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I know how hard it can be to wait for your new puppy. Sometimes, making weekly visits helps but sometimes it makes it even worse. Either way, you can’t rush perfection and it’s the same with your puppy. He has to be old enough to safely come home or you run the risk of developmental and behavioral problems in the future.
When can puppies leave their mother and what’s the right age to bring your new puppy home? It has to have time to wean from it’s mother and open its eyes. You want to be patient, and this gives you even more time to buy ridiculously adorable accessories for your puppy’s impending arrival.
How Old Do Puppies Have to Be Before Being Adopted?
Let’s get right to the point: You should never take a puppy from its mother earlier than 8 weeks old. By that time, the puppy is weaned and starting to socialize. It’s ready to become your new best friend and explore its new home. You also have some planning to do before bringing your puppy home.
Each individual puppy is different, however, and sometimes you may want to wait another week or two. If you get to visit your puppy, observe how it interacts with its siblings and caretakers. Talk to the breeder or rescue worker about how the puppy is doing and what their expert opinion is on when you can bring your puppy home.
Just keep in mind that many breeders are anxious to move their puppies on to new homes. If you do your research into their history and reputation, it will help you trust their advice.
Puppies that are adopted too early can show lasting problems like the inability to adapt to new environments. For instance, these dogs may have separation anxiety or have problems settling into their new home.
Your New Puppy Adoption Checklist
- Your puppy is weaned and eating on its own.
- You’ve met your puppy’s mother, and she lives on site with the puppy. In a rescue situation, this may not be possible, but ask lots of questions to the staff about the puppy’s development.
- The breeder or rescue has a good reputation. Feel free to call around to local vet offices to pick their brain.
- All of the puppy siblings are friendly and interact with each other.
- Your puppy acts curious and playful.
Puppy Development Phases
While it’s true that every breed of puppy develops at a slightly different rate, there are several benchmark development points in every puppy’s life. You’ll notice that some of these stages overlap a bit. There’s a lot going on for your new puppy!
Stage 1: Newborn Puppies
Newborn puppies are blind, deaf, toothless, and pretty much utterly helpless. They need some help from mom to urinate and move their bowels and they can’t move around much further than to root for a spot at the milk buffet.
Another fascinating newborn puppy fact is that they can’t stabilize their body temperature. That adorable puppy urge to cuddle is biological. If a puppy gets left out, it can be dangerous and even cause hypothermia.
Dogs are naturally very social and puppies even more so. Mother dogs communicate with and show affection to their puppies by licking. They also lick their young to stimulate bodily functions and promote bonding. This is one of the reasons puppies are little licking machines! They’re emulating positive behavior that makes them feel comfortable.
Newborn puppies don’t have a lot going for them, but they can smell and feel. These senses help them find a spot to nurse and their siblings to cuddle up to. It’s essential that puppies get their mother’s first milk. It’s full of antibiotics that will help them grow and cultivate a strong immune system.
Stage 2: 2-4 Weeks Old
In the beginning, puppies sleep a lot. If they’re awake, they’re nursing. It takes a lot of energy for them to start growing. They’ll gain up to two times their body weight during this stage of development.
Their muscles are starting to grow, but slowly. They get a little stronger every time your puppy wiggles and fumbles about. As they build up strength, they get even more active. They’ll start to crawl more and interact with mom and each other.
This is also the period when puppies open their eyes and start to get their teeth. Then, it’s look out world! This little furry terror machine is about to hit its stride. Puppies are certainly a handful.
Stage 3: 4-12 Weeks
This stage is all about socialization and your puppy interacting with the world around him. You’ll soon know what to expect regarding your 6 week old puppy care.
Puppies gain the ability to hear shortly after their eyes open. Prior to the moment when the world of sound is revealed to them, their ears are sealed. As you can imagine, being able to hear makes a big difference in a puppy’s life.
Now that he can hear his mother and siblings, your puppy begins to learn the language hidden in the sounds and body language dogs communicate with.
He’ll be up on his feet around day 15 and walking by day 21. At this point, he is really starting to grow into the frisky puppy you expect.
Interestingly enough, at about three weeks, your puppy grows more independent. He has a host of new skills and super powers like hearing and walking, after all. It’s time to take over, or at least explore, the world! He’ll start to play with his brothers and sisters and feel curious about solid food. His teeth will arrive soon to help with that.
This stage is also when some natural, instinctual potty training starts in your puppy. He is starting to care about where he goes, and will move away from the group when it’s time to eliminate.
This is most likely the stage you will meet your puppy in, if the breeder allows you to come in, pick out your puppy, and spend a little time with the dogs. He’ll be curious about you and want to play.
Stage 4: Weeks 8-12
Between weeks 8 and 12, puppies get increasingly more social. Your puppy will want to play with you and at this point, you’ve probably brought it home. Your puppy will get tired out quickly, so try to keep play time as short bursts and then some nap recovery time.
At this point in your puppy’s life, you can start to train them a little. Don’t expect too much, but you can start with sit and stay commands and undertake potty training if you haven’t already. You’re laying the groundwork for more intensive training later. Your 7 week old puppy, or so, can handle it.
Try your very hardest not to become frustrated or angry with your puppy. They have a lot of energy and are only just starting to understand what is expected of them. It’s vital to avoid damaging the bond with your dog at this stage, so keep the training more fun than firm and don’t discipline too much.
What you should do to train your puppy is be consistent and calm. Continue to use positive reinforcement to guide your puppy’s behavior.
You can read more about potty training and clicker training your puppy in our recent post here.
This is also a good time to start socializing your dog with other people, including strangers, and other dogs. Set up a safe play date with a friend’s dog and take lots of short walks with your new puppy.
Your goal is to make your puppy feel comfortable with other people in case someone has to provide care to them. You’ll want them to be friendly to other dogs as well and now is the perfect time to teach them how to make friends.
Before You Bring Your Puppy Home
Somewhere around 8-10 weeks of age, your puppy will be coming home with you. You’ll need to have a few supplies to set you up for success.
- Purchase an adequately sized crate for your puppy.
- Buy some puppy food and healthy treats to help train your puppy.
- Invest in some puppy pads to help potty train your puppy.
- Consider picking up some cleaning products to combat the scent of occasional accidents during potty training.
- If you want to explore clicker training, pick up a clicker. They’re cheap and good to have on hand.
- Pick your vet before your puppy comes home. Call the office and ask when you should have your puppy’s first well visit to be sure he is healthy.
- Find a collar and a leash you like- you’ll be taking plenty of walks!
This is a good start, but you can also ask your new vet if they have any suggestions for must have puppy items. They’re the experts, after all!
On the day you bring your new puppy home, be sure you have a flexible schedule and can spend the next couple of days with your puppy more than away from home. This is essential to helping your puppy feel comfortable, attached to you, and getting him settled in and used to his crate.
The most important thing is to have fun with your puppy while providing gentle guidance to shape him into the friend you dream of. You can form an incredibly strong bond with your dog and that is going to give you both the very richest relationship possible.