When Can You Let a Puppy Go? (How Many Weeks – Answered)
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There are various opinions and factors concerning the best age for a puppy to go to their new home. In some cases, puppies being rehomed early is unavoidable, such as when puppies are abandoned. But that aside, how many weeks should a puppy be when they are let go isn’t as straightforward as you might hope, and we explain why in this article.
Puppies’ socialization and early developmental phase between three and fourteen weeks are critical to their development. Therefore, letting a puppy go at the right age is vital for their future emotional wellbeing.
When can you let a puppy go?
Ideally, a puppy can go to a new home between seven or eight weeks. Earlier than that may cause anxiety and behavioral problems. After eight weeks, puppies may also become too entrenched in their litter pecking order.
From that point, they may learn dominant or submissive behaviors that could affect them for the rest of their life.
However, the answer is not really that cut and dry. An even more crucial factor than age is the environment. A good breeder may choose to keep puppies longer to control their early socialization experiences, training, and fear periods.
This can be beneficial if the breeder keeps the dogs in a home environment and makes sure to expose them to many new experiences and stimuli. In these cases, you may get a settled, older puppy that already has basic potty training and a good foundation from which to build.
On the other end of the spectrum are puppies raised in kennels with limited human contact. Studies show that puppies who are not handled regularly (preferably indoors) begin to withdraw from people at five weeks.
This withdrawal becomes worse the longer the puppy is not interacted with. Suppose they are left too long (after 14 weeks). In that case, they may never be able to establish a normal relationship with a human.
This means that if you have puppies in a kennel environment, where the breeder is not really interacting with them, or in a shelter with limited attention, they should be homed as soon as possible.
Is it okay to take a puppy at 7 weeks?
Seven weeks may actually be the ideal time for a puppy to go to their new home. However, expert opinions vary and the debate can be quite heated.
Many breeders refuse to rehome a puppy before eight weeks, and others may even wait as long as twelve weeks before sending them off. In fact, many breeding societies will not allow breeders to send a puppy to a new home before eight weeks.
This enables the puppy to develop early socialization skills and bite inhibition from their litter and mother.
Some breeders even wait till ten or even twelve weeks. This way, they can control early socialization, help their puppies navigate fear periods, and begin early housetraining and obedience.
This is an excellent reason to wait longer, especially for highly sensitive, powerful, or working breeds that need additional expertise, such as the Saarloos Wolfhound.
It usually provides the puppy with a good foundation before they leave for their forever homes. However, this is only effective with a fully hands-on breeder who is investing the time helping their puppies socialize and develop.
As we will discuss below, puppies raised in a kennel with relatively little human contact need to be rehomed as early as possible.
Nevertheless, the available data actually suggests that seven weeks may be the ideal time for puppies to rehome. In fact, it may be precisely around 49 days.
This is because a litter environment is extremely competitive, and puppies who stay with their siblings develop a very rigid pecking order. This can create submissive and dominant behaviors that can become entrenched throughout their lives.
In fact, one study found that dogs placed with new homes from eight weeks and older showed more aggressive and avoidant behavior than puppies six or seven weeks old. This involved more “avoiding, growling, and snapping” at strangers and other dogs.
Interestingly, the study showed that the older the puppies were when they were rehomed, the more problem behaviors were observed.
Also of note is there is a list of states that do not allow you to take home a puppy before 8-week of age. You can see the list in this video below at the 2:00 minute mark:
But isn’t 7 weeks too early to get a puppy?
No, studies generally show that getting a puppy at seven weeks is an excellent age to adopt, provided the puppy is successfully weaned at this age.
However, a good breeder will generally keep a puppy until at least eight weeks. In some cases, an experienced and invested breeder will only allow their puppies to be rehomed from ten or twelve weeks.
Suppose the breeder has the puppies in a home environment and is experienced with early socialization and training. In that case, there are many benefits to this. Although breeders letting puppies go too late can also be problematic.
Puppies from kennels or shelters, or who otherwise may have limited contact with people, should ideally be homed between seven and eight weeks when socialization should be a priority.
Can you let a puppy go at 6 weeks?
Most credible breeders and organizations agree that six weeks is still too early to rehome a puppy, despite the study mentioned above. Nevertheless, this is generally the earliest acceptable age to rehome a puppy, depending on some factors.
Firstly, between six and eight weeks, puppies are the most motivated to make new social contacts and form bonds with strangers. However, at six weeks, they are still highly vulnerable to changes and disturbances.
For example, studies show that puppies are far more distressed when removed from their litter and dam than slightly older puppies at six weeks.
Remember that weaning is about far more than just transitioning to eating solid food such as kibble. It is a process that needs to happen gradually.
Puppies removed too early often “develop other behavioral problems as adults, such as high reactivity, anxiety, attachment-related problems, and inter-dog aggression.”
So, in general, six weeks is still too vulnerable a period. It is better to wait for seven or eight weeks when puppies are more psychologically resilient and better equipped for a new environment.
Gradual weaning is crucial. The breeder mustn’t suddenly remove the dam, as this can cause long-term damage. Instead, separation should be a gradual process as the puppy develops confidence.
This is just another reason why it’s crucial to get your puppy from an accredited and respected breeder. They will know the breed best, give them the correct socialization, and spend the time and effort it takes to get the puppy ready for rehoming.
Can you get a puppy at 5 weeks?
Puppies should not be allowed to go to new homes at five weeks old. Separation at five weeks can cause lifelong behavioral issues related to aggression and anxiety.
At this age, most puppies are still extremely attached to their kennel or sleeping area and are only beginning to explore. They are learning vital skills such as where to eliminate and how to play with their littermates.
Although their mother may not want to nurse them very much, they will still likely interact with her and adjust to life without nursing. In short, they need to be in the process of completing some of the last steps of their weaning.
Weaning is a psychologically taxing time for puppies, and going to an entirely new home is simply too much additional stress.
This is an essential time for them to feel secure in familiar surroundings. They should be handled often, preferably within the home. Keep in mind, forced or even accidental separation from their siblings and mother will cause anxiety and distress.
If a breeder is telling you 5 weeks, then you should question their motives.
A good breeder will know when it’s okay to let a puppy go to a new home. Generally, eight weeks is considered the sweet spot, but some research suggests that seven weeks is better.
Six weeks is not ideal and should be avoided. In comparison, five weeks and younger is simply unacceptable in any normal circumstances. Avoid anybody who tries to get you to buy a puppy younger than seven weeks, as this is a major red flag.
One should also consider the environment the puppy is in. Puppies need to be regularly handled and exposed to humans. Many breeders can do this effectively with their puppies in kennels, but beware of the breeder that only goes to the kennel to feed the pups, do a clean-up, and leave.
In general, a home environment with a hands-on breeder is best.
Finally, leaving puppies too long in their litter can also cause behavioral problems. However, a knowledgeable and expert breeder who keeps puppies longer for socialization and training reasons is helpful.
Tamsin has worked extensively in dog behavior problems and in rescue. She has worked with trainers who specialize in Shutzhund and protection training. Nowadays, her focus is on canine nutrition.
Tamsin is pictured here with her much loved boy, Hudson. She is a true dog lover with a wealth of knowledge on dogs, and we're grateful to have her on the HoundGames team.