What is the Best Age for a Puppy to Leave its Mother?

So if you’re looking to adopt a puppy from your local dog shelter, how old should it be before it can be separated from its mother? Puppies need to stay around their mothers long enough to learn the mannerisms and doggy habits they need to survive.  If not, the negative impact of this crucial phase in life will be evident later in life. So what is the best age for a puppy to leave its mother and also the litter?

what is the best age for a puppy to leave its mother

Why is age an important factor?

Just like a human baby needs its mother to take care of it when it is born, a puppy also needs its same litter to help it guide its way for the first few weeks in life. They have a shorter learning curve, roughly 8-9 weeks, in which they learn the patterns and habits that it needs to live around humans comfortably.

Not just humans, but other puppies from the same litter also need to stick together. This way they learn to interact with and live and play with other dogs from a younger age. Even if the mother passes away, the puppy should not be separated from its littermates until the recommended number of weeks pass because they still have a lot to learn by living with each other.

However, the puppy should rather stay with its mother for a longer period than shorter ones.

Moreover, once your pup has joined the family, you should try giving it plenty of exposure to the atmosphere so it adapts to the environment quickly.

Best age for a puppy to leave its mother

Even though most dogs are ready to leave their mother at a similar age, it depends on the learning curve and breed of the dog. For better information, consult your breeder based on your puppy breed. However, the most common ages are:

8 to 9 weeks

Most vets and breeders suggest this is the right age for puppies to be separated from their mothers. They have learned most of the habits they need to survive at this point and are ready to be taken to their new homes.

It is important to note that these puppies are still very young and can bite occasionally. Even though the mother teaches them not to, they must still be trained to make sure they don’t harm anyone in the house.

Similarly, many puppies go through a period of fear after their birth and at 8 to 9 weeks, this anxiety usually goes away for most dogs, so that makes them ready to leave their mother and experience what life is like for themselves.

10-12 weeks

Although most puppies are adequately prepared to leave the shelter at 8 to 9 weeks of age, some breeders recommend keeping them with their mothers for 10-12 weeks. This is because they have a longer learning curve than other breeds and take longer to learn from their littermates and mother.

However, puppies older than 12 weeks should not be left with their mother for too long, because they need to be adopted at an age where they can readily establish a bond with their new family. As puppies grow older, they can get very attached to their littermates and mother, and may cause a lot of difficulties in adjusting to their new home. They also grow stronger, so it can be a challenge to get to them to leave the shelter at one point.

Learning and adapting

From Mother

A puppy is quite dependent on his mother when he is born. He relies on her for learning many things in his early days that will be the foundation of his behaviour for a lifetime. The mother dog teaches them to get rid of anxiety and learn to stay alone for short periods of time as puppies can get very attached and not be able to stay alone.

Staying around the mother dog also develops the necessary skills it needs to socialize, and these skills will form the base of all social interactions the puppy will face later in life.

Besides this, new-born puppies’ diet only consists of milk from their mother until they are 3 to 6 weeks old. This is called weaning and is very important to provide the puppies with the energy and nutrition they need in their early days.

After 3 to 6 weeks, they have to be switched to a regular solid food diet and this has to be done by the breeder slowly and steadily. This process should not be rushed, a lot of pups take their time to get accustomed to solid foods.

From Littermates

Aside from a mothers’ love, puppies also need their friends; other pups from the same litter. They usually stay as a group and learn things from the mother dog at the same time. Littermates help the dogs understand what being around other dogs is like, and they may also learn how to develop a bond with each other. The puppy will later develop a similar bond with its new family members.

Legal factors

Many states in the US have a legal age at which puppies are allowed to be separated from their mothers and littermates. States like Illinois, California, Arizona, and Indiana have a rule that puppies must be at least 8 weeks of age before they can be adopted by a family. Some states have a 7 week age limit as well. This age is decided not only through natural observational means, but is backed by more than 50 years of research. However, if the shelter or breeder is not taking proper care of the puppies in terms of food, vaccines and sufficient space to live, then you should report it to your local authorities. But if the puppies are around 7-8 weeks you can adopt them.

All these laws are applicable to shelters and breeders that keep the puppies united with their mothers. Also included are those people who are selling their puppies.


Your puppy needs to take its time to develop before it can happily join its new family. Depending on the dog breed you are looking to adopt, it is always best to get an expert opinion from your breeder to make sure you are adopting your puppy at the right age.

Waiting a week or so can be hard, but it will all be worth it when the new member of your family arrives!

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