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When to Bring a Puppy Home

Updated on November 8, 2017

When to Bring a Puppy Home

How a Puppy Grows

If you are thinking of bringing a puppy home, it is important to understand what happens at each stage of a puppy’s growth. To understand when the right time to bring a puppy home will help you and your pet become better bonded companions for a lifetime.

Socializatin and the making of a good pet begins before a puppy is even born. When a pregnant animal is petted, it has been found to activate the parasympathetic system, making the mother more relaxed, facilitating digestion and emotional attachment, and socialization. This soothingness is known as the gentling, petting, or caress effect. Because puppies develop tactile sensitivies before birth, when the gestating mother is petted, her puppies show a greater tolerance to touching than dogs born of mothers who were not petted. Experiments have shown pregnant pets in a friendly and caring environment with human contact give birth to offspring with improved emotional balance from the physical affection the mother received.


Puppies Grow and Learn

What Each Week Means in the Life of a Puppy

Socialization begins at 3 weeks through 6 weeks with dogs 8 to 14 weeks with people. Puppies learn during this time period to play with their littermates, play fights, hunt for food, behaviors related to dominance and submissiveness, and about all the things that make them dogs, and give them skills to serve them their entire lives. Puppies learn how to relate and communicate with other dogs. They learn about chasing, fair playing, how to bark and growl, and posturing.

Puppies grow and mature at an extremely fast rate. But when they are first born they actually mature slowly. Newborn pups are unable to survive on their own. They are born helpless. They have an immature nervous system that matures at an amazing growth rate from birth until they are 6 to 7 weeks old. Scientists have calculated a puppy’s brain cells reach full maturity at 4 weeks.


When to Bring a Puppy Home

Developmental and Emotional Stages of a Puppy

Dogs, like humans go through developmental emotional stages

  • From newborn to 13 days old - newly born puppies can’t hear, or see. They can’t self-regulate their body temperature or go to eliminate without being stimulated. It it the mother dog that must do all this for their pups. At this point, there is also no emotional development. There is no learning and no social attachments. Measurements of newborn puppies brain waves remain the same when sleeping and awake.

  • 13-21 day old puppies - this is the transition period. Gradually puppies will open their eyes and begin to see, hear, respond to taste and smell.
  • 21-23 days - awareness period. Now the puppies begin to use their sense of hearing and sight. This is the time they also begin to learn. Studies show brain waves become more active as puppies learn from their experiences and begin to retain what they are learning. They are fully alert, and may startle easy from sounds and movements. They begin to bond socially with their mother and siblings.
  • 3 weeks -7 weeks - socialization period. The puppy starts acting like a puppy. They bark, chase, bite, play fight. During this tie they begin to develop problem solving abilities. They become more physically coordinated and learn to inhibit their natural biting tendency. Through socialization with their littermates they begin to develop pack heirarchy through play. Puppies learn discipline from the mother dogy and will become submissive to appease. They begin to learn to housebreak. At 5 weeks old, the brain waves of a puppy are the same as a mature dog. This stage is the prime socialization period.

Puppies who leave the litter before 7-8 weeks can have trouble learning and accepting discipline from their human family. Leaving the litter too early can inhibit a puppy’s ability to get along with other dogs. They begin to form social bonds with humans.

A puppy’s rate of mental development at this point is related to the complexity of their environment.

  • 8-12 weeks - human socialization period. They become extremely impressionable. The puppy begins to have a larger social awareness and can begin to bond outside their litter. Mental abilities are fully formed, and the puppies are ready to gain experiences. A puppy at this stage begins to make object associations, which leave indelible imprints. Positive experiences are very important to have a well balanced adult dog. This is the period of fastest learning. Training during this time helps increase the brain cells of the puppy and increase their capacity to learn. Puppies can sleep through the night without an accident. Dogs who are socialized after 14 weeks may become shy or aggressive for their entire lives. Enrolling a puppy in training classes will enhance your puppy’s ability to learn. The dog begins to become dependent on their human and develops strong desires to be near you.
  • 3-4 months - heirarchy ranking. The puppy begins to figure out who is boss, If littermates are still together, there will be competition for one to be the alpha.

  • 4-8 months- pre-adolescent period. By 16 weeks, the brain of a puppy reaches 80% of full development. They may test what they can get away with. Adult teeth are growing in. They may exhibit behavior problems and not respond as well to discipline. They gain confidence, curiosity, and independence.

  • 8 months - 12 months - hormonal changes and growth spurts. Puppies may unexplicably become fearful of new situations, of people, of other dogs, and of objects. They may test their owners or pick up unusual behaviors. They have a strong need for stimulation, companionhip, and socialization. Their need for activity is very high, and they get bored easily.

  • 12 months - 18 months - dog will reach sexual maturity. In smaller breeds it may happen even earlier. Behavior problems may result from the dog trying to raise their status in their pack. They may challenge their owners and human family.

  • 18 months - 24 months - young adulthood. Many dogs will become protective, territorial, and show an increase in aggression.


Puppies Learn from their Littermates

The Mind of a Puppy

A dog’s brain needs stimulation or it will atrophy if raised in an environment isolated from sensory stimulation. Conversly, a dog’s brain will grow bigger by slightly more than average in an environment with lots of stimulation from noise, odors, taste, sight and emotions.

There are marked changes in EEG patterns at set points in a puppy’s development.

