Dog Behavior: The Issue of Puppies Being Removed Too Early From Their Littermates and Mom

Updated on March 5, 2019
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

At what age should puppies be taken home?
At what age should puppies be taken home? | Source

Why Are so Many Puppies Taken Away so Early?

For some odd reason, this week I was contacted by two different people having problems with their puppies. One of them purchased two sibling female Boxer puppies at 6 weeks of age, and the other purchased a seven-week-old German Shepherd puppy a pet store. What do these two puppies have in common other than giving problems to their owners? The age they were adopted, and obviously, the sources of such puppies which are very questionable. The Boxer owner obviously got the siblings from a back-yard breeder (no responsible breeder would sell litter mate puppies, and worst of all, of such a young age!) whereas, the German Shepherd owner got her puppy from a pet store (which often are supplied by puppy mills and other obscure sources).

Removing Puppies too Early Is Illegal!

What many dog owners don't know is that there are many pitfalls from adopting or purchasing puppies so young. Indeed, selling underage puppies is even illegal in several states. For instance, in the State of Illinois, no dog breeder or kennel operator can sell a puppy that is under the age of 8 weeks! There are many reasons why puppies earlier than 8 weeks should not be adopted out, and we will see some of the most negative implications derived from obtaining underage puppies.

4 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Get Underage Puppies

There are four main reasons why it is highly risky to purchase young puppies and we will look over these four important reasons. Failing to understand and comply with these reasons affects puppies, puppy owners and the general welfare of animals.

Reason Number 1: Protecting Puppy Welfare

One of the main reasons why it is illegal to obtain a puppy under the age of 8 weeks is the fact that many states want to combat puppy mills and other obscure organizations that supply puppies for business reasons. By making it illegal to obtain an underage puppy more ethical practices are encouraged focusing on the welfare of puppies.

Reason Number 2: Encouraging Proper Weaning

It is important for puppies to be sent to new homes once they are entirely weaned and no longer nursing Adopting a puppy at 8 weeks old, ensures puppies are on solid foods and ready for leaving their mom and embracing their new family. In that State of Kansas, for instance, not only it is illegal to sell a puppy under the age of 8 weeks but it is also illegal to sell a puppy that has not been weaned properly. Indeed, according to the Kansas Animal Health Department puppies must be completely on solid foods without nursing for at least five days before being ready to be sold.

Reason Number 3: Ensuring Proper Socialization

Puppies undergo developmental stages as they grow and some of these stages are very critical for the puppy's future well-being. In particular, the primary socialization stage which takes place when the puppy is between 3 to 5 weeks of age is very important as it teaches the puppy species-specific social behaviors. During this phase, puppies learn how to inhibit their bite and relate to their litter mates and mom. They learn submissive postures, to accept their mother's discipline and several other subtleties of being a dog. Removal from the litter at this stage may result in social problems and even inter-dog intolerance at a later age.

Reason Number 4: Preventing Behavioral Problems

A study conducted by veterinarians L. Pierantoni, M. Albertini and F. Pirrone found puppies removed from the litter around 30 to 40 days developed several behavioral problems when compared to puppies removed at 60 days (8 weeks old). The behavioral problems entailed food aggression, attention-seeking behaviors, destructiveness, reactivity to noises and more. These problems were more pronounced in puppies obtained from the puppy store.

As seen, there are many negative connotations worth keeping in mind. Potential puppy buyers must be aware of these risks and avoid breeders attempting to sell underage puppies. There is ultimately no good reason for giving a puppy away so early, other than wanting to make a quick sale and getting rid of a puppy that may be too much work for an unethical breeder.

Wondering the laws in your State in regards to selling underage puppies? Discover it by referencing the Age to Sell Puppies State Law Table.

Note: Some breeds actually do best if adopted out after 12 weeks of age, this applies often to small dog breeds. For instance, the American Maltese Association Code of Ethics requires that breeders keep their puppies until 12 weeks of age.

