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ideal age for sending puppy on its way

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Hi Folks,

 

Long story short, I know of a litter of Border Collie mix pups ( mom is a working bred border collie, dad, it is believed, is a cattle dog). It was not a planned litter (oops litter to a just-turned-year-old bitch who they didn't think was in heat).

 

Anyway, the elderly couple who owns the mom is moving on in a couple weeks. They've managed to find homes for some of the pups, I volunteered to take in the remaining pups and find homes for them (I've fostered dogs for rescues and have some contacts that have volunteered to help me out, if need be, and puppies are very easy to rehome in the area I live). The pups have lived outdoors in a box with their mom and have had a decent amount of contact with humans. The mom, despite being young, has done a really nice job with them as they are all very healthy.

 

As best I can gather, the pups will be around 6 weeks old at the time I am receiving them. They are already eating solid food ( and there's two weeks to go), so I'm hoping they (and mom) will be ready by then. My initial thought is that that is too young to be separated from their litter mates and mom, and will interfere with their proper socialization. Since separating from their mum at that age is not really up for discussion, I figured at least if I could keep the remaining litter together for a few weeks and bring them home to my family (replete with a dog, cats, and children), they would be able to continue to adapt and socialize (with each other, and with my other family members). My feeling is that staying with their litter mates in my home for a few weeks gives them the best opportunity for good early socialization and increase the odds that they will work out as pets.

 

Anyway, to my question (finally) - is the 8 weeks minimum golden rule an AKC/Dog Breeder thing or is it real? I've read conflicting opinions. One opinion, the politically correct one, is eight weeks minimum for maximum socialization.

 

The other opinion is that the eight week thing was really a result of shipping laws and a result of breeders who are in the business of selling dogs for profit - conveniently adopting the 8 week rule as that's the earliest then can legally ship a pup (and thus, breeders who are able to place pups locally will be able to "sell" their pups earlier and thus have an advantage. This viewpoint holds that the ideal age is really slightly earlier than 8 weeks, something about bonding and imprinting with the new owners.


Now, that second viewpoint is pretty cynical, but it makes just enough sense that I figured I'd run it by the folks on this board.

 

So, what's your opinion? I will have no problem finding homes for these pups, and I planned on holding off their new owners (allowing them to visit, etc) for a few weeks until the pups get a little older, so they can stay together as a litter. I just want to check this is a sound plan, or would it be best to pass them to their new homes as soon as the are vetted or should I hang on to them for a few/several weeks to give them a better opportunity to socialize?

 

Thanks!

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By mutual agreement, I took my puppy from the breeder at 6 weeks. Too early by 2-6 weeks, depending upon who you talk to.

 

But I felt she had attained an acceptable physical maturity and would benefit from more socialization (she was bred from working parents, on a farm that does not usually breed).

 

What I lost in that was 2-6 weeks of extra "training" that the mom and any adult males provide - bite inhibition was an issue, for instance and she plays VERY roughly with other puppies and young dogs and got more than her fair share of "corrections" from the adults in our breeding barn.

 

I would not have taken her at six weeks had I not been bringing her to a place with many other adult BC and, at the time, several other puppies in her general age range because I believe that there are things only dogs can teach one another.

 

There are two factors at play, in my mind:

 

(1) Bonding: BCs bond. The first real bond is always the strongest. Even though many would disagree, because the purpose she will be put to will require an intense amount of trust between us, I decided I wanted to do what I could to ensure the bonding was with me. A puppy left too long in its place of birth will bond with whatever human handles it most. A new bond can and will be created with the new owner, of course, and over time it all evens out - I just wanted the extra leverage, so to speak. So, I would make sure that puppies were gone by 16 weeks as the very latest, if possible. By 16 weeks, they are very attached to whomever cares for them. I would try hard for a 10-12 week window.

 

(2) There ARE some things dogs teach one another best and it is my experience that puppies experience less reactivity, fewer anxiety related problems such as barking and timidity and have less social problems when they are kept with their mother and litter mates until 10-12 weeks.

 

So, I guess I am recommending 10 weeks as earliest - 16 weeks as latest - for optimum.

 

YMMV.

