It's a common but very important question, as the influential first weeks of a puppy's life can make a big difference in his behavior as an adult dog. The age that a puppy is separated from his mother impacts not only in how he deals with human beings throughout the rest of his life, but also in his relationships with other pets. Because of this, it is crucial for puppies to spend sufficient developmental time with his mother and littermates.
12 Weeks is Ideal
When a young puppy is around his mama and littermates early in life, he can establish a concept of social behavioral patterns and knowing how to discern between right and wrong conduct. Although puppies usually complete the weaning process when they are around 7 weeks of age, they greatly benefit from the additional time with their families. If at all possible possible, a puppy should not leave his mother and littermates until he is a minimum of 12 weeks, advises the Humane Society of the United States. Unfortunately, many people separate puppies from their mothers far earlier than this which can lead to socialization and even health issues down the line.
Learning Through Play
If a puppy has the privilege of enjoying the company of his mother and littermates, he can develop a healthy understanding of the doggie world. By partaking in physical play with his siblings, he can learn everything from how to have fun without being too aggressive to knowing how to accurately interpret social cues sent by his peers. Without this key early interplay with siblings and mommy, a puppy may become an adult who not only lacks basic etiquette, but who also bites, chases and pounces too fiercely during play. Not only does plenty of early play time frequently stop puppies from displaying overly aggressive behavioral patterns, it also enhances flexibility and muscle control.
Being around a family unit for a sufficient period of time can help a puppy gain an understanding of social status in doggieville. When a puppy is around his littermates and mother, it can help him develop overall respect and an appreciation of order and rules. This may prevent a puppy from becoming, a dominant adult dog who is impatient and unable to wait his turn.
A mother dog's presence not only is comforting to pups, it also is as a disciplinarian. If a puppy does anything inappropriate, mama can communicate that to him. If he is too pushy and bossy with his littermates, she may growl at him as a means of saying "stop." If he is too persistent about nursing, she may do the same.
Mother dogs lick and groom their puppies as a way of keeping them squeaky clean, but also for expressing affection and and showing them that physical touch is a type of social experience. By gaining this understanding courtesy of mama, a puppy can develop positive associations with touch -- definitely not a bad thing for life in a cuddly human household.
By Naomi Millburn
DogChannel.com: Teach Your Dog Social Etiquette
ASPCA: Choosing a Puppy From a Litter
The Humane Society of the United States: Puppy Behavior Basics
Georgia SPCA: Puppy Development
Merck Veterinary Manual: Social Behavior of Dogs
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.