When is the best age for a puppy to be weaned and separated from its mother litter mates? Ideally puppies should remain with their mothers for 60 days before being weaned, but many breeders take pups away from their mothers quite a bit earlier. A recent report from the British Veterinary Association claimed puppies weaned before they were 60 days old, were more likely to develop behavioural problems later on in their lives than puppies that were allowed extra time in a litter.However, the majority of breeders actually start weaning puppies when they are just three and a half weeks old. There is a belief that as long as the process is done slowly over a couple of weeks, then puppies are fine even if they are weaned away from their mothers at this early age. Other pet owners believe this to be far too young and prefer to wait a little longer before taking puppies away from their litter mates and mothers. They are happy to wait till the puppies are 2 months or so old before separating them. The recent study shows they are right to do so because puppies tend to be much happier, well balanced creatures if they stay the full 60 days with mum.
The report also explained how many behavioural problems seriously affected a relationship dogs might have had with their owners as well as with other dogs when they were weaned too early, and that often feared being abandoned. This naturally leads to all sorts of behavioural problems, all of which can be extremely hard to put right. Behavioural issues included howling, excessive barking, possessiveness over food and toys and being destructive.Other behavioural problems included attention seeking and in some cases aggressiveness as well as play biting. A percentage of dogs in the study also showed marked signs of fearfulness when taken out on walks. They were also seen to be very sensitive to noises, with a few dogs chasing their tails when nervous. All of these traits were associated with having been taken away from their mothers earlier than 60 days.
Most breeders and dog gurus accept the fact that all young dogs go through a very sensitive period. This is the time when puppies experience positive social interaction with other dogs as well as humans. This stimuli has a great effect on any development in their temperaments and behaviour, which means the earlier it occurs the better it is for them. Puppies who are allowed a positive sensitive period become much happier creatures with far less chance of developing behavioural issues later in life.For some puppies the situation gets worse if they are then sent to pet shops. Not only are they weaned a too early and have not been give the chance to go through their 'sensitive period' in a positive way, they are then put in what is often a stressful environment of a pet shop. This can lead to many puppies developing behavioural and socialising issues when they get older and which could prove to be real problems for their owners.
Getting a young puppy home is exciting but you need to make sure you know just when the puppy was weaned from mum and ask what sort of food the pup was weaned on. This is important if you want to avoid any digestive upsets. Should you want to change the puppy's diet once they are at home with you, it has to be done gradually. Ideally you should wait for at least 7 days before introducing any new puppy food into their diets. If you don't, it could really upset their systems and ultimately make it very difficult for your young puppy to be house trained, through no fault of their own.Puppies are naturally very curious little creatures and will want to explore their new home. However, the chances are they will be extremely nervous about the situation too. Making sure the house is nice and calm with any other animals you may own safely put away, will help relax the situation for the new arrival. Once puppy has explored the areas they are allowed in, you should offer them some water and a little bit of food, then let them go outside in the garden if you can.You have to remember that this is more than likely the first time your puppy has been away from the litter and mum for any great length of time. As such you need to be there for them. They may need a bit of reassurance that everything is okay. However, it's a fine balance of giving in too much or not enough and it's one than needs gauging carefully. You don't want to have a young puppy who feels insecure but at the same time you don't want to end up with a dog you can't leave on its own.
Before you let your puppy socialise with other dogs and people, you have to make sure they are fully vaccinated. At eight weeks old, their mums' milk which contained lots of good things will have started to wear off. This means the time in between getting their first vaccinations can be a very vulnerable time for puppies. Until they do get vaccinated, it is always best to avoid contact with any other dogs and to keep away from high traffic areas like parks.
At the end of the day choosing a puppy from a reputable breeder or friend is the best route to take. You should ask a breeder at what age they wean their puppies and if they do so later rather than sooner, then this is a very positive thing. The longer a pup stays with mum and the litter the better they turn out to be later on in life. A pup that has the chance to spend their 'sensitive period' in a friendly environment will stand a better chance of not developing behavioural problems as they get older. As such you will end up with a much happier and well balanced dog all round.