Last Updated: September 18, 2023
“What is the best age to bring puppy home?”
This question stirs emotions in every prospective dog owner.
The thrill of imagining a vivacious pup playing around your home is undeniable.
Yet, excitement aside, it’s crucial to nail down the perfect timing.
Ensuring you get this decision right paves the way for lifelong canine companionship.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- early life stages of a puppy from week one to twenty-four months,
- weigh the pros and cons
- and answer your most pressing questions further down the article
By the end, you will have all the knowledge you need to start your journey with your furry friend.
Let’s get started!
What’s the best age to bring your puppy home?
Research indicates that the optimal age to bring a new puppy home is between 8 to 12 weeks. This period is a golden window as they learn vital behaviors from their mothers and littermates, like how to interact with people, animals, and other dogs.
By 8 weeks, puppies are weaned off their mother’s milk and can be introduced to solid food, making them nutritionally independent.
Additionally, the 8 to 12-week window allows them to develop necessary social skills within their litter, which helps them to adapt and behave in new environments.
However, while the 8 week mark is ideal for many dogs, larger breeds might benefit by spending a bit more time with their siblings, perhaps closer to the 12 week mark.
Whether you opt for adoption from a shelter or buy a new puppy from a pet store, consult with good breeders, dog trainers, or your vet to understand the specific needs of your chosen breed before moving forward.
Remember, transitioning to a new home is a significant event for a puppy.
Ensuring it happens at the right age can make a world of difference in their development and bonding with their new family.
Benefits of Bringing Your New Pup at 8-12 Weeks
Welcoming a pup during this phase aligns with nature’s timeline – balancing your pup’s natural development with the benefits of a new environment.
Let’s take a deeper look at the benefits:
Natural Weaning and Dietary Shift
Around 8 weeks puppies are ready to step away from their mother’s nourishing milk.
Their tiny teeth are more pronounced, and their digestive system is ready to handle solid food.
This transition sets the foundation for their dietary patterns in adulthood.
When you take a puppy home at this age, you can easily introduce them to a rich, balanced diet, making sure they’re fortified with the necessary nutrients for growth.
Emergence of Unique Personalities
Those puppy eyes aren’t just seeking attention; they’re windows to emerging personalities.
By this age, puppies aren’t mere reflections of their mother and siblings.
They start exhibiting individual quirks, preferences, and temperaments.
Whether it’s the pup that hides his toys or the one that’s always first to greet you at the door, their distinct personalities come to light, allowing you to experience and cater to each one uniquely.
Prime Time for Social Bonding
For puppies, the 8-12 week window is all about learning and experiencing.
It’s a golden phase where their brain is fit to socialize.
This isn’t just about playing with other pets.
It’s about exposing them to different environments, sounds, and experiences.
A stroll in the park, a car ride, or even the hum of a vacuum cleaner can be an invaluable lesson for them.
These exposures mold them into well-rounded, adaptable dogs, easing many challenges you might face later.
Boosted Immunity and Health
By the time puppies are 8 weeks old, it’s not just their playfulness that’s unfolding, your pups’ health gets a significant boost too.
They’ve likely had their first round of vaccinations, which acts as a shield against many common canine ailments.
Think of puppies around 8-12 weeks as teenagers.
While they’re exploring their newfound love for independence, they’re still easily influenced.
Their heightened adaptability means they’re not just adjusting to their new environment, but they’re also forming tighter bonds with their human family.
This age lays the cornerstone of trust, love, and life-long companionship.
Learning Capacity Peaks
At this age, puppies’ brains are hyperactive.
While they’re eager to explore every nook and cranny of their new abode, they also soak in information quickly.
This is the best time to introduce basic commands and house routines to your pup.
Bringing Home A Puppy Earlier Than 8 Weeks Is Not Advisable
Here are some important points to take into consideration before you adopt your new bud.
