How soon is too soon?

As many of you know, I volunteer for an organization called VIP Rescue of Central Florida. I am a canine foster mom and I also work the adoption events.

Recently we aquired a litter of toy poodle puppies who were between 5 and 6 weeks old. The adoption coordinator brought them to the adoption event as soon after they were vaccinated. Of course they attracted a lot of attention. Most people wanted to adopt them on the spot and take them home right away. The coordinator, Pam, 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 leaning 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.


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