Best age to separate puppies from mom?
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Thread: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

  1. #1
    Senior Member ghosthunterbecki's Avatar
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    Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    I wasn't sure whether or not to put this in the Health forum or here

    At any rate, I'm asking questions because (just to remind y'all) a couple of years down the road we are looking into getting a second dog. We want to do so in a responsible manner (and we just aren't ready right now for a variety of reasons), and for several reasons, not least of which is to have a companion for Dozer who doesn't hiss at him every time he walks by!

    We are looking into the *possibility* of getting a show-quality purebred dog from a breeder. We do *not* intend to breed, but we are both interested in showing a dog. Besides that, DH really wants to get a purebred from a breeder, and my standpoint is "not unless you plan on showing." Not as long as there are dogs in shelters that really need good homes. He has his reasons, and I have mine, but that is really beside the point of the question.

    How old should puppies be when they are separated from their mother? I've always heard 7 weeks, but that just seems so early, and in particular if we're looking at purchasing a show-quality animal -- I just can't see a good conformity evaluation happening at such a tender age.

    Any advice in this area? I'm gathering information and resources now, and from here on out, when I can.

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    Senior Member Shaina's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    You'll probably get a variety of answers here, and this can get to be a hot topic sometimes, but...

    The usual answer is 10-12 weeks. Many reputable breeders won't let puppies leave the mother until they are 12 weeks old so that they have enough time to learn from the other puppies and their mother, and to develop socially.

    8 weeks is probably the bare minimum...before that your puppy really hasn't had much time to learn things like bite inhibition and how to play well with others. If possible, leave them together longer. That's not to say that if you get a puppy earlier that it is a guaranteed disaster, but you're taking a risk. Just like with training later, you want to set you and your puppy up for success

    Also, hurray for doing the research long before getting the dog! :-D

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    Senior Member Dogstar's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    I'd say it depends on the breed, but 8 weeks is the minimum.

    If the breeder is very active in socializing each pup independently, 12 weeks is FANTASTIC. But it's not at all unusual to get a pup at 8-9 weeks in many breeds. I brought Mal home at 8 weeks; Indy at 16 weeks (he wasn't a 'planned' puppy- I had lost my Bou a few weeks earlier, his breeder was a protege of Bou's breeder, and had kept two puppies from Indy's litter and decided she would rather place Indy in a performance/show home with me than keep both boys herself.); Lizzie will be coming home at 9.5 weeks- the rest of her litter will stay another week, but I'd like her home for my 5 day weekend (since I'm not doing anything for turkey day, it works out well). With toys, it's usual for pups to come home no ealier than 10 weeks from reputable breeders and 16 weeks isn't unusual at all. There was a discussion recently on neotony (the quality of dogs to retain puppylike qualities into adulthood) on the Front & Finish (dog performance mag) mailing list and how certain breeds have more neotenous qualities and longer socialization windows. Concensus was that the sharp working breeds and primative breeds (BCs, ACDs, some lines of GSDs and Belgians; Basenjis and Canaan dogs) tend to be less neotenous and have a shorter window for socialization- their ideal socialization period closes earlier and they need to be exposed to more during it. Neotenous breeds (like many toys) should be removed later from the litter and mature a little slower, mentally (they catch up later, but their puppyish characteristics are slower to leave.)

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    Senior Member ghosthunterbecki's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    What if I *wanted* to get a dog that was closer to 16 weeks old? I realize that obedience training should begin as early as possible, but is it not true that some breeders provide some of the very basics with their dogs, or am I off the mark on that?

    What I'm looking for is to get a pet who is established on solid foods and has some kind of a routine (not that it wouldn't necessarily change a bit during the process of integrating a new pet into a new household). I also disagree with DH in that I feel that older puppies (or even older dogs) are a lot less likely to exhibit nervous behaviors if their treatment has been good and their experiences have been positive up to the point of adoption/purchase.