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I've gotten pups as young as 6 weeks because circumstances demanded, but I agree with CMP that leaving them with the littermates until they are at least 8 weeks is a good practice. Humans can teach them a lot from a young age, but their own kind is best at teaching them the dog social skills they'll need. I wouldn't hesitate to adopt a younger pup to a dog savvy owner with other dogs in the household, but in general, it never hurts from a socialization standpoint to leave the pups together for somewhere around 8-10 weeks.

 

The catch is that the best age for socializing to humans (at least according to some sources) is 7-12 weeks and there is also a fear period at that time (8-11 weeks) so you need to balance to need of the puppy to be able to bond with people with the need of the puppy not to have any fears that develop during that same time be exacerbated by poor handling by people.

 

So it's something of a "that depends" answer, but I think a good rule of thumb is (7)8-10 weeks, with pups at the lower end of that range going only to dog savvy homes with other sociable caniines in the home and the upper end for people like new pet owners who would benefit from the pup staying with its littermates longer.

 

J.

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I got Bandit at 9 weeks old, and I would not have wanted to go earlier than that. Some breeders are advocating 9 - 10 weeks, and I tend to agree along those lines.

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Zorro came to me as a 6 week old pup, I totally agree with the other posters that he could've done with another two or four weeks with mom and littermates. Rusty came to me at eight weeks, definitely better socialized and all around just better, taking things more in her stride. Their pups went to their new homes at between eight and twelve weeks. Ten weeks seemed to be as close to the "magic number" as possible. Eight weeks, they will be fine, especially if there is other well behaved and adjusted dogs to help "train " them further. Ten weeks, they're confident, they've learned everything mom, dad and sibs are going to teach them. Twelve weeks they're becoming over attached to you and your pack. The transition is more difficult for them, they're fast starting to loose that cute baby puppy look that many people crave. For mine the three who went off at twelve weeks three of them went together to the same home, so the transition was somewhat eased in that they had each other.

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I've seen huge differences in pups taken prior to 8 weeks. My preference is for 9 to 10 weeks old. They seem to be more stable, quick to learn and adapt to new situations. Many go through a fear period around 7 to 9 weeks of age. That said, at about 6 weeks old the work load goes way up, which is likely why so many litters get dumped at that age.

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Duncan and Ross both came to me at ~ 7.5 weeks. Duncan was an "only dog", but the neighbors across the street had a pup just a week younger than Duncan who showed up a week later, so he had plenty of opportunities to play with another pup. I took him lots of (relatively safe) places (university campus, kids' school) while he was getting his puppy shots, and he started basic obedience classes fairly young, which also got him out and around other dogs in a relatively safe environment. He's never had any issues with mouthiness (not more than any other puppy), dislike of other dogs (despite being on restricted activities for shoulder issues when he was six months old), or anything else. I am of the opinion that much of temperament is "hard wired" - I don't think the age at which you remove a pup from its littermates has much to do with timidity or fearfulness. He's not terribly interested, in general, in playing with other dogs, but I think this is mostly an issue with his having been an only dog for his formative years, though I think it's also a Border collie thing, as (in my experience) they tend to be more handler-oriented than dog-oriented, at least when they grow up.

 

Ross was a "second dog" (but Duncan pretty much stayed away from him, which was fine with me as I wanted Ross to bond to me and not to Duncan). I also took him lots of (safe) places and enrolled him in basic obedience classes when he was young. He's always been VERY interested in meeting/greeting any dog he sees; he's totally "subservient puppy". No issues with mouthiness or with fear, etc. He started to reach the point (at about 16 months) where he'd consistently rather hang with me than with the other dogs - which isn't to say that he doesn't still try to engage other dogs in play.

 

I liked the ~ 7.5 week age because it allowed me to relocate a pup before it entered a "fear period". Both my pups made the change effortlessly, but a lot of that might have had to do with their underlying temperaments, plus how they were raised/handled/etc. by their breeders.

 

In the case of this particular situation, and if a pup were being considered for someone new to dogs, keeping in mind that these pups have mainly been raised outdoors with what sounds like little human contact for the first four to six weeks.... I'm torn. The fact that they were shy of human contact to start with might suggest to me that placing them earlier (say, 8 or 9 weeks) might help them acquire some of the socialization with humans that I suspect they were lacking earlier. It's hard to give an entire litter of pups quality one-on-one attention that they may need in this case.

