When’s The Right Time For Pups To Leave Their Mom & Why?

September 10, 2016

Just like any younglings, puppies will do a lot of learning during the first few weeks of their lives. An adult dog has influence over the behaviors and traits of a puppy. For a pup, there is no better dog to learn good behavior from than its mother and littermates.

After all, all these traits, skills, and behaviors will remain with them for the rest of their natural lives. That's why a pup needs a considerable amount of time before with its family of origin before it is left to live on its own. But when is the right time for pups to leave their mom?


When To Wean The Puppies Off The Mother Dog?

  • I’d recommend waiting at least 8 weeks before removing a pup from its mother and littermates.
When Can Puppies Leave Their Mom?

Why? A puppy needs its mother to learn how to socialize with other dogs, learn good eating habits, and discover the basics of obedience. If you are a breeder, you will also play a crucial role in rearing the pups so they do not misbehave or develop behavioral issues in the future.

Although eight weeks is the average timeline when puppies are separated from their dam, professional breeders prefer to remove the pups at twelve weeks old.

Grooming and Feeding

  • Newborn pups depend on their mother completely for food and grooming.
  • The first sensation that newborn pups will learn is touch. A dam will lick her young to groom them and encourage them to open their eyes.
  • The physical contact between dam and pups is very important because it makes the puppies feel safe. They rely on each other for comfort and warmth, which is the start of developing positive behaviors with other dogs.

Getting Around and Exploring

  • Puppies do not open their eyes until they are about two to three weeks old. Only when they open their eyes will puppies be able to develop their sense of sight and move around.
    Over the course of several weeks after opening their eyes, puppies will learn from its surroundings.
  • ​Once the pups are able to see and move around, they will start interacting with their mother, siblings, and the people around them.
    Within just a week, the pups will go through rapid physical and sensory development. At this point, the pups will learn how to be a dog. Anything that disrupts the sensory development of the pups will cause an adverse effect on their future development.

Interacting with the Litter

  • Pups that are about four to six weeks old will start interacting with the rest of the litter. At this point, the dam has to be there to make sure none of the pups is stirring trouble! At this point, the dam will teach the pups basic manners including no biting while playing and establishing herself as the leader of the pack.
  • ​The adult dog will also wean the pups off milk at 4 weeks old. At this point, the puppy can start having puppy food. If you are a breeder, this is the best time to handle the puppies on a daily basis just to get them to get used to human contact. While you can separate the pups from the dam at this point, limit your interaction with the litter to no more than 10 minutes.

The Negative Effects Of Early Separation

The Negative Effects Of Early Separation

Physical Effects

Multiple studies show that early separation has detrimental effects on dogs. In a study published in NCBI, early separation may lead to weight gain of separated pups and stress due to shorter material contact. In addition, puppies that are separated early from their dam (six weeks old pups and below) are more likely to be fearful of other dogs.

Studies also show that puppies removed from their mothers at 6 weeks old and below have higher mortality rates and higher susceptibility to diseases.

Psychological Effects

Removing the pups from their mother at a time when they are most socially sensitive could also cause future behavioral changes. These changes range from excessive barking, biting, nervousness, and inability to get along with other dogs.

Early separation could also lead to separation anxiety. When the pups reach adulthood, they are not as well-adjusted as dogs that were not removed from the litter early. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety are harder to train because they do not play well with other dogs or people.



The right time for pups to leave their mother is about 8 to 12 weeks. In the United States, some states have laws on the legal age of puppy sales. Across the majority of states, it is illegal to sell puppies that are younger than 8 weeks old.

Always consider the social sensitivity of the puppies before you separate them from their mother. After all, puppies learn at a much faster rate if they stay as a family during the most critical period of the puppies' socialization.

Got stories to share? If you have great tips to share on rearing puppies, let us know in the comment section!


About the Author


Hi, I’m Sara and I would like to thank you for checking out my blog. I have been around dogs since I was kid and I cannot imagine life without one. So now, I am sharing with you the knowledge I have accumulated over the years and hopefully it helps you too.

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required