Pups - From Infant to Toddler
Depending on the breed (and the dog expert that you ask), the best time for a puppy to leave it's mother and come home with you is between seven and ten weeks.
Any younger and the pup will have missed out on specific developmental stages where it is learning important lessons from it's mother and littermates.
A pup removed from the litter too young may have pyschological issues in later life making it harder to train, socialise and even bond with it's new family.
Conversely a pup that is left too long with the litter may also have training or behavioural issues which would have not been the case if it were taken from a litter at the optimum 7 to 10 weeks.
Neonatal - the neonatal (meaning newly born) stage last from birth to about two weeks old. The pup can neither see nor hear very well and is totally dependant on Mum. Pups this young are susceptible to chilling and will not be able to maintain their own body heat until they reach about one month old.
Transitional - between 2 to 3 weeks the pups start to scrabble about on unsteady little legs. Their hearing and seeing has improved and they can respond to smells and tastes. A good breeder will be handling each pup individually, introducing new objects and gently interacting with these tiny pups to prepare them for the socialisation which will follow in the pups next critical first year.
Awareness - between the 3rd and 4th week the pups are bearing less and less resemblance to the helpless little 'guinea pigs' of only a few weeks before. In this short period you will see an increasing interest and curiousity as the pups begin to explore their world. This is a very important stage where undue stress - such as a premature removal from the litter - can cause a major impact on the pyschological development of the dog and its ability to be socialised and trained in the months to come.
Canine Socialisation - from 5 to 7 weeks, the pups are learning what it is to be a dog. They are emotianally ready to learn and at the age of seven weeks can be removed from the litter with no detrimental impact. The time they spend with the mother and the litter in these two weeks is teaching them the art of canine communication.
Ongoing Puppy Development
Even though you may have brought your puppy home between the optimum 7 to 10 weeks, it is important to realise that the dog still has some major, predictable developmental stages to go through before he hits maturity. The stages vary from breed to breed with larger breeds maturing at a slower pace.
Critically you need to remember that that 8 week old pup is still a baby - a toddler. Just as a human child must be toilet trained, so must your new four legged friend. Just like human babies, some will take to the concept faster than others.
Another thing all puppies do, to a greater or lesser degree is they nip. A lot. This doesn't mean your new pet is going to turn out to be an aggresive and dangerous liability. Puppies naturally explore their worlds with their mouths. Some breeds are more 'mouthy' than others, but if your new pup thinks he is a piranha, you'll find distraction and consistancy a far better cure to the problem than any physical punishment.
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