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    Senior Member Dogstar's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    It really, really depends. I would say that frankly, most pups have a routine and are well onto solid food by 8 weeks. While most breeders would be willing to, I think, that means a later start for you on obedience training and classes (I feel very strongly that puppy K is a valuable experience for my pup). But a breeder who considers 16 weeks the average age to leave is going to have developed their plans to make sure THEY do the socialization basics, whereas one who lets puppies go may or may not do as much socialization on an individual (versus group) basis. There's just not one good answer here.

    What breed or breeds are you considering? (Or at least what type/family of dogs)? That does make a big difference.

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    Senior Member ghosthunterbecki's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    We're looking at either a Mastiff or a Rottweiler at this point. I'm not 100% satisfied with our narrowing it down to one of those two breeds, but this has to be a mutual decision between my husband and me, and he wants a BIG dog (he would like to consider a Great Dane, but that's way too much dog for me!).

    As for me, I have never had a purebred, large dog, so I'm a bit lost as to all of the smaller details. Growing up, my parents purchased a purebred shih tzu puppy, and he came home at around 10 weeks.

    As an example, however, of what we've experienced, the last two dogs that DH and I have had came to us at (less than) 5 weeks of age. My experience tells me that this is far too young. I also don't feel that 7 weeks (49 days, to be precise) is an exact science, and my concern is not only for the health of the dog, but for our ability to *work* with the particular dog.

    Forgive me, Dogstar, but I hadn't read your first post before posting my previous post, so I'll address it now -- I hope that's alright.

    If there is a substantially smaller window for socialization with larger dogs, then I assume that it's better for us to look into obtaining a younger puppy, at the appropriate time (at *least* a year from now but probably more like 2 years from now -- we aren't in a hurry) and preparing for that puppy by having socialization and obedience classes already lined up. Would that be an inaccurate assumption based on the breeds about which we are talking?

    In particular with Rottweilers, I know *how* important that socialization and training will be for that particular breed of dog, and I (of course) want to get started on the right foot for the good of both of the dogs and for the good of the family as a whole.

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    Senior Member Dogstar's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    It's really *not* just size- it's also breed type. For example, it's a heck of a lot easier to socialize a dog whose instincts tell him to love everyone, even after the technical end of the socialization period, than it is with a large breed guardian-type dog whose instincts tell him that strangers = suspicious. And it's not just size- some small dogs- like Chihuahuas and Yorkies- need more socialization than some large dogs like Goldens and Labs. All dogs need SOME- it's just a question of how much and when- there's just a lot of variance.

    As far as molassar breeds go- hopefully Inga will chime in here- they're the group I've got hte least experience with. :P

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    Senior Member ghosthunterbecki's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    I'm sure she probably will

    We've essentially determined that one of these two breeds -- or an APBT -- would best suit our lifestyle. Because I don't feel like having a massive argument with my parents regarding the "safety" of having a Pit Bull in the house with children, I've pretty much had to rule them out, unfortunately.

    Our reasons for choosing breeds doesn't come down to how the breed will "serve" us, but rather down to how well it fits with our lifestyle and whether or not the dog would be a reasonable companion for Dozer and for us. A smaller dog is too likely to be nervous around a dog Dozer's size, and he would have too much potential to do some damage, even if just in play, so we want to look into a breed that is closer to his size (a female Rottie would be just slightly bigger than Dozer is, though probably substantially heavier).

    I don't mind the extra work involved in having a Rottie (or a Mastiff), but I want to make sure that we don't inadvertently create more work for ourselves, either!

