How Long Should Puppies Stay With Their Mother?

By Byrd McDaniel

During the early stages of development for puppies, they develop a sense of independence and the ability to take care of themselves. However, taking a puppy away from its mother before it is ready can yield serious problems for the development of the puppy. By observing your puppy and checking for particular stages of development, you can make sure that you take a puppy away from its mother at the proper time.

Timeline

In general, most breeders agree that the proper time to remove a puppy from its mother is when it is between six and 10 weeks old, although other breeders narrow this period to the seven- to eight-week period. However, almost all studies point to the importance of removing a puppy from its mother at the proper time. Taking a puppy from its mother too early can cause developmental deficiencies and underdevelopment, and leaving a puppy with its mother too long can cause it to develop dependency issues.

Early Development

Knowing when to take a puppy away from its mother involves monitoring development stages and recognizing when a puppy can be self-sufficient. In the first three weeks of life, puppies can see a little bit, but they cannot hear or smell. After three weeks, they begin to develop a sense of smell, hearing and better sight. In these early stages, mothers help puppies by nursing them and keeping them safe.

Later Development

During the four- to seven-week period, puppies need less contact with their mothers. They begin to play with their litter mates and explore on their own. At seven weeks, puppies' brains are usually fully developed, which marks them as ready to leave their mothers. You can tell when a puppy has reached this level by observing its interaction with its mother and peers. If the puppy seems able to play independently with its peers and needs little contact with its mother, then it is probably ready to be removed from its mother.

Weening

It is important to take note of when to ween a puppy from its mother. If a puppy at the age of seven weeks still drinks its mother's milk, then it is a good idea to wait eight weeks before removing it from its mother. This gives it more time to mature before you train it to eat puppy food. Puppies that have already been weened at the age of seven weeks may be ready to leave their mothers immediately.