Most countries like Canada, the US, and the UK have defined a law that the best age to take a puppy home is after they are 60 days old i.e. 8 – 12 weeks.
These laws are there to safeguard puppies, ensuring they have all the time they need with their mother and littermates.
However, for nonprofit animal shelters, these regulations do not apply because they often find unwanted puppies left at their doors.
It’s always wise to familiarize yourself with local regulations and ensure you’re not bringing an underage puppy.
Feeding and Care Challenges
Puppies require a lot of care and attention during the first few weeks of their life.
They need regular feeding, grooming, cleaning, training, socializing, etc., which can be overwhelming.
Also, puppies under 8 weeks have specific dietary needs.
They thrive on their mother’s milk, which is packed with nutrients tailored just for them.
Staying with their mother until 8 weeks of age is good for your pups’ emotional support and guidance.
The mother helps them cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and develop confidence.
Separating them from their mother’s warmth and their brothers and sisters too early can cause distress, anxiety, or depression in both the mother and the puppy.
Potential Behavior and Socialization Problems
Puppies learn essential life skills and behavior cues from their mother and siblings.
Separate them too early, and you risk ushering in a host of behavioral issues – like inadequate bite inhibition to poor social skills with other dogs.
During the initial weeks, puppies go through various developmental stages like:
Puppies play by biting and mouthing.
If a puppy bites too hard on its mother or sibling, their mother might yelp, snarl, or gently pin the pup to communicate that the bite was too forceful.
This is how puppies learn to control the strength of their bite.
Leaving the litter too early can disrupt this learning process.
This can cause issues such as excessive biting, barking, or fighting.
Submission and Dominance
Through gentle corrections, like pinning a pup down briefly or a short growl, a mother teaches her puppies about hierarchies and boundaries.
This ensures the puppy understands submission, which is crucial for peaceful interactions in multi-dog households or dog parks.
These are subtle cues dogs use to communicate peace and avoid potential conflicts.
They might include averting the eyes, nose licking, yawning, or lowering the body.
A mother dog uses these signals to calm her pups or demonstrate non-threatening intentions, teaching them valuable communication skills in the process.
During play sessions with their siblings, pups learn when they’re being too aggressive or when play is welcomed.
The mother intervenes if play gets too rough, teaching the pups boundaries.
A mother dog keeps her nest clean, prompting her puppies to move away from the sleeping area to eliminate.
This instils an early understanding of proper toileting habits, setting the stage for easier housebreaking.
A mother will growl softly if a puppy is doing something she disapproves of, such as rough play or approaching their food aggressively. This teaches the pup to recognize and respect warning signs.
By interacting with their littermates and navigating different stimuli, they build confidence.
A puppy separated too soon might grow up more fearful and less adaptable to new environments or situations and can develop behavioral problems such as aggression, or anxiety later in life.
Your Puppy’s Growth Journey: From Newborn to Young Adult
Puppies are like clay, gradually molding into their unique selves with each passing week.
But what exactly happens in those crucial weeks and months of their development?
Let’s have a look at their life stages.
One week old puppy’s tiny eyes and ears haven’t fully developed, rendering them essentially blind and deaf.
They spend the vast majority of their time sleeping and nursing from their mother.
Touch is their most active sense at this stage.
They remain close to their mother and siblings to feel the warmth of their bodies.
By the time puppies hit the two-week mark their eyes start to open.
Their vision remains blurry at this stage.
Simultaneously, their ear canals open, introducing them to different sounds.
The sounds make them aware and they start interacting with their surroundings.
Tiny baby teeth start poking through their gums, signaling the beginning of their teething journey.
They also attempt to rise on their little paws.
Their effort to stand is filled with tumbles and stumbles, as they transition towards becoming more independent.
By the time puppies reach 4 weeks of age, they start engaging in playful sessions with their littermates.
These interactions teach them canine social behavior.
Alongside, their sensory perception sharpens.