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    Senior Member Spicy1_VV's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    Wow I'm really surprised at the answers. 12wks. 16wks. I guess I've personally never seen such a thing that I recall. Seems like mom would have such raw and soar nipples with a 4 month old pup on her. The only time I guess I have seen this is in abuse/neglect cases. The owner doesn't wean the pup and leaves them with mom and the dog just keeps suckling. My girl was removing her own pups at 6-7 weeks. She kept picking them up and moving them away from her. Even if she just had 2 with her she didn't want them on her. Isn't this natural? I would think she knows what she is doing. I know not all dogs will try to wean their pups on their own and will let a 6 month old pup nurse probably. I also know some moms are not good mothers and will kill pups or not let them nurse even though they are really young. I'm thinking though that she was close to being on target. To me that wasn't too young for her to try to wean them off. She still plays with them now, but they have learned not to try and get milk. They were separated from her for awhile and now I guess forgot that. They still kept trying to her and her grandma for a bit and now are over it.

    I think you have a good plan. Having classes already lined up and being prepared to socialize is the best route. If you get a 9-10wk old pup I don't think you will be in a world of trouble but thats just me. Socialization is very important from a young age, the older the its much harder. It depends on breeds, some breeds bounce back easier from a bad experience or are pretty well rounded with a lack of socialization. Others are not!! Some pups which are left together bond closer to each other then humans and its hard to get them to socialize. This is true even of people who get pups at the same time and leave the pups together all the time. They don't realize they need to train and spend individual time with the dogs or they are just too lazy and want them to entertain each other. You have to put in effort when owning a dog. Which it sounds like you are prepared to do and realize its a necessity.
    Last edited by Spicy1_VV; 11-07-2007 at 01:17 AM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

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    Senior Member Dogstar's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    The litters I've fostered have all been weaned by 6 weeks or so. BUT, the interaction with littermates and stable adult dogs for that additional two weeks is invaluable for learning bite inhibition and how to be a dog. Any pups that didn't get adopted fairly quickly from the shelter would come back home during the week (weekends were much busier) and we'd do some socialization trips around town- things like parks, the feed store, etc)- that normal owners would be doing with their pups, ideally. So weaning isn't the only guide of when a pup's ready to leave!

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    Senior Member poohlp's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    In most states, 8 weeks minimum is not just good sense, it is also the law, as it is illegal to sell or otherwise separate pups from the litter before that time, except in extraordinary circumstances.

    If you want some of the weight of new puppy training taken off your shoulders, I have seen some breeders on the internet (although I can't vouch for how good or bad they are) who allow you to get a slightly older puppy 3-5 months, that they have basically trained and socialized in their house after it is weened and separated from its litter. The pups basically are given basic obedience and potty training before going off to their final homes. This comes with a pretty hefty fee (basically double again the price of the puppy, if I recall correctly from when I saw this forever ago.) Of course, you miss the early tiny ball of cuteness period, but you also miss the early new born infant, separation from mom and litter anxiety, pee on everything period too.

    Actually, I think this sounds like a really great idea. If more people offered and took advantage of a service like this, I think there would be less dogs going to shelters at 6-7 months of age.
    Last edited by poohlp; 11-07-2007 at 09:31 AM.

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    Senior Member DobManiac's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    When I was looking for Dusk, most of the breeders did some type of training. One breeder taught the dogs to walk nicely on a leash, while another actually had the dogs trained to use a doggy door. I think it just depends on what you deem necessary.

    Dusk's breeders had him very well crate trained before I got him. I brought him home at 9 weeks. He slept in the crate from 10pm to 5:30AM without a sound. Also, this was a large crate with no divider, and he did not soil it. He already knew how to play with toys and occupy his own time. This why he was not constantly under foot, and looking for my direction.

    Now compare this to Dawn, who I got from a BYB on 5 weeks old. She was scared to death of everything. Would whine if I disappeared across the corner. And I swear I did not sleep for the first two weeks. My neighbors, actually knew I had a new puppy do to her constant screaming.

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    Senior Member 007Dogs's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    Well first off it is illegal to sell, give away or trade any puppy under the age of 8 weeks in almost every state in the union. So that pretty much settles that one.

