Is It Safe To Take A Puppy From Its Mother At 6 Weeks Old? What Will Happen If You Do?


As the demand for puppies increases, some breeders will remove them from their mothers when they are only a couple of weeks old. Responsible breeders would agree that puppies should not be separated from their mothers and placed into new homes until they are ready. 

If you are in the process of getting a puppy but are completely new to the world of owning a pet, you may be unsure of the age at which it is safe to take them from their mother. Although their cuteness can be hard to resist and the desire to bring them home can be overwhelming, you should only do so when they are of the right age. 

In our guide below, we address whether it is safe to take a puppy from its mother at 6 weeks old and what the ramifications may be of doing so.

A puppy can leave its mother at 6 weeks old because at this age most are fully weaned and no longer dependent on the mother for milk. However, just because it is possible doesn’t mean that you should take a puppy home at this age.

As they are in an important stage of their development, removing them too early can impact their ability to socialize and may also lead to health problems.  

The American Kennel Club advises that puppies should not be placed into new homes until they are at least 8 weeks old. There are also 25 US states that have legalities in place which state that a puppy must be 8 weeks old or above before being rehomed. 

Although puppies are completely independent of their mothers at 6 weeks as they will have transitioned from milk to solid foods, they still rely on them for social and physiological reasons.

A puppy that is younger than 6 weeks will benefit hugely from interactions with its mother and other pups in the litter because this is essentially when they will learn their manners and how to play without being too rough. They will also become accustomed to how they are expected to behave in a social setting. 

How does a puppy develop by the age of 6 weeks?

By this age, puppies are seemingly independent and they show a greater intrigue for exploring their surroundings and the world around them. A puppy will also learn lots about playing. This lack of socialization amongst puppies that have been separated too early will become apparent through issues with possible anxiety and attachment. 

A 6 week old puppy will be a bundle of energy and when on your visit to them you will likely notice that the mother is beginning to tire of their persistent behavior and biting, but again this isn’t a reason to separate them yet.

It’s also important to acknowledge what impact separation can have on a puppy emotionally. Though most tend to be weaned by this age, they are still more susceptible to stomach upsets which can be worsened by the emotional distress of being removed from their mother and the rest of the litter. 

Rehoming a puppy when they are between the age of 8 and 12 weeks old can be beneficial for their social development. This is because they need to start getting comfortable in the company of humans and they also need to become familiar with new environments and experiences.

If they are not socialized correctly with humans at this time they are likely to become more fearful. Whilst removing them too early can affect their social development with other puppies, separating them too late can affect how well they cope with human interaction. 

What are the characteristics of a 6 week old puppy?

Puppies can be quite a handful at 6 weeks, of course, this is to be expected, they are still young and essentially learning how to be a dog. Because of this, it is best to leave them with their mother who will be able to discipline them when necessary but also set them the correct example. 

They also tend to lack an understanding of boundaries and will often use their teeth when exploring and playing with their littermates and humans. At this age, they are still familiarizing themselves with the concept of bite inhibition, something which they are likely to have mastered by the time they are ready for rehoming. Bite inhibition is when a puppy recognizes the strength and intensity of its bite. It will then control the force that it applies to avoid biting too hard.

A puppy will typically learn this when playing with their littermates with yelps indicating when they are biting too roughly. Those that are removed too early aren’t going to learn this skill and as a result, they are likely to continue biting too hard because they don’t understand skin sensitivity and pain.

If you rehome a puppy when it is younger than 8 weeks, it is unlikely to have established this skill yet so it will be your job to teach them to stop biting with so much force and this can be quite the challenge.

Between the age of 6 and 8 weeks, you will also be able to see hints of the puppy’s personality. They will often become reactive to those around them and most will have found their bark. Often puppies will use their size to get what they want. Those that are smaller tend to get pushed out of the way by their larger siblings. 

What are the issues associated with removing a puppy from its mother too early?

Many puppies that are removed from the litter too early will experience behavioral problems of some kind. Around this age, they are at a pivotal stage of their development and a lack of socialization can soon reflect in how they act. 

A puppy can become destructive of their toys and surroundings and this may be caused by a lack of patience. It is also likely that it will lack the ability to soothe itself and this can often be seen through severe separation anxiety where the puppy struggles if left alone.

Closely linked to this are issues of attachment. You will often find that puppies will become attached to their owners because they don’t have their mother or littermates around them. It is also likely that the puppy will be prone to attention seeking. As they have been rehomed early they lack the discipline that their mother will typically teach them when they are part of the litter and because of this they may become demanding of your attention. This can be displayed through continuous and excessive barking.

You may also notice that your puppy seems overly reactive to noises that they are not familiar with and they can also lack confidence because they are not used to socializing with other dogs. This absence of socialization with other dogs can also affect how they behave on walks as they get older. Your puppy might also become quite possessive toward their food and toys.