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Alchemist, that is good to hear. My pup will be 7.5 weeks when I pick him up. I'd rather later, but am leaving for school the day I pick him up so I haven't much choice. They don't spend much time with their mother by this point and he seems fairly independent by nature anyhow, so fingers crossed that it'll work out.

 

Slightly irrelevant to the thread, but I've yet to get an answer to this question. How careful do you need to be with a pup who hasn't had his shots? Obviously he can go just about anywhere if not on the ground, but is it fine to have them on the ground in the aforementioned "safe" places? Where do you draw the line?

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Yes, a lot of temperament is hard wired and a decent trainer can make a huge difference in the final product. BUT, I have purchased many pups and bred some myself, and I do see a difference in ease of transition in those first few weeks when they leave a little later. They are more relaxed, more confident, more likely to sleep through the night, pick up training faster, etc. Does it make a difference long term? Likely for a less skilled trainer it makes a big difference, less for the very dog savvy. It sure does make life easier and more pleasant for all involved.

 

That said, I wouldn't want to wait beyond 11 or 12 weeks. At that point they really start to beat up on one another and more timid pups will lose out. (See the guide dog studies.) You would have to separate them and do one on one time, which would be impossible if you worked full time and had a whole litter.

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I took my pup at 9.5 weeks as I didn't even know about the litter until they were almost 8 w/o. Littermates started going home at 7 weeks. My guy was confident and adjusted easily to everything but I think most of the litter was the same regardless of when they went home.

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I'd say "no" to dog parks or other places frequented by a lot of dogs. (Puppies have no place in any dog park, even once fully vaccinated, in my opinion - the damage to their psyches that could happen if they met an aggressive older dog just isn't worth the risk, and yes, you will ALWAYS find dogs in dog parks who have no business there by virtue of aggressive natures. The rules may state "four months" but I'd leave it longer). I felt fine allowing my pups on the ground at the university where I teach - very few other dogs are around, and I know most of them (and know they're well-cared-for). I brought one pup to my older son's lacrosse games - again, a playing field not frequented by the general public, with few dogs present, and I knew all of them. Both environments provided a LOT of opportunities for socialization with people. You can pop a pup into a cart to take into most Lowes or Home Depot stores. Signing up for an obedience course allows you to expose your pup to others - just make sure that they check for proof of vaccination, and also that they don't allow older dogs into a 'puppy' class. Try to read the other pups' body language to make sure you don't end up in one of those freak situations with a pup with a wire loose. I would discourage anyone from letting a pup play with one that is much larger - too easy for injuries to occur.

 

Once my pups were fully vaccinated, I'd bring them to a local park - the sort with playgrounds and kids on bikes and scooters, where all the dogs are on leash so you don't need to worry about aggressive dogs running up to yours. They had some tricks by then, and I'd bring a big bag of treats. To this day the dogs LOVE it when they spot kids, and bicycles don't worry them a bit.

 

Alchemist, that is good to hear. My pup will be 7.5 weeks when I pick him up. I'd rather later, but am leaving for school the day I pick him up so I haven't much choice. They don't spend much time with their mother by this point and he seems fairly independent by nature anyhow, so fingers crossed that it'll work out.

 

Slightly irrelevant to the thread, but I've yet to get an answer to this question. How careful do you need to be with a pup who hasn't had his shots? Obviously he can go just about anywhere if not on the ground, but is it fine to have them on the ground in the aforementioned "safe" places? Where do you draw the line?

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Awesome, thanks for the reply. I'll start scoping out some safe places where he can go on leash - I had planned to just have him off the ground for the first month. This is good news! I'll keep the playground/dog park comments in mind, as well

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I brought my girl home at 7 weeks on the dot, was definitely a good age in my opinion. The puppies were looking outward to bond with people, and it gave us a week of a sweet, sleepy puppy before she turned into an adorable holy terror. She is plenty good with other dogs, it certainly helps that she came home to 2 other dogs. I was happy with the way it worked out because it was a big transition from rural farm to large town life, and she didn't enter a fear period til 8 1/2 weeks.