    But there are many who believe that between 8 and the 10 week mark is a fear imprint week. So this is probably the worst time to take your puppy home. I personally have not found it to be an issue with my breed. But terriers are know for there tanasity. But I never base this decison on the calendar, but base it on each individual puppy. Let's face it, just like with human children, so mature more quicly than others. That is why finding a breeder that you trust and respect is so very important.
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    Senior Member ghosthunterbecki's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    What I'm gathering here is that it's going to have a lot to do with the breed that we choose. Hopefully I'm not "gathering" wrong. I don't even want to consider a puppy under 8 weeks old -- I've seen the damage that the early separation can do to a puppy. Remember that I've had two that were less than five weeks old when they came to us.

    I have my own reasons for preferring to get an older puppy, if possible. These reasons mostly relate to the fact that I want a *dog*, not a puppy who's cuteness wears out as they grow. I'm sure that most of the responsible owners here have seen how wrong that can go in some cases. Not that it would go in that direction with us, but I prefer to "know what I'm getting" as well.

    However, the puppy time *is* crucial, and I know that. I do feel, strongly, that a responsible breeder makes sure that their dogs are socialized with humans, other dogs, and perhaps even other animals (including, depending on the area and breed, cats and livestock).

    I'm not trying to "escape" the socialization and training period, by any means. However, I would like to know that my puppy has achieved some of the very necessary early experiences before I bring the dog into my home, as I've seen just how different the level of nervousness is when a puppy has had these early experiences.

    Hopefully somebody can speak up in relation to the specific breed, or I'm going to be all over Spicy, say "nevermind what my parents think" and we'll wind up with a pit bull, which is my favorite breed anyway!

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    Senior Member prolibertate's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    Dogs shouldn't leave their litter mates before 8 weeks; 10-12 is even better if the breeder does socializing with them; not all breeders do this though, so visiting the breeder and seeing what they do is important. Dogs go through a critical learning period which ends around 16 weeks; during this time their brains are being wired based on all they're exposed to. Other critical periods happen at 6, 18 and 24 months. Their first 16 weeks is also when they start to form bonds with their humans, though dogs of any age can form bonds with new owners; it's just that of one has the opportunity to start it from when they're puppies it's not a bad idea to do so. You could always ask the breeder to keep the dog and visit the dog at least weekly to bond and work a bit with her. If the breeder also shows dogs, they might be more receptive to this.

    If you're looking for an older dog and want to get into showing, you could try and find a breeder who has older show dogs they'll sell, or even some rescue groups get them. I got a Great Pyr show dog when she was 2 years old; the 2 breeders were arguing and the one who had physical custody of her threatened to put the dog down; I rescued her and eventually she came to live with me; she was the best dog I ever had; and she already knew everything she needed to in order to be shown.
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    Senior Member Dogstar's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    You know, if you're serious about showing, another alternative would be to start looking for a breeder now- and plan on getting a young started dog, whose been shown a bit but has a better sibling, or just is taking forever to mature. That's how I got my first showdog and it worked out well for both of us.

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    Senior Member ghosthunterbecki's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dogstar View Post
    You know, if you're serious about showing, another alternative would be to start looking for a breeder now- and plan on getting a young started dog, whose been shown a bit but has a better sibling, or just is taking forever to mature. That's how I got my first showdog and it worked out well for both of us.
    I strongly feel (instinctively, perhaps) that establishing a good relationship with a breeder before obtaining a puppy is critical. I want to know not only as much about the *breed* as possible before making a purchase, but I also want to know as much as possible about the breeder and the line my dog is coming from. I'd like to see parents in shows, if possible.

    So I (at least I, if not DH as well) am already trying to open that door well enough in advance of getting the puppy. Since we're looking at this as a serious endeavor, I feel that it's best to know as much as humanly possible before we get more deeply involved and then find out that we aren't happy with the situation that we're in.

    If I can find a breeder who suits all of our needs *and* is willing to sell a started puppy, that would probably be our ideal situation. By no means do I "not" want the puppy phase -- I do enjoy it. But I don't want to be surprised, either, when "puppy" goes to "dog."