At what age did you get your puppy?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Adrienne Janet Farricelli

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    • profile image

      jodi 

      3 weeks ago

      I agree with proper age to socialize but do not a agree with pups from same litter. I have great luck with dogs from same litter... alot are more bonded and loving to each other. Dogs can vary, but over many many years... no problem having siblings.

    • profile image

      P Jordan 

      2 months ago

      My boy is a Walmart puppy. They claimed that he was 6 weeks old, but a trip to the vet confirmed what I already knew, he was between 4 and 5 weeks old. I know what happens to most puppies like him. They don't live to see their first birthday.

      I'm a very experienced dog owner and have been able to get most of the negative behaviors under control.

      As soon as I took him home he had separation anxiety and would cry for hours. Even with my kids holding him, he wanted momma. I put him on puppy CBD drops and sent him to my sister's house to play with her dogs, one of which was a daddy a couple years back.

      Still, he's clingy and has surpassed Velcro dog to the level of master rubber cement pup, at 8 months old no less. But he knows mom will always come home. just like the human kids, if he's acting out I give him extra attention.

      Right now he's chewing every shoe that gets left out. He's upset at me for changing his food and even though I changed it back, he's still upset. It'll blow over soon. My boy will always need the "extra" of everything because of being taken from his mommy. It is traumatizing, and it damaged him a little emotionally and mentally.

      My advice for someone in the situation where the puppy is removed from their litter too early it to build up a support system for you and the pup. Having my sister bring her dogs over has helped teach him pack behaviors and manners. The CBD drops let him learn to cope in his own time.

      He will never be a dominant dog ( he still squats to pee even though there is no problem with him physically) and he will always be an attention monger. I knew what I was doing and was determined to save at least one life. If you adopt a pup who isn't ready, you need to be ready to go the extra mile and do what the mommy dog would have. it's hard, but I won't let go of my baby boy for anything. Even though he has chewed $500 worth of shoes in 2 months and between 4 people. :-) he's my baby boy forever

    • profile image

      Caitlin 

      3 months ago

      So i have 2 three month old queensland dauchaund ( idk how to spell it i’m sorry) both male and they were born out of the 2 litter of my boyfriends uncles dog and i got them when they were about 3 weeks old but they went back to they’re mom about 2 or 3 weeks later and they just came back to me about 2 weeks ago i’ve noticed the behavior of attatchment towards me more since they’ve been over there and came back so i’m worried it’s going to affect their behavior but they are very smart and already almost completely potty trained. They are just aggressive when they play and i fear one may really hurt the other, they’ve already made each other bleed (scratch under the eye..they need their nails trimmed) and yelp when playing a lot but they cuddle every night and whenever they nap.

    • profile image

      Amy 

      3 months ago

      I got my pitbull puppy not knowing he was 5 weeks old and he was weaned already. I had to carry him down my porch steps until he was 5 months old because he was scared. Once he hit a year old he was 100lbs and scared of alot. Dogs barking, yelling, storms and moving anything in the house to a different spot all would scare him badly. He began to attack my other dog for barking. He was put on prozac, trazadone, and 2mg of zanex to calm him. Still he would attack my other dog for barking, we were able to break it up and he then tried to bite my 16yr old son. He was a very sweet dog who was happy just to be alive. He kissed anybody who came near him, but once he would get scared he couldnt be controlled. He was too big and too strong. After he tried to bite my son i put him down. He was 1yr and 4 months old. He was normally the sweetest happiest dog ever, but because of fear aggression i lost him. All because somebody didnt want to deal with the litter i lost my best friend. If he had been kept with his mother and weaned when he should have been he would have been the best dog ever. I was friends with the person who i got my dog from but was lied to about the puppys age. If i find out there dog had another litter, i will personally turn them in. My feelings are very bitter towards that person now. Truthfully i hate her for what im going through. That dog was always by my side or on my lap, now he is dead....because of her.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 

      10 months ago

      i bought beagle puppy in Pune india from ganesh tekawade. Which detected distemper virus infection within 3 days. that means puppie was already infected sold to us. Puppie died within 1 week time. Breeder ganesh tekawade did not give any refund to us. What to do in such cases?

