Golden retriever puppies chasing their mom on grass

When Are Puppies Ready to Leave Their Mom?


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There is nothing better than puppy cuddles, it's important to wait before bringing new puppies home.

Puppy day is always exciting. Who doesn't want to bring home a smol bundle of awesome? Most dog owners cannot wait until they get to pick up their puppy and bring them to their new home. Bringing your new puppy home from your breeder or the shelter is an exciting event that doesn't happen very often. Still, before you rush off to grab your new pup, keep in mind that they might not be ready to go. Puppies do have to spend time with their momma and littermates, and taking them home too early can have dire consequences. So, when are puppies ready to go home safely? The answer is based on a couple of important factors.

When Are Puppies Ready To Go Home?

momma dog and puppy touch noses

Generally, puppies should go to their new homes somewhere between 8 to 12 weeks of age, but the best age can vary. It's important for new owners to leave their pup with mom for as long as possible. A reputable breeder will keep their puppies with their mother for at least 8-9 weeks, depending on the pup and travel requirements to their new home. The skills puppies learn during this time will help them adjust to their forever home better and make dog training a little easier.

Benefits of Waiting To Bring Your Pup Home

Socialization

Early socialization starts at 6 weeks and goes to 12-14 weeks of age. During this time, the puppy learns how to interact with other people, environments, sounds, pets, and everything else that is now a part of their world. This time is a vital part of puppy development and has a lasting effect on how they interact, even as an adult dog. Think of this stage as a tutorial level for your pooch!

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Vaccinations

A puppy cannot start their vaccinations until they are over five weeks old. Usually, the first round of vaccinations is performed between 6 and 8 weeks of age. After that, puppies get their DHPP vaccine, which protects against distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvovirus, around 10 to 12 weeks. Many breeders and rescues ensure pups have their first set of shots. However, some breeders will not allow a puppy to go home before getting the parvovirus vaccine as well.

 Weaning

Puppies should not go to their new family before weaning. Puppies start the transition from mother's milk to solid food between 3 and 5 weeks old, and the weaning process should not be rushed or interrupted. If a young puppy does not finish the process, it can lead to suckling when it is not necessary, as well as a host of behavioral problems in the future. Getting milk at the right age can also set your pup up for nutritional success, just like a human baby.

Learn Bite Inhibition

Bringing a pup home without proper bite inhibition can lead to training issues down the line, and it can possibly become an issue if you have children. Puppies learn basic impulse control and bite inhibition from their mother and littermates. This can also be an issue with small kittens who are taken away from siblings too early! If the pup does not spend enough time with their moms, they can have reactivity issues and become easily scared or aggressive.

When waiting to bring your puppy home, know that the time frame is in the best interest of you and your new family member.

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Risks of Adopting Too Young

Mother dog and sleeping puppies

RELATED: How to Know You're Finally Ready to Adopt a Puppy

Conversely, adopting a puppy too young can lead to on-going issues for new pet parents. Some of these issues take some training to overcome, while others may turn a welcoming new home in a more difficult situation than expected. Responsible dog breeders generally won't let dogs go too young, but they will take them back if there are any issues. On the other hand, pet stores generally will not take a pet back unless they work hand in hand with rescues.

Behavioral Problems

Pups that go to new homes around five weeks of age are more likely to develop behavioral problems. They can bite-- more than the typical puppy biting phase while they teeth-- be fearful, and have social anxiety as well as aggression. Thankfully, a good dog trainer can help new owners with many of these behaviors, but families with small children may feel overwhelmed by the issues, and the pup may end up in a shelter.

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Separation Anxiety

Puppies who leave their moms and siblings too soon can have separation anxiety. Usually, all dogs have a little anxiety the first time they are alone, and going to a new place can be a little scary. However, pups who are well socialized and spend the right amount of time with their moms are better at adjusting to their new environment, regardless of how many changes are thrown their way.

Excessive Barking

Non-stop barking can be another side effect of taking a puppy from its mother too soon. The barking can be a response to fear, anxiety, or a lack of socialization. Excessive barking is usually a sign of an issue, and it's no different with a new puppy.

Destructiveness

Tearing apart your favorite shoes is the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, pups who do not have the proper skill set tend to destroy things throughout the house and in the backyard. This can also happen if you're not giving your puppy enough playtime, so keep that in mind!

Possessiveness

Pups can become over-attached to their food, beds, or toys, leading to atypical eating behaviors and problems during playtime. Puppies who are possessive of their food may also nip, growl, or bite if you or anyone gets too close while they are eating. Puppies with these types of issues can sometimes be sent back to the shelter with devastating consequences.

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Does Going Home Age Vary by Breed? 

pug puppies sit with mom

Some smaller breeds do tend to stay with their mothers for longer than larger breeds. Toy and miniature breeds are smaller and can be more fragile. Their breeders prefer for them to have two rounds of shots before letting them go to their forever homes. Sometimes the age will vary by the specific breeder. Some breeders prefer to start house training and working with their pups on specific socialization skills before letting them go to their new families, especially if they have a reputation for producing specific traits in their litters.

State-Specific Requirements

Toe puppies stand on a sidewalk

To date, 27 states in the U.S. and D.C. have laws regarding the age a puppy can be adopted. Except for Virginia, Wisconsin, and D.C., all those states require that the puppy be at least 8 weeks before being placed for sale. In addition, states often focus on making sure the puppy stays with its mother until at least 8 weeks or until they are eating a healthy, balanced puppy food.

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Most of the laws are in place to prevent puppies from being sold at pet stores that have come from puppy mills. Fifteen states make it illegal for anyone to sell an underage pup, while the rest focus on breeders, animal facilities, and other sources.

Dealers also have to follow laws set by the USDA due to the Animal Welfare Act. Some of the state's laws even prohibit puppies and kittens from being transported across state lines. The punishment for violation is just as varied as how the 27 states apply their laws. For example, Connecticut hits violators with a $1,000 fine, while states like California and Nebraska consider underage selling of puppies to be a criminal misdemeanor.

For the states whose laws are only for pet stores, breeders, and dealers, the penalty is usually losing their license to sell and various other penalties as decided by the particular state.

In states that do not have specific laws, the dealer can still be subject to animal cruelty charges if something happens to the puppy if it is adopted at a young age.

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When did your puppy come home? Tell us on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page. 

READ MORE: Puppy Crying In Their Crate? Tips From Small Door Veterinary's Top Vet

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