Proper Age to Adopt a Puppy

Be prepared for random acts of puppy.
Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

You’re ready to add another member to your nest, but you better know how to proceed. There are multiple considerations to work through, one being “How old should he be?” Adopting a puppy too early is a problem; in cases, adopting later can be a problem, too.

Ideal Age

The best time to adopt a puppy is usually between 8 and 16 weeks. This is an ideal time to introduce him to new places and people. That is, unless you have small children. Then you may want to wait until the pooch is around 5 months old.

Why Not Sooner?

When a puppy is part of a litter, he learns all sorts of valuable lessons. This is the time to learn important life skills from his mother, such as eating and grooming. His littermates will help teach him socialization. If he’s taken from his mother too early, he will be robbed of these valuable lessons and may not thrive or socialize well with others. Also, the first month he will be on a milk-only diet. At 3 to 4 weeks, he starts to be weaned from his mother and by 8 weeks he will be completely weaned, eating just puppy food. You don't want an young, unweaned puppy as he's harder to feed and care for.

Why Not Later?

There are lots of joys in watching a puppy go through his growing stages, figuring life out as he goes along. Getting him young means that this little guy will be part of your family for a long time: The average dog has a lifespan of 10 to 15 years.

Dogs that are adopted after 16 weeks may have a harder time adjusting and socializing to a new home, as they may have habits they've become accustomed to that may be hard to break. He might be slower to warm up to new homes and family members, too.


Before taking the plunge, consider a few things. An 8- to 16-week-old puppy needs lots of attention. You can’t just lock him in a crate or small apartment all day and expect him to be happy and thrive. This is the time when he becomes house-trained and learns other household etiquette. At this age, he has a smaller bladder and needs regular potty breaks, so make sure you have time for that.

An 8- to 16-week-old puppy has a smaller stomach, so he needs to be fed more frequently than an adult dog. Puppies are usually full of energy, and they need time and space to run around to get that energy out.

When you choose a dog, make sure your home is big enough for the breed. He may start gnawing on your favorite shoes or get into the trash can when you’re not looking, so you'll have to puppy-proof your home. Don’t forget about the midnight whimpering, potty accidents on the new rug and tipped-over flowerpots that come with puppyhood.