    • profile image

      Corgi Mom 

      18 months ago

      My state is 8 weeks, but that is still too early. As a rescue, I never ever place puppies before 14-16 weeks. For the person having biting issues with the 9 week old puppy, call a good behaviorist. Feed him out of the palm of your hand. Be sue that he is in a comfortable place, and go slowly.

    • profile image

      britney heupel 

      23 months ago

      we got our puppy at 6 weeks not knowing it wasent ok puppy was already on kibble. now is such an intense bitter its almost impossible to play with him without breaking skin. hes 9 weeks now. i have tried everything.

    • profile image

      Gibber 

      2 years ago

      I hind site is everything. Our dog is now over 10. I wish we had known back then that he shouldn't have been taken away from his mother before a minimum of 8 weeks. We've had a nightmare of a time with our dog as a result. He's aggressive, full of anxiety separation and otherwise, extremely needy and clingy, has autoimmune disease, and the list goes on. While I care about him, I'm utterly exhausted by him.

      Please anyone listening do your homework before you get a dog. Research the types and personalities. I just wished I'd knew back then.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      2 years ago

      Connie Glynn, here in Arizona where I live "a pet dealer shall not offer for sale a cat or dog that is less than eight weeks old." I am assuming this is because they want to ensure the pups had the chance for imprinting well and learning from their social interactions, but it could also be to ensure they are grown enough to endure hardships such as being shipped in a plane. As with everything in life there may be exceptions to the rule. I would think if a breeder is giving them away that early just because he or she is in a hurry to send them off to their new homes, that's a big red flag. The pups could have learned a lot of more basics in the extra week such as getting used to being in a crate, traveling in a crate, getting used to walking on a leash and basic handling skills such as getting nails clipped, getting their teeth brushed and their ears cleaned. If the breeder though was able to provide all of this already by 7 weeks and committed a great deal of time to producing great pups, and it is legal to give the pups away at this age, then maybe, just maybe it can be fine. Dogs raised to be service dogs go through a very extensive program which will be continued for many more months which could be the reason why they are ready by 7 weeks to go to their puppy raisers.

    • profile image

      connie glynn 

      2 years ago

      My girl came from a very reputable breeder and Leader Dog says the optimum time for a GSD who has been properly weaned is 7 weeks. In breeding my girl and now her girl, pups always leave at that age and not one of the now 20+ pup parents have reported any behavioral issues at all. They are healthy, some performing in dog sports and others have become invaluable, well tempered family pets!

    • profile image

      kimberlee 

      3 years ago

      Intresting read my dog has had 2 litters first litter was nearly 2 years ago 4 pups all kept with mum I had all jabs done was rehomed at 9 weeks the second litter was alot different with dad being a lhasa apso my dog jack russell x schit zu pups was alot bigger 3 pups at 4 weeks they was weaning themselves when puppy food was put down now at 7 1/2 weeks with puppy pad trained and weaned im having to rehome them ( not selling any all going to family) as my dog is struggling to cope with her pups trying to feed now as there biting her constantly shes got blue veins popping up around where pups are biting so as someone who has rehome early as recommended due to concern for the mummy dog

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      4 years ago

      Ask a trainer to help you out with confidence building exercises and for noise sensitivity read my article on the "hear that" method

      https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Noise-Sensitivity-...

      Chewing furniture can be a sign of separation anxiety or simply boredom.

