Puppies: Why Waiting Eight Weeks Matters

September 24, 2023

It is exciting to welcome a new dog or puppy to your home.  Are considering adding a new puppy to your family this coming holiday season? If so, we’d like you to consider a crucial aspect that can sometimes be overlooked.  That is the timing of separating puppies from their mother. In this blog we discuss puppies:  Why waiting eight weeks matters.

Initial socialization happens in the first eight weeks of a puppy’s life, when a puppy is with his mom and littermates.  Separating puppies from their mom too early can impact on the puppy’s emotional and physical well being.

Let’s walk through the first few weeks of life and examine why it’s essential to wait until puppies are at least eight-weeks old before separating them from their mom 

Waiting Eight Weeks Matters

Puppies are born blind, deaf and without teeth, which leaves them totally dependent on their mom.  Puppies spend their early days sleeping or nursing. Their mom provides nutrition and keeps them warm.  Mom’s milk provides nutrients that help boost her puppies’  immune systems.

By the second week of life, the puppy’s senses are blossoming.  Their eyes and ears open during this time.  

In Week Three they discover their sense of mobility.  During those  first weeks, people should not handle the puppies too much. By Week 3, humans begin handling puppies.  

Their bones and legs are developing, so we have to be gentle while holding them and putting them back down..  You may also notice that loud sounds cause a reaction from the puppies.  Thank goodness they still have Mom around to comfort them.

By Week Four  puppies are on the move.  They begin walking, running and playing with their littermates. It is during this time that bite inhibition and communication skills are  learned.  Puppies also gain some independence from their mom and discover fun adventures with their littermates (just not too far away from mom).

Puppies are gradually weaned off nursing from mom and are introduced to gruel.

In Week Five and Six puppies continue with socialization.  The more these puppies experience at this young age, the better their overall well being.  Puppies will continue being weaned from nursing.

Weeks Seven and Eight consist of vet visits, deworming, some grooming (such as nail cutting)  and early vaccinations. Puppies begin eating regular puppy food. There are some states, breeding organizations and countries that require the puppies are older before the adoption process, but a majority of puppies are adopted by the eighth week.

Puppies:  Why eight weeks matters
Why is it unfair to take puppies from their mom before eight weeks?
  • Puppies undergo significant physical and behavioral changes in the first full eight weeks of life.  Separating a puppy from its mom can disrupt this critical stage of development.
  • When puppies are with their mother, they learn social skills and interact with their littermates.  Early exposure to the different personalities and behaviors  help develop 
  • skills that are essential for future interactions with both dogs and people.
  •  When puppies play with their littermates, they learn gentle biting.  If one pup bites too hard, the bitten pup will yelp or end play by walking away.  This process with the littermates teaches puppies to control the force of their bites, which helps maintain positive relationships with humans and other dogs.
  • Dogs have a universal language that helps them convey intentions and emotions.  This language is made up of calming signals, vocalizations and body language.  Puppies learn this language from their mother and while playing with their littermates. This language helps dogs learn canine etiquette, which allows them to  interact effectively with other dogs and humans (we just need to learn the language). 
  • People associate  weaning to nursing, but it goes far beyond that.  The mother dog plays an important role in helping her puppies gain independence. She teaches her puppies life lessons and encourages them to explore the world around them, while still providing a safe and nurturing environment.  
  • Having this time to bond with their mom and littermates during early weeks of life provides a sense of security and comfort that will have a positive impact on the puppies’ well-being.

While there are a few circumstances where puppies must be separated from their mother (the mother has rejected the puppy, the mother is too ill to care for the puppies, the littermates are aggressive or the mother has died), the general rule is that puppies remain with their mom for a full eight weeks.  

Separating a mother from her puppies before eight weeks is unethical. When we give the mother and her puppies this critical time together, we give puppies the best chance of growing into happy, healthy and socially adept dogs.

Next time…

In our next blog post we will look at significant and lasting consequences on a puppy’s emotional, physical and behavioral development when they are taken from their mom and littermates too early.


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