The time your puppy spends with his mother and littermates is crucial to his social development. Basically, your dog is learning what it means to be a dog. Remove him too soon and it can affect his ability to get along with other dogs later in his continued development.
The 49th Day
The earliest a puppy should be brought home is the 49th day, or 7 weeks of age. The 49th day is recommended as the earliest day by many breeders. Wendell J. Sammet, the American Kennel Club's 2002 Breeder of the Year, notes that animal behaviorists believe socialization reaches its peak on the 49th day. Ideally, wait until your puppy is 8 or 9 weeks old to ensure his readiness. He emphasizes that the first seven weeks are invaluable for a puppy's development.
During the 35th to 49th day, puppies learn to accept discipline from their mother. They learn not to bite too hard, and they learn to relate with the other littermates. It's during this time, puppies develop a pack hierarchy through play. They also learn chasing, barking, fighting and body posturing. During this period, the puppy should be experiencing human contact, too. Besides handling the puppies, breeders should provide limited exposure to the outside environment.
Isolating a pup too early from his mother and the other puppies may cause the puppy to have an overly obsessive attachment to humans. He also may have trouble learning to inhibit the force in his bite. Dominant behavior can show up later as aggression, as well as a difficulty accepting discipline and training.
Lack of proper socialization and environmental exposure can lead to a fear of human contact and learning problems. Some pups become hyperactive, while others become socially inhibited.
Whether you bring your puppy home at 7, 8 or 9 weeks of age, continued socialization skills are important. Make sure your puppy is introduced to all age groups. If there are no children in the family, ask your friends to bring their children over for a visit. Invite older relatives or friends to interact with your pup, as well.
Besides socializing, expose your pup to unfamiliar places, noises and sights. Consider puppy classes, begin training sessions and keep experiences positive.
By Pauline Gill
Diamonds in the Ruff: Developmental Stages and Socialization
Gun Dog Breeders: The Stages of Puppy Development
AKC: The First Seven Weeks: Raising Well-Adjusted Puppies By Wendell J. Sammet
SPCA International: Tips for Bringing Home a Puppy
About the Author
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.