The sound of the rustle of leaves or a distant hum becomes more pronounced to their ears.
Similarly, even the slightest movements now capture their attention.
By the fifth week puppies’ energy levels skyrocket, as they continue to engage in play-fights with their littermates.
Through these fights, puppies hone their social skills, learning the difference between a friendly tussle and an aggressive move.
This is also the initial stage when weaning off mother’s milk starts.
While they still seek comfort from their mother’s feed, breeders slowly start to introduce solid food.
By the time puppies reach their sixth week, they experience a major sensory transformation.
With enhanced senses, their curious nature propels them to explore their surroundings with enthusiasm.
The increased interactions, be it with their siblings, other animals, or humans, serve as invaluable lessons in social etiquette.
From understanding pack hierarchy to learning the subtle cues of canine communication, their socialization skills start expanding.
At 7 weeks of age, puppies display a remarkable ability to grasp basic commands like “sit” or “stay.”
Additionally, their interactions with siblings become more structured, as they learn their place in the pack.
They start to test boundaries with their littermates to see who is more dominant or submissive.
This can be observed through behaviors like one puppy consistently taking toys from another, a puppy always eating first, or one puppy pinning another down during play.
These interactions help puppies understand their position in the pack and prepare them for social interactions with other dogs as they grow older.
This hierarchy isn’t fixed and can change over time based on the puppies’ personalities, health, size, and training.
At eight weeks of age, most puppies triple their birth weight and begin to look like miniature versions of their adult selves.
Although they’re are ready to leave their mother and be sent to its new home, remember that your furball is still growing.
At this age, puppies have a good sense of hearing and smell, and their vision is also well-developed.
They are very active, playful, full of energy, and curious to learn through exploration and play.
Your pup also begins to socialize with other dogs and bond with people which is an important process and will continue throughout their lives.
They require proper nutrition, exercise, and stimulation for their mental development.
At the age of nine weeks, your puppy is still working on mastering basic commands such as sit, stay, and lie down.
They may also show interest in chewing on things.
So it’s important to provide them with chew toys and keep an eye on anything else they might put in their mouths.
Socializing them during these time periods is very important.
Take your puppy to dog parks so that they can meet other dogs and people.
Also, continue to monitor your pup’s weight and growth, and visit your vet for regular checkups.
With proper care and nutrition, your 9 week old puppy will continue to grow and develop into a healthy adult dog.
At 10 weeks of age, your puppy should be able to socialize well with others.
They should start learning basic commands such as sit, stay, and come.
Puppies at this age are full of energy.
They need a lot of physical activity to stay healthy and happy.
A good way to provide them with the physical activity they need is by taking them on regular walks or runs.
You can also enroll them in a puppy obedience class which will help them learn how to behave around other dogs and people.
Continue providing your puppy with a nutritious diet and plenty of love and attention.
Your eleven weeks old puppy is well on its way to becoming an adult dog.
Its physical appearance will change quite a bit during this time, as it goes through several “growth spurts.”
During this development phase, puppies learn a lot about the world around them.
They explore more and start to understand what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t.
Socialization during these time periods is important so that they get exposed to as many people, animals, and situations as possible.
Remember that they may develop separation anxiety if left alone since they also start to form a strong bond with their human family so make sure they always have your company.
At 12 weeks of age, puppies develop both physically and mentally.
They will be much more independent than they were when you brought them home.
They should reach their adult weight, though they may still put on a few pounds as they grow into their full size.
Their coat will also be fully developed, and you may start to see some shedding.
Mentally, your puppy will be mature at this stage.
They will be able to understand most of the commands and obey if your teachings have been consistent.
Socialization is essential at this age as well.
A twelve week old puppy will need lots of exercises, and two walks a day, each lasting around thirty minutes.
Four to Six Months
During the age span of four to six months, puppies undergo the “teenage” phase.
They might be rebellious, challenge your authority, or display stubborn behavior.
