Before bringing a puppy home, it is important to consider several things. Perhaps the most important item to think about is our lifestyle – will we be able to satisfy our dog’s physical and mental needs, offer them space, cover their veterinary expenses, provide them with adequate food, training and grooming?
Once we are clear about this and the decision is made, we then go looking for breeders or visiting shelters. It is normal to feel anxious prior to bringing the new member of the family home – but have you wondered what the best age is to actually acquire this puppy? Perhaps you are concerned about the consequences if you separate them prematurely from his mother and littermates?
Separating a puppy prematurely from its mother and siblings could have negative consequences in its adult life, both for behavior and its health. In this article, we’ll look at the points you should consider when thinking about the best age to bring your puppy home.
In the early stages of life, maternal care is essential for the physical and psychological development of the puppy. The mother not only provides the pups with immunological and/or physical protection, but she also provides stimuli and social learning opportunities.
Maternal behavior consists of contact, suckling, grooming, play, punishment and thermoregulation, among others. In addition, the mother has a very important role in education, socialization, and contributes to the adaptation of the puppies to their environment, especially from 4 to 12 weeks – known as the critical period of socialization.
Additionally, interaction with siblings from the same litter helps puppies learn to communicate, develop healthy behavior habits, and acquire appropriate interaction skills. All of this is fundamental for the formation of a stable adult, since they understand the limits and the rules of coexistence, which will help them to function without problems among other dogs.
Ideal age to separate a puppy from the mother
The proper time to separate a pup from its mother and siblings is between 8 to 10 weeks of age. A premature separation could result in puppies being more prone to disease, because they do not receive the necessary nutrients and/or antibodies from their mother’s milk. Likewise, these puppies could develop behavioral problems in adults related to fear and anxiety, since separating them early inhibits their ability to adapt to new stimuli and develop social skills.
The character of the puppies will be molded by the mother and siblings from the same litter. If this maternal behavior is altered or does not exist, behavioral problems may appear in adult life.
Separating a pup from its mother at 4 weeks can wreak havoc. These dogs have a higher frequency of behavioral problems such as excessive barking, destructive behavior, stress, fear, possessiveness, hyperactivity, aggression, bad relationships with other dogs or people, separation anxiety, among other behaviors.
In addition, they often present health problems such as decreased appetite, poor immune system response, weight loss, allergies, and other complications.
Prolonged contact with its mother and siblings, and meeting the specific needs of each development stage, will help the pup to be an emotionally stable adult compared to puppies that did not spend enough time with the mother.
Although this is not the only factor that can lead to behavior problems, separating puppies during this critical period has a detrimental effect. It is more likely to result in negative behavioral consequences and quality of life as the dog grows older.
This article was written by Anayla Fontán Nunez, Highland Canine Training’s professional dog trainer located in Puerto Rico.