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

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.

Four 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 here:

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?

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Comments 25 comments

ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 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~

moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 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.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

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.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

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..

Brett Winn profile image

Brett Winn 4 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 image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

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!

TENKAY profile image

TENKAY 4 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.

Cardozo7 profile image

Cardozo7 4 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

SmartAndFun profile image

SmartAndFun 4 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!

Brett Winn profile image

Brett Winn 4 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.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for sharing!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

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.

Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 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 image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

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.

TENKAY profile image

TENKAY 4 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 image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

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 4 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.

TENKAY profile image

TENKAY 4 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 4 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.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for sharing all these helpful tips!

Jessica 3 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 image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

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.

winstonmom 2 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 image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

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

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

kimberlee 13 months 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

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