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Everyone loves a puppy; they are soft, adorable, pocket-sized, and full of fun. Typically, people try to bring their puppy home as soon as they can once it has been born, but that is not always best for the puppy.
So, when can puppies leave their mom safely without having their development affected?
Generally, eight weeks is the minimum age a puppy should leave its mom.
Before eight weeks, the puppy is going through a serious developmental process both physically as well as mentally, and it needs its mom and littermates with it in order to go through these processes successfully.
The puppy will experience its main developmental stages between one and two weeks, then again at around two to four weeks, then once more at about four to eight weeks.
Allowing your puppy to go through these stages alongside their mother is essential to providing your puppy with the best shot at becoming a well-behaved and socialized adult dog.
Read on to find out why eight weeks is the minimum age puppies should leave mom and what you can set your home up with to make their transition to your pack easier!
A Quick Look At Puppy Development
To understand why eight weeks is the minimum age puppies should leave their mom, it is important that you understand what happens during their key developmental stages and why having their mom with them is so beneficial.
0 To 2 Weeks: Neonatal Stage
Between birth and two weeks of age, puppies go through their first major stage of development: the neonatal stage.
In this stage, the puppy is blind, deaf, has no teeth, and is completely reliant on its mom taking care of it by moving it around, providing it with milk, checking it for intestinal distress, cleaning it, and providing it body heat.
To take a puppy away from its mom at this age is almost guaranteeing that the puppy will die from starvation, exposure, or simply giving up.
Caring for a puppy without a mother at this age requires specialized vet training.
Some breeds of dogs, like Labradors, will open their eyes and ears at about two weeks of age. This may make them seem capable of leaving their mother earlier than eight weeks. However, they still should not be removed until the first eight weeks are up.
2 To 4 Weeks: Transitional Stage
Between two and four weeks, the puppy will go through the transitional stage. If you are caring for a mom and a litter of puppies, this stage is one of the most rewarding to watch.
Puppies will start opening their eyes and recognizing shapes, light, and things moving around them. They are also starting to find their voice at this stage and will recognize the noises their mother makes as commands for ‘come eat’, ‘leave me alone,’ and ‘do not do that!’
At three to four weeks old, the puppy will start to be interested in the smell and taste of its mother’s food. They may nose around it or even lick it, but few start eating solids at this stage, and they do not need anything more nutritional than their mother’s milk.
At this stage, the puppy is very sensitive to sensory changes. New smells, loud noises, and changes in the environment all have a serious impact on their development.
It is vital that this stage is uninterrupted by being moved to a new home and that the puppy does not leave their mother. The puppy needs to be surrounded by the smell of its mother and littermates at this stage, and removing that from them will cause major distress that will affect their personality.
4 To 7 Weeks: Socialization Stage
Now the fun begins as a puppy! They are strong enough to stand up and walk around unaided by their mom. At this point, mom is leaving the whelping box or puppy cage for longer periods of time, and her puppies are being introduced to solid puppy food!
This is also the time when the puppies are socializing with their littermates intensely and learning what to do and what not to do. For example, they are learning that playing is super fun but biting hurts and they should not do that.
Their mom is now in the role of disciplinarian and is teaching them manners. To an onlooker, it may seem strangely harsh, but she is communicating as gently as possible and punishing them in a way they will understand.
During this time, the mom will start producing less milk and weaning her puppies. They will start eating solid puppy food more and more as they get less and less milk.
Puppies at this age are explorers and are learning new sights and smells that are separate from their mom and littermates.
What Happens At 8 Weeks For Puppies?
Puppies start craving attention from humans at this stage. They know what playing is, they have come to love the feeling of being petted, and they should be fully weaned off of their mother’s milk and eating a steady diet of solid puppy food.
They will start being more independent of their littermates, sleeping through the night, and controlling their bladder and bowels, and they will stop constantly seeking out their mom. They are now ready to go to a new home.
Is It Better To Separate Puppies From Their Mom At 8 Or 10 Weeks?
Between eight and twelve weeks of age, some puppies go through the fear stage. Not all puppies go through the fear stage; however, it is nearly impossible to tell if they will or won’t.
At the beginning of the eighth week, it is difficult to say whether the puppy is going to go through a fear stage. However, by ten weeks of age, a breeder or rescue center will know whether the puppy is in the fear stage or not.
If the puppy is in the fear stage, then it is advisable to wait until the end of the twelfth week to send the puppy to the new home. This is because a big change like that during the fear stage can cause serious behavioral issues later on in life.
What Is The Fear Stage?
For some unknown reason, a puppy that undergoes the fear stage becomes afraid of everything new and old.
The puppy may have had a favorite toy up until this point and all of a sudden, the toy terrifies them. The puppy may have loved its littermates and played with them nonstop, but suddenly, the puppy cowers in a corner when they are near.