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It used to be pretty common for pups to come home at 6 weeks old.

 

I picked up my first border collie pup the evening before he turned 6 weeks, and the second and third puppies came to me at 6 weeks also. All made the transitions fine, although there were other adult dogs in my home.

 

2 were well adjusted, confident dogs throughout their lives, and these were both excellent working dogs. One wasn't [ETA: I didn't have sheep a the time so she was never exposed], but she had a huge scare when she was probably in a fear period. I didn't know about fear periods at the time so can't remember for sure. She was very well adjusted with people and other dogs, but she was afraid of many other things in her environment, like noises and slick floors.

 

If I were getting a puppy now, though, knowing what I do now, I'd want to wait a couple weeks longer if they could remain with their litters.

 

As for bonds with the first people they create bonds with being stronger, all I can say is if Bodhi's (adopted at ~1 1/2-2 yrs old) bond with his first person was stronger than his is with me, that person would have constantly have been having to pull him out from up his or her butt. :rolleyes: He's a complete and utter momma's boy. :wub:

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Wren was barreling through my narrow galley kitchen that has linoleum floors to get to the back door. There are 2 turns, one to enter the kitchen and another to exit into the back room to the back door. I'd removed one of the oven racks out of oven when I was making soap, and it was leaning on the bottom cupboard at the end of the kitchen right before the 2nd turn. She slid on the floor right into the rack, which made a huge clatter as it fell on her. She was ever after terrified of smooth floors and metallic noises. <sigh>

 

ETA: She'd slid into the cupboard on her dash to the back door before. That never frightened her. It was the crash of the oven rack that made the difference. Freak accident.

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6 weeks used to be the normal. Where I live you cannot ( legally ) sell a puppy before 8 weeks. Not saying people don't do it but not supposed to. I live in Indiana.

I got mine at 9 weeks, The breeder let the rest go at 8 but due to weather I had to wait another week.

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I'm encouraged by this thread.

 

My pup will be 8 weeks on Friday but I'm going to be very busy with lots of different things for the week after that so I've asked if the breeder will keep him for another week. I don't mind doing that because he won't be alone as 2 of his littermates are being kept. I'd rather do that than not be able to give him the amount of attention he will need to get him into a routine.

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Yes, a lot of temperament is hard wired and a decent trainer can make a huge difference in the final product. BUT, I have purchased many pups and bred some myself, and I do see a difference in ease of transition in those first few weeks when they leave a little later. They are more relaxed, more confident, more likely to sleep through the night, pick up training faster, etc. Does it make a difference long term? Likely for a less skilled trainer it makes a big difference, less for the very dog savvy. It sure does make life easier and more pleasant for all involved.

 

That said, I wouldn't want to wait beyond 11 or 12 weeks. At that point they really start to beat up on one another and more timid pups will lose out. (See the guide dog studies.) You would have to separate them and do one on one time, which would be impossible if you worked full time and had a whole litter.

I picked up my pup on Monday at 9 1/2 weeks. He was the first to go because the breeder was away at the World Championships and also some of the litter are going abroad. The pups are starting to bully each other so it's a good time for him to go.

 

I have nothing to compare him with and the first night was a nightmare but last night he slept for 8 hours without soiling his crate. I doubt that he'd have adjusted so quickly if he'd been younger.

 

I have had him less than 48 hours and he has taken everything in his stride. He was raised in an outbuilding but his first experiences of houses and cars, the vet and a visit to agility training to be held by strangers haven't fazed him at all.

 

He already knows his name, to sit and wait, to lie flat and we're making progress on walking by my side rather than trying to trip me up. And we're getting more pees and poos outside than in.

 

He decided his daytime nap spot is by my feet so we've gone with that and given him a mat.

 

Bonding? He clearly knows me as his in preference to strangers.

 

I chose the breeder because breeding choices are very much based on a good temperament so that has likely helped.

 

All in all my very limited experience of having such a young pup of my own accurately reflects what you say.

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Congrats on your puppy and enjoy the ride!!!

 

It is an incredibly special experience.

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