This is also the time when their baby teeth make way for permanent ones.
As new teeth emerge, teething can cause discomfort and an urge to chew.
Providing appropriate chew toys can help alleviate some of this discomfort.
It’s not just about teething and tantrums, you also need to continue to socialize them to shape their temperament and groom them to behave as they mature.
Six to Twelve Months
Between six to twelve months, your furry friend approaches a pivotal stage – the onset of sexual maturity.
It’s an ideal age to consider spaying or neutering your dog.
This is a crucial time for a puppy as they grow their own personality and might exhibit behavioral challenges.
Ramp up your training efforts and focus on curbing any emerging behavioral issues.
Patience and consistency are key here.
Address challenges promptly so that they have a harmonious living environment which is essential for their overall well-being.
Twelve to Eighteen Months
This period marks the transition from puppyhood to young adulthood, depending on the breed.
At this stage you will see a surge in your pups’ energy levels, so don’t be surprised, adapt.
Daily exercise is a must for your dog.
Engage in regular physical activities that will help channel their energy and keep them fit and healthy.
Remember, a well-exercised dog is a happier and more content companion.
Eighteen to Twenty Four Months
By the time your furry friend reaches eighteen to twenty-four months of age, they’re viewed as an adult dog.
However, they might still have occasional bursts of puppy-like behavior.
Continue regular training and keep daily routine consistent.
This will help you mold them into a well-behaved adult dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I adopt or buy a puppy older than twelve weeks?
While 8-12 weeks is a commonly suggested window, older puppies can find it difficult to adjust to their new homes.
If a puppy stays with its litter a little longer than 12 weeks, it can miss key socialization opportunities which is critical for its mental development.
The delay can also cause them to be reactive because they form strong sibling bonds, leading to separation anxiety or aggression.
The puppy during this period might miss early training phases.
Staying longer can foster dominance or submissive behaviors.
Moreover, their bond with humans might get delayed.
Is it harder to train a puppy that’s older than 12 weeks?
Not necessarily. While younger puppies are often more impressionable, older puppies can be just as trainable. Their learning capacity remains strong; it’s consistency and positive reinforcement that matter most.
Does the breed of the puppy affect the age to bring them home?
Some larger breeds mature slower than smaller breeds. While the 8-12 week window is generally suitable for most breeds, consult with the breeder you want to adopt or buy from.
How can I prepare my home for a new puppy?
Before bringing your puppy home, ensure you have all the essentials like food, a comfortable bed, dog toys, and a designated potty area. Puppy-proof your home by removing any possible items they might chew or swallow.
Do older puppies require special training?
While older puppies might have picked up some habits, both good and bad, consistent training can shape their behavior. It’s never too late to instil obedience and positive behaviors. Positive reinforcement and patience is key.
What are the health considerations when adopting a puppy?
Always ensure your puppy is vaccinated and dewormed before bringing them home. Your breeder would have already done that. Ask for vaccinations and health certificates. Regular vet check-ups, proper grooming and a balanced diet are essential for their well-being.
How can I help my puppy adjust to its new home?
Maintain a calm environment, introduce them slowly to their new surroundings, and establish a routine. Spend quality time bonding, and introduce them to other family members and pets gradually.
How do I know if a puppy is emotionally ready to leave its mother?
Puppies that are active, playful, and eating solid food regularly are typically ready. It’s also important they’ve had ample time to interact with their siblings, learning vital dog-to-dog social cues.
How can I ensure my other pets get along with the new puppy?
Introduce your pup to other pets slowly and in a controlled environment. Supervise their interactions, reward positive behavior, and be patient. It’s essential to give your existing pets just as much attention to prevent jealousy.
What challenges should I anticipate in the first week of bringing a puppy home?
Expect sleepless nights as they adjust to a new environment. There might be accidents, so house training should start immediately. Teething, separation anxiety, and the need for socialization are also typical challenges.