    • profile image

      winstonmom 

      4 years ago

      My 9 month old lab/beagle was bought by my sister from a man selling puppies out of a box in front of a store. I realized right away on his first night with us that he didn't know how to eat or drink from a bowl. I've raised him and although he's usually very happy and playful, he does stick to my side as I walk from room to room in the house. In the kitchen, he lays at my feet. He's afraid of loud noises. And at 8 months, he started chewing furniture while alone. I believe his emotional issues stem from being taken from his mom too soon. He is very needy and I'm not sure if there's anything I can do to help him feel more secure.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      5 years ago

      Greetings, chewing items like walls and eating poop at times can be due to vitamin deficiencies, however it can also be from built-up frustration, attention seeking behavior and stress. I wouldn't try to give her vitamins without consulting with a vet first. You need to find a way to take her attention away from chewing inappropriate items. Stuff a Kong to redirect from chewing those items and praise her when she eats the food in the Kong. For timidity around noises read my "hear that" method.https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Noise-Sensitivity-...

    • profile image

      Jessica 

      5 years ago

      We bought a puppy from a woman with the information that she was 8 weeks. However, it quickly became obvious she was lying to us. The dog slept for a whole week, was terrified of the kitchen and shook crazily if she wasn't in her basket, she tried to get milk from our other dog who is a male and she didn't know how to lap food. After a while she started to come out of her shell and was playful and chased our other dog around. Howver, at 7 months she still eats her own poop and started eating our walls, this prompted us to research. As we was reading we realised that the behaviour problems she has been said to be linked with being taken from the mum too early. A few examples being that she timid around noises, destructive as well as being attention seeking. We have bought her puppy milk and dog vitamin tablets to try and see if we can give her vitamins she's probably lacking from being taken off her mum's milk. Will this help her because her destructive side, urinating and pooping consantly and eating walls is costing us a lot of money and I don't want to resort to selling her.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing all these helpful tips!

    • TENKAY profile image

      TENKAY 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      If the puppies are eating well at the age of 6 weeks (not months) suckling can be regulated to twice a day.

    • TENKAY profile image

      TENKAY 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      maltese are toy dogs and yes, physically, they are slower to develop than labs. This is the reason why weaning this type of dogs should be done slowly and carefully. It is a case to case basis. Everything really depends on the state of health of both mother and puppies.

    • TENKAY profile image

      TENKAY 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      If the puppies are not weaned off, it will suckle the mother longer and milk would still be produced. It would be difficult for the mother to regain back her health. There's no problem if the number of puppies are 3 or less only. It won't be hard on the mother to raise them up on her own. But more than 3 puppies would strain the mother's health.

      If the puppies are eating well, at the age of 6 months suckling can be regulated to twice a day, with solid food to supplement their intake. This is advisable for dogs having lots of puppies, either toy or large bred dogs. Wean off the puppies slowly and train them to adopt to an environment suited for future buyers.

      Usually toy dogs are kept in a cage during the night, and let out during the day. So caging puppies should be part of the training, initially as a group then later on individually.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing. What are some reasons why some toy breeds are separated at 12 weeks? I read the Maltese code of ethics and it claimed that they are slower to develop compared to a Lab puppy, is that they same with toy breeds?

    • TENKAY profile image

      TENKAY 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      Separating puppies from their mother would depend on the following factors: health of the puppies and mother, how early the puppies were trained to start eating solid food, and what vaccinations were given to the puppies.

      Based on my experience in breeding toy dogs, 8 to 12 weeks old puppies can be weaned off from their mother and can be transferred to another home. Factors that affect a dog's personality are genetics and environment. I think it's safe to say that both affects the behavior of dogs equally. Puppies can be trained at an early age of 2 to 3 months, this is actually the formative stage of puppies. You can make or break a dog at this stage.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      I just learned that Maltese pups must be kept until 12 weeks with their moms, wondering what other small breeds must also abide to this recommendation, I always owned big dogs.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      Great hub! Voted up and interesting.

