At What Age Can Puppies Leave Their Mother?

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The first weeks and months of a puppy's life are critical to her development. At what age can puppies leave their mother? Puppies should not be separated and taken to their new homes until they are at least 8 weeks old, although a few additional weeks with their mother and littermates may be beneficial.


The puppy should stay with its mother for at least 8 weeks.

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Early puppy development

When puppies are born, they are unable to see, hear, or smell and are completely dependent on the care of their mother. Puppies develop rapidly, and by the time they are 4 weeks old, all of their senses have developed, they can walk and interact, and their puppy teeth begin to come in. When puppies are 3 to 4 weeks old, the weaning process begins, and within a couple of weeks, they no longer drink their mother's milk.


At this point, puppies can physically survive on their own without their mother. However, puppies who are separated from their littermates this early miss out on critical socialization and may have behavioral problems later in life.

At what age can puppies leave their mother?

In general, puppies should not be sold or adopted until they are between 8 and 10 weeks old. In fact, in many states, it is illegal to sell a puppy younger than 8 weeks. Many consider 8 weeks to be the ideal age for a puppy to go live with his new family because he is entering the fear stage. Puppies are very impressionable and form tight bonds with their new family.


Puppies should not be sold or adopted until they are between 8 and 10 weeks old.
Image Credit: JuliaSha/iStock/GettyImages

Some breeders opt to keep puppies until they are closer to 12 weeks. The extra time with littermates can be beneficial socialization, and reputable breeders may start house training during this period as well. Toy breeds, for example, are still quite fragile at 8 weeks, and breeders may prefer to give puppies extra time to grow.


Separating puppies too early

There are many downsides to separating puppies from their mother and littermates too early. While socializing with the other puppies in the litter, one important thing they learn is bite control, or how hard they can bite without harming other pups. If a puppy doesn't learn this skill, she may inadvertently hurt you — or even worse, a child — thinking that it is just play.


Other issues that come with a lack of socialization during this critical time of development include separation anxiety and a lack of independence. Other puppies may have problems with anxiety and aggression.

Separating a puppy too early can also have negative physical effects. If a puppy is weaned too quickly, she may develop digestive difficulties, such as nausea and diarrhea. Digestive problems can also manifest due to the emotional stress of early separation.


Orphan puppy care

Unfortunately, there are situations when it is not possible for a puppy to stay with his mother. It is possible that a mother passes away or she cannot care for her pups because she doesn't produce milk or has other behavioral problems. Caring for orphaned puppies is time-consuming, but it's important in order to raise well-adjusted and adoptable puppies.


Puppies learn a lot from their mothers and should stay with her as long as possible.
Image Credit: Andrii Zorii/iStock/GettyImages

In the first weeks, the main things you need to do are feed the puppies regularly, help them eliminate, and keep them warm. Once they are up and moving around, make sure they have plenty of interaction and socialization. If you have a whole litter, they can still play with their siblings, and it is important that you interact with them and introduce them to new experiences in a safe environment.



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