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Are you looking to expand your family with the addition of a four-legged friend? Dogs are one of the most loyal and loving companions you could ever hope to meet, and if you’re getting a puppy, you’ll get to love them a little longer!
However, buying a puppy is no small investment. It takes time, patience, and a lot of love to train your puppy to become an obedient, healthy, and well-rounded dog.
Ensuring your puppy comes from a reputable home and is reared in the best conditions is one of the first things you’ll need to do to set your dog up for success.
Ensuring your puppy stays with its mother for long enough is vital for encouraging better behavior and temperament in later life. But how long is long enough, and what are the risks of early separation?
When Should Your Puppy Leave Its Mother?
Most reputable breeders and behaviorists say that the separation should occur between the eight to twelve-week range. But are there any significant differences in behavior or development when puppies are separated during this period?
Separation At Eight Weeks
Eight weeks is the most common age for puppies to be separated from their littermates and mothers to enter a new home.
At this age, the relationship your puppy has with its littermates and mother can determine its personality and behavior.
For example, at eight weeks, your puppy will require a lot of sleep (between eighteen to twenty hours a day), remember some commands and appropriate behaviors, and begin crate and toilet training.
Your puppy should be weaned and healthy at this stage.
Eight weeks is the earliest time that a puppy should be separated from its mother.
Separation At Nine Weeks
Nine weeks is considered one of the best weeks to pursue separation. Most puppies go through a ‘fear period; at eight weeks, which can cause a lot of anxiety for your pup.
Many breeders will choose to keep hold of the puppy during this period to avoid transitioning to a new home during the fear period.
If your puppy is separated from its mother and littermates during the height of this fear period, you may run the risk of raising a puppy that is more fearful or reactive in adolescence and adulthood.
Separation At Ten Weeks
At ten weeks of age, your puppy will be at the height of its all-important socialization period.
During this socialization window, your puppy will need regular exposure to the outside world, people, dogs, environments, tastes, and textures to develop a calmer temperament and better behavior.
At ten weeks, your puppy will be becoming more independent; despite the need for frequent naps, they’ll be very playful, chewy, and will be bonding well with their human owners, and now be less dependent on their mother.
There is no evidence to suggest that separating a puppy at ten weeks impacts their development in later life.
Your puppy will now have been weaned, met most crucial milestones, and be less dependent on its mother.
It will also have spent enough time with its littermates and mother to learn critical social queues, especially around playtime and interaction with other dogs.
Ten weeks is an excellent time to consider the separation and a move to a new home.
Separation At Eleven And Twelve Weeks
Most puppies will now have been separated from their mothers and littermates, but some breeders may choose to hold on to their puppies for longer.
Some breeds, in particular, will stay with their littermates and mothers for as long as possible, especially small dogs such as Chihuahuas and Papillons, which are smaller and more physically and emotionally fragile.
If you’re buying a small breed puppy, ensure it stays with its mother and littermates for as long as possible before separation.
Some smaller puppies can take longer to mature physically and emotionally and benefit from more time with their mothers before moving on to a new home.
Larger puppies will usually not need to wait this long to be separated.
The Risks of Early Separation
Separating your puppy from its mother too early can have a severe effect on your puppy’s behavior, health, and development.
So let’s take a closer look at some of the most significant risks of early separation.
Puppies removed before eight weeks are more likely to fear other dogs and humans.
This hindered mental and psychological development may also mean your puppy has a harder time managing its frustration, as it hasn’t had to experience struggling for resources with its litter-mates.
Puppies separated too early are also likely to experience heightened levels of separation anxiety. They will hate being left alone and will struggle to self-soothe.
This can often lead to displays of destructive behavior, such as tearing up furniture or urinating inside the home when unattended.
Unfortunately, biting out of fear is another behavior commonly documented with these puppies.
These puppies will become so fearful that they resort to fear biting other dogs or humans to defend themselves, even when no real threat is present.
They will usually become easily stressed or overwhelmed in unfamiliar environments, and an unwelcome interaction with another dog or human can be the trigger that pushes them over the edge and encourages fear-biting.
This behavior can be incredibly challenging to handle and fix and may require intensive intervention from behavioralists or trainers in later life.
What Do Puppies Learn From Their Mothers And Littermates?
We know early separation can be detrimental to a puppy’s behavior and well-being, but what exactly do they learn from their mothers that make it so important they remain closer for longer?
Stability And Protection
The most important thing your puppy will learn from its mother is stability and protection.
During the first eight weeks of your puppy’s life, you will learn several important lessons such as hierarchy, play queues, social skills, and boundaries.
In the first few weeks of its life, your puppy will be entirely dependent on its mother for support, protection, and direction.
Your puppy will look to its mother and model her behaviors as a way of navigating the world.
For example, if your puppy has a nervous mother that barks or reacts to new noises, people, or new environments, your puppy will learn this nervousness.
The same premise applies if the mother is confident, and this behavior will rub off on your pup – they’ll essentially become a chip off the old block!
Bite inhibition is another important lesson your pup will learn from its mother and littermates.
When your puppy starts to bite and decides to try this behavior with its mother, the mother will cry or bite back if she’s been bitten too hard.
This will teach your puppy that biting is ‘bad’ and encourage it to be more gentle during play with other pups, especially if its littermates tell it off.
Preventing Early Separation
If you want to prevent your puppy from being separated from its mother too early, here are a few things you can do:
Check For A Reputable Breeder
Is your breeder licensed or registered? Most reputable, registered breeders will have a license number or be registered on specific databases, like the USDA.
Check For Suspicious Behavior
You can also keep your eyes peeled for any suspicious behavior. Any reputable breeder will have no problem with you visiting your puppy and seeing it with its mother before you place a deposit down.
They will also be happy to answer any of your questions and not charge a low price for your puppy.
Owning and raising a puppy is one of the most rewarding experiences in the world. To give your puppy the best start in life, you’ll need to make sure it’s been raised and cared for properly before it’s separated from its mother.
Always make sure your new pup stays with its mother for at least eight weeks, and don’t be afraid to ask your breeder for regular updates on your puppy’s temperament and behavior, or the disposition of its mother, either.
If you have any doubts about a breeder or suspect you may be dealing with someone that’s inexperienced, unlicensed, or not reputable, alert your local authorities.