      I was aware of the general 8-week recommendation, but did not know the reasoning behind it.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      I did find that the Maltese Breeder Association code of ethics requires reputable breeders to send them home only once they are 12 weeks. It looks like they tend to grow and mature slower (ie a Lab puppy at 3 weeks is moving around playing while a Maltese is barely getting on its legs at 3 weeks) At 8 weeks a Maltese puppy may even still be nursing. I think there are other small dog breeds that as well are sent out at 12 weeks.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 

      7 years ago from US

      I have also observed that breeders of very breeds generally like to keep them until they're about twelve weeks before letting them go ... not sure what the rationale for this is, but it seems fairly common among the show breeders I know.

    • SmartAndFun profile image

      SmartAndFun 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Many years ago we adopted a puppy who was only 4 or 5 weeks old. He was a super sweet little guy but grew up to have several fears and phobias. I always wondered if leaving his mother too soon might have contributed to his behavior. Great hub!

    • Cardozo7 profile image

      Cardozo7 

      7 years ago from Portugal

      The problem is that many dog breeders want to make quick money with them, so they want to sell the dogs as quickly as possible. Also the younger the dog is the cuter people think of him. I believe no dog should leave their mom before 10/11 weeks but the truth is that lots of them are sold before.

      Good hub, voted up

    • TENKAY profile image

      TENKAY 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      It would be mostly for health reasons that puppies should stay with the mother until they can be weaned. Usually puppies can start on solid food at 3 weeks or 4 weeks old. You could totally separate them from the mother at 10 weeks. If the puppy had been given all the immunization shots, then its safe to send them to another home.

      My first toy dog was 3 weeks old when I had to get it because the mother died. She saw me as her 'mom'. It was a sleepless one week for me, giving her the bottle every 2 hours for the first day, then every 3 hours after that ... It was a challenge keeping her alive. I was successful and well, the next challenge was when I bred her. There's joy and sorrow in breeding toy dogs or any dog bred.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      The first fear period should generally last until 11 weeks and puppies during this stage should not be subjected to physical or psychological trauma. This is why I always recommend people interested in purchasing a puppy to make frequent visits so to the puppy gets used to their perspective owner. I also recommend they leave something that smells like them, like a shirt or blanket a week prior to taking the puppy home. I also tell them to use a DAP diffuser in the new home. I can understand the issue of sending them to a new home during this critical stage, especially if they need to be shipped. Thanks for sharing!

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 

      7 years ago from US

      Great food for thought. I have bred several litters, and it has always been my preference to have the new owners either get their puppy at about seven and a half weeks, or else wait until nine ... eight weeks begins a fear imprint period and it has always seemed unfair to me to send a puppy off to a whole new set of circumstances at that time. I have not personally observed much benefit from the puppies being with their dam those last few days. I usually keep a puppy and follow up with those I sell in their new homes and have been generally well pleased with the results. I also temperament test, though, and attempt to match people and puppies, and I socialize like CRAZY up until the time they leave me.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Moonlake, that's a good ending..unfortunately, not all puppies turn out that way. The lady with the German Shepherd had problems with her puppy biting hard and acting aggressively at only 16 weeks! The person with the two boxers was starting to witness serious sibling rivalry with the puppies bonding too much and fighting and also ignoring her commands..

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for commenting, yes, it is a good thing they made it illegal in several states, but there are still sadly many breeders that ignore such regulations.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 

      7 years ago from America

      I remember getting a puppy for Christmas one year from our aunt and uncle. It was so small my Mom and Dad had to feed it by bottle. The puppy's mother had been killed, she didn't belong to my aunt and uncle but everyone near them had taken a pup to try to save it. He grew up to be the best dog.

      Lots of good information.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      The idea of taking puppies away from their moms before they are even weaned makes me sad. I'm glad to know it is illegal in some states and hopefully that is a deterrent to those trying to make a quick dollar at the expense of the welfare of innocent puppies.

      ~voted up and interesting~

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