What's the Best Age to Get A Puppy?
Most people think the best age to get a puppy is 6 weeks
- WRONG,WRONG,WRONG! Between 7 and 12 weeks is the best time and here's
a couple of well-researched reasons why.....
A nursing puppy receives antibodies from its mother's milk (called maternal
antibodies) that protect it from disease during the first months of its
life. Unfortunately, these antibodies can also keep a vaccine from being
effective. These maternal antibodies gradually start to decrease around
6 weeks of age but may still interfere with early vaccinations. That is
why puppies area given a series of vaccinations. It is best to have two
series of vaccinations given before a puppy is stressed by going to a new
home, changing diets, and being exposed to an environment that may contain
animals that are sick. In the state of Florida it is against the law to
sell a puppy before it is 8 weeks old.
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
- 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 typically
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 home as a pet.
- 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, and during this time it is critical for someone
to give it affection and guidance for the puppy to 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.
- 12 - 16 weeks - This is a great time for play training to become more
serious and when human and dog decide who is boss. A dog's character for
life is formed between 4 weeks to 16 weeks. No matter how good inherited
character traits are, if puppies are not given proper exposure, they will
never be as good a dog as it could have been. There is NO way to go back
and make it up to a dog is later life for failures at this age. A dog without
socialization prior to 16 weeks does not develop as an individual with
self-confidence in its self.
Many show breeders wait until 8-12 weeks to grade their puppies into
pet or show potential categories. Generally, 12 weeks is a good time to
grade beagle puppies. It is very unusual for me to sell a puppy before
this age, unless there is a very obvious fault that make the puppy a pet.
i.e. color. Socialization and puppy training during this period is critical
and I focus carefully on the needs of my puppies and their individual personalities.
A shy puppy gets more supportive attention and an overly outgoing puppy
learns how to play correctly. I try to match a puppy's personality with
its new home.
Authored and contributed by Sandra Fikes-Kalahari
Ridgebacks Edited for beagles by Darlene Stewart.
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