Prematurely Prying Puppies from their Litters
Before deciding on introducing a bundle of fluffy joy to your human family, it’s crucial to ensure that the puppy has spent sufficient time with their biological mother and siblings so to avoid potential social, behavioural and even medical problems later in life.
But when exactly are puppies meant to be separated from their mother and litter? Find out more here…
The First Few Weeks of Life
During the first few weeks of a puppy’s life, they really aren’t much different from a human baby. They require the constant presence and attention of their mother because they completely rely on her for sustenance. Moreover, being a part of a litter is a form of socialisation for a young poochlet, where they learn how to ‘play’ with their siblings. A constant learning process takes place in the litter from the day a puppy first opens their eyes at the age of about two to three weeks, until they are separated from their litter, which should be no earlier than eight weeks of age.
The Eighth Week
By the time a little doggy reaches the eighth week of its existence, they have already undergone several developmental stages which help them acquire the skills they would need to survive and thrive as an adult dog. The progressive sensory development gained from weeks three and four enables the pup to move around and process their surrounding environment. The pace of progress then accelerates from week four onwards due to the start of the socialisation phase where their mother teaches her litter basic manners, the concept of ‘pack leader’ and how to eat solid food when weaning occurs at about four weeks old. Weaning must be done gradually to ensure the physical and psychological health of both the mother and the pups.
As part of their socialisation development, by 8 weeks, puppies should have already been acquainted with their human equals. This introduction should be initiated from 3 to 12 weeks of age, so puppies grow familiar with their new owners. Special, individual attention must be given to each puppy daily thereby forming positive associations to interacting with people.
It is generally accepted that the brains of pups from 2.5 weeks through to 14 weeks of age are capable of welcoming new experiences with little fear and distress. This sensitive time period of what the poochlet experiences, (or doesn’t experience) shapes their character, behaviour and personality as an adult pooch.
Consequences of Early Separation
Before the puppy turns eight weeks old, it can be harmful to separate the baby from its mother for even more than 10 minutes at a time. Poochlets that are permanently separated from the litter at a young age can develop excessive behavioural problems such as anxiety, excessive barking and even aggression. From a medical perspective, such puppies are more inclined to have physical issues such as the inability to gain weight and an enhanced susceptibility to developing diseases due to an underdeveloped immune system. Psychologically, they may have increased tendencies to suffer from separation anxiety and their learning ability could ultimately be hampered. A puppy that is separated from their litter before eight weeks may also exhibit adjustment issues when brought into their new home.
When you do finally bring your puppy home and welcome them into your family, be sure to shower them with love, care and affection as from this day forward, you are their parent. Take every measure to make sure they adjust to their new home with ease and calmness, ensuring a stress-free transition into their new lives with you. They may initially cry for their mother, so be patient and compassionate, reassuring the pup that they have not been abandoned. Sleeping with your fur baby in a bed or crate next to you, playing with them and sincerely caring for and loving them, will not only boost their confidence, but will help strengthen their trust in you which ultimately translates into developing an unbreakable, lifelong bond between the two of you – and that is something precious that money cannot buy!
FYI – For Your Infurmation
Separating puppies from their mothers and litters before they are ready is a bold reminder of:
- the potentially destructive effects of lodging puppies in pet shops and other inappropriate housing environments
- the significance of suitable and time sensitive socialisation of puppies
- the critical need for behavioural intervention when a puppy has been prematurely separated from their mothers and litters and have spent time in a pet shop or other inappropriate housing environments
Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson
Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.