If you have adopted the puppy at eight weeks and they suddenly enter the fear stage, it is important that you work with them through it and do not abandon them. They will be afraid of loud noises, punishments, big changes, sharp smells, and strange objects.
Here are some things you can do to ease their fear stage:
- Provide them with plenty of contact time. Love and cuddle them often throughout the day.
- Play with them. By physically playing games, they are distracted from their fear and can start to enjoy life in their new home.
- Start teaching simple commands to them. This helps to mentally distract them from their fear. It will also make their later training easier.
- Place their bed in a calm and quiet area of the house so they are not constantly disturbed by other people and pets.
What Do You Need To Bring A Puppy Home?
There are many things that you need to bring a puppy home. Some of them are essential, and others are more non-essential luxury items. However, there are a couple of things you absolutely should have prepared to make the transition from being with their mother and littermates to your home easier.
First, take a soft toy and a blanket with you when you pick your puppy up, especially if they have a mother and littermates present. Rub a blanket like the PAWZ Road Pet Dog Blanket Fleece Fabric on their mother and littermates to take some of their smell home with you.
Do the same thing with the soft toy. I love Calmeroos Plush Heartbeat Toys because they come with a heat pack and emit a subtle heartbeat. If you have rubbed the toy on their mother or littermates then your puppy, will have a familiar smell and a ‘warm body’ with them in their new home.
Puppies can be dirty or flea-ridden when they arrive at your home. Sometimes, they can come from a well-known breeder or adoption center and be spotless but mess on the way home and need to be bathed and combed as soon as possible!
Have some puppy shampoo, like Burt’s Bees for Dogs Natural Tearless Puppy Shampoo with Buttermilk, ready for a nice warm bath as soon as they get home. This way, they will smell nice and fresh.
After their bath, go over them with a flea comb, like Hartz Groomer’s Best Flea Comb, just to make sure they do not have any. If your puppy has fleas, then they need to be treated for them as soon as possible, as fleas can become life-threatening to puppies.
Puppies at eight weeks are still in their chewing phase and will love to get their teeth into anything they can. Provide them with a chew toy or chew sticks that are safe for puppies. I personally love the Mighty Paw Naturals Bully Sticks.
Have some food ready for them when they get home in a nice, stable stainless steel bowl like this one Amazon Basics Stainless Steel Dog Bowl. A stable bowl like this one will not be tipped over easily, which will not frighten them.
As far as food goes, I recommend the Wellness CORE Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food as it is nutritious and my puppies all love it.
Finally, remember that puppies mess, even if you are super diligent at their house training. Be sure to buy some Amazon Basics Dog and Puppy Pads to keep in their sleeping area to reduce the amount of clean-up you have to do.
FAQs About When Puppies Can Leave Their Mom
What is the youngest age I can legally adopt a puppy?
In many states, it is illegal to adopt a puppy younger than eight weeks old. However, some states do allow you to adopt from six weeks of age.
It is always a good idea to check on your state law before adopting any animal to ensure you are abiding by the laws and do not run the risk of your puppy being taken away from you.
What happens to puppies who leave their mom too early?
Puppies who are separated from their mother and littermates too early are susceptible to a number of different behavioral and physical problems now and as they develop into adult dogs.
Puppies who are separated too early can suffer from aggression and be prone to constant barking. These puppies are also likely to develop separation anxiety, biting, and a lack of confidence as a result of being ‘abandoned’ by their mothers in their socialization stage.
If they are weaned off of their mother’s milk too early, then they could develop bone, joint, and muscle issues, as they go without key nutritional elements found in their mother’s milk.
Why could I only get my Chihuahua at 12 weeks old?
Many small and toy breeds of dogs like Chihuahuas, miniature Yorkshire Terriers, Papillons, and miniature Dachshunds are so small that at 8 weeks they are still too physically fragile to leave their mother’s side.
These dogs grow more slowly than other breeds like Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and German shepherds. Breeders and dog lovers alike all agree they are too vulnerable to go to new homes until they are slightly bigger at 11 to 14 weeks old.
Rolling Over On Puppies Leaving Mom…
Eight weeks is the general consensus among professionals on when puppies can safely leave their mothers. At eight weeks old, puppies should be fully weaned and moving about independently.
To sum up, the developmental stages for most puppies are:
- 0 to 2 weeks: Neonatal
- 2 to 4 weeks: Transitional
- 4 to 7 weeks: Socialization
- 8+ weeks
They will have spent some valuable time socializing with their littermates and learning important lessons from their mother. Between eight and ten weeks, they will be ready for a new home and a new adventure!
Taking care of a puppy on its first night is stressful for you and them! However, it can be fun and exciting, too. Check out my guide on what to do for your puppy’s first night home.
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Top Picks For Our Puppies
- BEST PUPPY TOY
We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
- BEST DOG CHEW
We Like: Mighty Paw Naturals Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
- BEST DOG TREATS
We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
- BEST FRESH DOG FOOD
We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.
Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.