One sunny Saturday morning I headed over to PetSmart to volunteer at an adoption event being held by a local rescue group. Volunteering for this group offers many rewards, especially because they specialize in very small dogs. Holding precious little
balls of fur was on my agenda for the day.
When I arrived I discovered that the group had recently acquired a litter of toy poodle puppies between 5 and 6 weeks old. Of course they attracted a lot of attention with tinynoses just looking for a warm neck and a snuggle. As you can imagine, people were lined up wanting to claim their favorite puppy. The coordinator, Pamela, explained that she could start a waiting list but the puppies were not ready for adoption. The standing rule for adopting puppies is 8 weeks or more.
So, I asked myself, “Why 8 weeks? Where did that number come from?” I began to do my research and this is what I found.
Canine behavior is formed within the first 2 to 3 months. Puppies that are separated from their litter too early are more likely to develop behavior problems as adults. During weeks 12 to 14 week a puppy’s brain is prime to accept new experiences without fear. But between weeks 4-8 they are learning dog to dog behavior.
Researchers have pointed to several adult canine behavior problems that can be traced back to early separation. They are:
- 15 times more likely to be fearful on walks
- 7 times more likely to have attention seeking behavior and noise reactivity
- 6 times more likely to bark excessively
So, the 8 week rule sounds pretty well founded. After what I read, I would wait until 14 weeks if I wanted the best chance of having an emotionally healthy dog. Yes, they sure are cute at 6-8 weeks, but they won’t be that cute when the adult behavior problems begin.
research source: www.healthypets.mercol