  • 7-8 days - brain waves show activity indicating sense of sight

  • 14-21 days - eyes open and ability to hear noises

  • 21-70 days - socialization begins and develop

  • 5-6 weeks (reaching adult levels)

Behavioral patterns may develop due to internal and external factors that my interrupt the stages of development ,

Puppies need other dogs to identify with. A puppy who has no contact with its own species between 3 weeks and approximately 12 weeks forms identification with the closest beings, usually humans, but it can also be cats, rabbits, etc. They may even identify with a stuffed animal or a vacuum cleaner bag, or other inanimate object. This lack of bonding with other dogs can cause behavioral problems such as:

  • A social preference for the species they identify with

  • Rejection of their own species

  • Fear, phobia, and wariness

  • Puppies learn to play fight with other at about 3 weeks old. They learn empathy through play fighting when the other dog squeals when lightly bitten.

  • At 7 weeks, all the puppies tend to gang up on a lone puppy, sometimes wounding the puppy.

  • 11-15 weeks - puppies tend to play fight less. Hierarchal relationships develop. They learn to control how hard they bite. This helps develop motor control. Without motor control development, hyperactivity can develop, although it is rare.

Puppies are especially malleable and adapt quickly and easily to human environments.

A Social Pet is a Good Pet

How a Puppy Grows and Develops

In the first 3 weeks after a puppy is born, the mother’s care and attachment towards them are strongest, and then gradually recedes. A mother naturally weans her pups around 7 -10 weeks old. A mother will not compete with her young for food after they are weaned. At about 16 weeks, dominance takes place a the pack is formed with a hierarchy.

People can interfere with the normal development of a dog. When an owner doesn’t let a puppy wean at the proper time, there can be attachment and separation anxiety issues with the dog. When a person treats the puppy as a child, it can postpone the puppy’s training and interrupt the order-obedience relationship that is part of the natural hierarchy. This can cause a form of sociopathy and lack of obedience.

Dogs need socialization and naturally reside in a hierarchal pack. What makes a good dog is not the the breed, or its looks, but temperament and training. This begins by making sure the puppy was weaned at the perfect time. The perfect time to take a puppy home has to do with socialization. A dog who is taken away from the litter too early may be undersocialized and may be fearful of other dogs.

When is the Right Time to Adopt a Puppy

The Perfect Age to Take a Puppy Home

So when is a perfect time to take a puppy home away from the litter?

Before 7 weeks - Weaning from mother’s milk to solid food begins when the puppy is about 3-5 weeks old. To complete the weaning process properly, it can take days and weeks. Weaning can be a stressful time for the puppy and it is important the puppy has completed this transition phase and they are eating independently before they are adopted.

At 7 weeks A puppy begins to become curious and approaches the unknown willingly and with a sense of inquisitiveness. This lasts to about 12 weeks old and ends around 14 weeks. After this age they become more fearful and if they have not been socialized properly, they may never be able to function well in a human home.

At 8 weeks it is thought to be the ideal age. The puppy is thought to be old enough to leave the litter, young enough to bond with its human family. But at anytime from 7 to 9 weeks, a dog has completed its socialization in the litter and lessons to be learned from mom.

At 9 weeks some believe they may cause social and behavioral problems and submissive behavior, but this is not necessarily true. 9 weeks may be just as good as 7 or 8 weeks to bring your puppy home.

10-12 weeks - The longer a puppy stays in the litter, the more attached they are to their littermates and mother, making the separation harder on the puppy but this age may be best for smaller breeds since they can be more fragile

Older than 12 weeks - For the best bonding, it is advisable to bring your new dog home younger than 14 weeks. But older dogs adopted from a home is fine. You just don’t want to adopt an older puppy who is still with its littermates, or only living in a cage in a pet store. I adopted 2 puppies at different times who were 18 weeks old and they are loving and wonderful pets. I knew they would be because the breeder had raised them properly.

Older dogs make wonderful pets. It is important to rescue an older pet who needs a home. There is a difference to adopting a pet who came from a home and needs a home compared to a pet who was living with other dogs as they had when they were puppies and never had a human home and the attention and bonding they needed to be companions to people. Older dogs have many advantages. They are usually house broken already, they are mature and will easily bond with their new family because what any dog wants most of all is to show and receive love, affection, and a desire to be a valuable companion in their new forever home.


A dog at any age can make a wonderful pet. Look for their socialization skills and you will have the best dog ever

How to Pick a Great Dog as Your Pet

Dogs Always Need Socialization

When you watch puppies with their littermates, they climb over each other, they get bumped and nudged and this all serves to make them loving pets in their human home. These puppies learn about touch, and to become more tolerant, and less aggressive. A puppy taken from the litter too young will not have learned important social skills. A puppy who stays in the litter too long can develop behavioral issues.

Lack of socialization during these these crucial weeks will forever affect the puppy and dog’s ability to be a good pet, cause anxiety, greater aggression, learning problems, and over reactivity in adulthood. Puppies taken too early from their litter have shown more behavior and developmental problems because of a lack of needed social interactions with their littermates.

Puppies need to become fully socialized to become good pets. There are so vital lessons, only the mother dog and littermates can teach a puppy. In scientific studies, dogs who were taken out of the litter at about 5 or 6 weeks old compared to dogs who were adopted at about 8 to 9 weeks old was stark and definitive from 18 months to 7 years old. Puppies separated from their litter at a younger age showed more behavior problems such as destructiveness, fearfulness, excessive barking, jumpiness to noises, possessiveness over food and toys, and greater neediness for attention. A dog needs socialization their entire lives. It is important to be mindful of the most impressionable times.

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© 2017 toknowinfo

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    • toknowinfo profile image
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      toknowinfo 4 weeks ago

      Great to see you again pop. Congratulations to your daughter. Labs make great dogs, they just take a long time to grow up. But they are worth it!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 4 weeks ago

      My daughter just became a pet owner. He's an English Lab, and I never realized how much there is to learn. Thanks for a great read.