Is there a Best Age to Get a Puppy?
Most people think the best age to get a puppy is 6 weeks - WRONG,WRONG,WRONG! NEVER get a puppy before 7-8 weeks of age. So what are the best times? Here's a couple of well-researched reasons why.....(most of this is from research done by the Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.)
Puppies have 4 critical periods of development between birth and 16 weeks (4 mos) of their lives. What happens to them during these 4 mos. determines what kind of companion they will become and shapes their character for the rest of their lives!
- Birth to 21 days (3 weeks) - during this period the puppy's brain is mostly reactionary in that the brain is developing neural pathways. During this time the mother and her milk are most important. The puppy needs adequate food, the stimulation it gets from the mother licking it and the warmth it gets from mom and it's littermates. By three weeks (21st day) the puppy's brain has taken on adult brain form and the puppy can toddle around, blink, hear, eliminate without mother's stimulation and begin to explore it's immediate surroundings. They begin to try to play with their siblings and mother.
- 3 weeks to 7 weeks (49th day) - During this period puppies learn canine socialization and learn dominance order - most important in training and getting along with other dogs! This is a time of rapid development, both physically and mentally.
From 21-28 days (4 weeks) is especially crucial and should the puppy be separated from its mother and littermates at this time it would be so emotionally upsetting that the puppy will never be compensated in life for the loss of interaction of its mother and littermates.
Characteristically, puppies weaned at 4 weeks are a training nightmare because they never get the connection between a reward or correction and what they were doing at the time. (For example, the dog grabs your sandwich and you yell "NO". It will not understand why you are saying no, nor why it is unacceptable to grab what it wants.) Between 4 and 5 weeks is when the puppy becomes aware of its surroundings and littermates and discovers when it bites too hard on one of them or Mama Dog - it gets corrected by Mama or the littermate bites back - hard! They learn to play bite at an acceptable level for their playmates. This is important to us because we can then teach them not to bite or nip us....they will learn that we are rather delicate creatures by puppy standards! :-)
Canine socialization is so important for a puppy to be well-adjusted. A puppy needs contact and interaction with it's mom and littermates to learn doggy social graces, such as how to approach another dog, how to show submission and how to initiate play. A puppy weaned at 5 weeks is characteristically aggressive towards strange dogs. Some people call this "Dog aggressive", but it is basically caused by the dog not knowing how to approach or be approached by a another dog. Mothers discipline pups and teach them as well....this is as important in dogs as it is in human children.
A puppy weaned at 6 weeks may have the social skills but will not have all the self-confidence in itself as it would after 7 weeks. This is extremely important in a service dog or a dog you want to take responsibility for you, your home and property.
- 49 to 84 days ( 7 weeks to 12 weeks)- By the 49th day a puppy is neurologically complete...it has an adult brain, but no experience! (Kinda like you were when you got out of school and tried to find a job - couldn't get a job because you lacked job experience.:-/ ) A good breeder will handle their pups daily, from birth, because during this time it is critical for someone to give it affection and guidance so the puppy will be willing to form attachments to people and learn to trust humans. Puppies must get one-on-one socialization with a human at least once a week to develop as an individual.
- Older pups - If the breeder has socialized the pups, taken them places,crate trained, and house trained them - then these older pups may well be the ABSOLUTE best - especially for a busy family!
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