    I sound like I'm ill-prepared for that, and truthfully, I am not. In some ways I am, perhaps, trying to make a point to those who get the cute little puppy which then turns into the dog that could have been rescued from the shelter. But at the same time, I'm looking to reach our goals in a responsible manner, and in a way that is best for us and both dogs concerned.

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    Senior Member Mdawn's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    I brought my Mastiff home when he was 10 weeks. Now, I'll never bring home another pup that is younger than that. Those few extra weeks, I'm convinced, make a huge difference.

    Keep in mind that I never "brought" my Lab home; he was a stray that was dumped when he was about 4 months old. He nipped and would bite me; jump all over me and just basically was a pain in the behind. I'm convinced that he was separated too young from his litter (thus the nipping and biting) and wasn't socialized at all (still flips out around cats).

    So I bring home this 10 week old Mastiff puppy and was expecting to deal with all of those issues again. Nope!! He never nipped or would bite in play. He never jumps on people, though honestly that may be because of his size rather then knowing he shouldn't do it. He was easy to crate train because the breeder already started the training. He was easy to house train; again because the breeder already started that. He is ok around cats because he was exposed to them and also does well with other dogs. My Mastiff has been a breeze to raise in comparison to my Lab. Some of it I attribute his age when I brought him home and some of it I attribute to just having a more stable, balanced temperament than my Lab.

    The Dogs: Eddie the Lab & Uallis the Mastiff
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    Senior Member ghosthunterbecki's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mdawn View Post

    Keep in mind that I never "brought" my Lab home; he was a stray that was dumped when he was about 4 months old. He nipped and would bite me; jump all over me and just basically was a pain in the behind. I'm convinced that he was separated too young from his litter (thus the nipping and biting) and wasn't socialized at all (still flips out around cats).
    We have only just corrected this behavior in Dozer. I don't think he was even five weeks when he came to us, though the pet store listed him as seven weeks. The vet thought differently (four weeks or so). Not only did he not have the full opportunity to get the "discipline" that moms often give pups, but he didn't have the time to properly socialize with the rest of his litter.

    He's not "bad" around other dogs, per se, but he doesn't know how to be properly social with them (gets too excited). He used to nip and bite a lot in play or "just because." He's an excessive licker as well.

    And he's a huge part of the reason I asked the question in the first place

  21. #20
    Senior Member Mdawn's Avatar
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    Re: Best age to separate puppies from mom?

    Quote Originally Posted by ghosthunterbecki View Post
    He's an excessive licker as well.

    And he's a huge part of the reason I asked the question in the first place
    I have to say that one problem I didn't have with my Lab was licking...LOL!!

    Because of my Lab, I don't think that I'd bring another dog home that didn't get those extra weeks with the litter and the mom. I'm really glad that you have considered this aspect when thinking about a new puppy. Not many do and it shows that you are really preparing for this new puppy. I think that is really admirable.

    I don't have expert advice or anything of that sort because I know next to nothing about breeding dogs. I didn't even get my Mastiff without asking a ton of newbie questions about breeders from someone on this forum. I even asked this person to tell me what they thought about particular breeders from potential sites because I was afraid that I wasn't experienced enough to recognize any "red flags" that I should avoid with these breeders as all of my previous dogs have been from shelters or they were a stray. It helped me a ton.

    I know that you said that a Mastiff was on your list. I know in another thread you mentioned a Mastiff cross or a Bullmastiff. Something I'm sure you have considered but I still feel worth mentioning is that some breeders will not sell to someone who has small children. The dog the size of a Mastiff could easily trample and/or knock over a small children so they don't feel like that is an ideal fit until the child is around 4 or 5. Again, I'm sure you've considered this but I thought it was still worth mentioning because I know that you are soon expecting a child.

    The Dogs: Eddie the Lab & Uallis the Mastiff
    The Cats: Max, Gus & Lexi

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