As they haven’t had much experience of sharing their belongings with others like they would when they are surrounded by their brother and sisters, the concept of sharing is something that is going to be quite alien to them.

When puppies are amongst the litter they will naturally be jostled and prodded constantly by their siblings and this essentially helps to develop their touch tolerance. However, a puppy that is removed when it is too young may not like it when they are bumped or petted in certain places because it isn’t something that they are familiar with. 

What are scientists’ opinions on removing puppies from their mother and litter too early?

There have been studies conducted to investigate the impact of separating puppies from their mother too early.

Some believe that doing such a thing can leave dogs with more nervous tendencies and they are more likely to vent these feelings of uncertainty by barking and possibly struggling to accept discipline. 

Important factors in a puppies development

Not only is it important for your puppy to be socialized with their mother, littermates, and humans, but it is also essential to familiarize them with different types of stimuli.

They need to get used to different noises and textures when they are still in their puppy phase. Most puppies will have been fully weaned by 6 weeks and they will now be eating solid foods. 

Interaction

As we have mentioned previously, interaction plays a crucial role in the development of puppies. A mother will discourage her puppies from attempting to suckle but growling at them and she will also teach them many other lessons that shape them into well-behaved dogs. 

Playing with their fellow littermates is of course going to provide them with lots of fun but will also teach them about the intensity of their bite as well as how they should communicate with other dogs. 

It is also likely that you will notice each puppy’s character traits whilst they are interacting with their siblings. For example, some will be more gentle and relaxed and others will have more confidence. 

During the early stages of their lives, it is important to ensure that the puppy is handled to avoid them developing any fears towards humans as they get older. Also introducing them to other types of animals will enhance their confidence in instances where they are faced with other animals.

If you have other pets, you should begin socializing your puppy with them as soon as you bring it home so that it gets used to living in the same environment as them.

Their Diet

A puppy will not feed off its mother up until the time that it is rehomed. The breeder will begin transitioning the litter of pups onto solid foods from the age of 4 weeks and onwards.

These solids are gradually incorporated into their diets alongside their milk until they are eventually only eating solids. 

Familiarize them with different types of stimuli

It is natural for puppies to go through a phase where they seem a little hesitant of their surroundings. This typically occurs when they are around 9 weeks old. To ease any feelings of fear, you should try and introduce them to many different types of stimuli.

For example, don’t just walk them on concrete surfaces, instead get them used to walking on those that have a different texture. Also, get them used to being around different noises.

For example, they will need to get used to hearing other dogs barking so that it doesn’t seem so alarming to them. You should also talk to your puppy and encourage others to do the same when handling them as this will help them to recognize human voices.

Why are puppies rehomed early?

Unfortunately, there are often cases where puppies are rehomed too early. For some breeders, it is a profitable business. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all breeders out there, but sadly you will stumble across some that are more concerned about making money than the welfare of the puppy. 

Getting a puppy is a very exciting experience, and despite all temptations that you may have, you should not accept a puppy that is too young. Shockingly some breeders may attempt to sell puppies when they are as young as 4 or 5 weeks old.

If you have been offered a puppy that is younger than 8 weeks old, you should hold off and instead wait until it is old enough for rehoming. Sometimes, you may be unaware of how young the puppy is so if you have any hesitations you shouldn’t proceed until you are confident with the breeder.  

Should you rehome a puppy when it is 8 or 12 weeks old?

Some people may feel as though it is better to wait until the puppy is 12 weeks old before separating it from its mother and whilst there is truth in this, there are also drawbacks associated with doing so.

One of the best things about waiting until the puppy is 12 weeks old is that you are allowing it more time to socialize with its siblings and learn from its mother. Some breeders will also begin house training them by this point so they are equipped with some knowledge of the basics by the time that you receive them.

However, waiting until they reach 12 weeks can also impact their socialization negatively. This is because unless the breeder makes an effort to familiarize them with different stimuli and people, they are going to be completely unaware of these elements, so you will have to do so asap to ensure that they are developing correctly. 

How do you know when a puppy is ready for rehoming?

Several signs will indicate when a puppy is ready for rehoming. First and foremost they will have a healthy appetite and will be able to eat a nutritional diet made up of solid foods.

They will also have a greater awareness of their surroundings and will be able to adapt well. The puppy should also be able to cope with being left alone without experiencing any separation anxiety in your absence. Also, they will be confident and should just generally appear to be a happy puppy.

Final Thoughts

Puppies can leave their mother when they are 6 weeks old but there are many reasons why this is not recommended.

A puppy that has been separated too early is more likely to experience behavioral problems as they grow up.

It is important to wait until the puppy is at least 8 weeks old before you take them from their mother and the rest of the litter and introduce them to your home. 

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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