Animal Hospital: Socializing Your New Puppy
- RSPCA Australia: How Old Should a Puppy Be Before They Are Adopted/Purchased?
- The Humane Society of the United States: Puppy Behavior Basics
- ASPCA: Weaning
- Atlanta Humane Society: One Puppy at a Time
- RSPCA Victoria: Play Biting and Mouthing