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When is the Best Time to Pick Up a Puppy?

By Doctor Jan Bellows

When you are ready to get a puppy, it is not uncommon to purchase the puppy from the breeder before the dog is even born (or as soon as breeder makes the litter available). Most websites that set potential owners up with breeders will have a listing of puppy availability within days of the puppy being born, allowing each puppy to be claimed before it has even opened its eyes.

There is a strong temptation to want to pick up the puppy right then and there – to drive down to the breeder and have the tiny little animal in your hands. Puppies, however, need time with their mother before they can be safely taken away and brought to your home.

When is the Best Time?

Experts have differing opinions on when the best time to pick up a puppy is. However, it is widely believed that the best range for picking your puppy up from the breeder is within a 6-8 week window after the puppy is born.

The first weeks of your puppy’s life are about survival. You want the pet to be feeding from its mother, getting the nutrients that it needs as well as the love and care of its parent. After it has gained some of its health, the next few weeks are dedicated to continued wellness as well as interacting with its parents, brothers and sisters. This time is valuable for creating a well behaved dog (and one that understand other dog behaviors/communication).

Around 7 to 8 weeks the puppy has started to learn proper dog behaviors, and while it is still young and in need of a great deal of care and affection, it has also picked up enough good habits to be a happy and healthy dog.

What Happens if You Pick up the Dog too Early?

Dogs that are taken too early from their parents may not be in the best of health, may have behavioral issues, and may not understand how to interact and communicate with other dogs. You can still have a loving member of the family, especially if you maintain good feeding habits, but a dog that doesn’t understand how to interact with other dogs can be trouble when it gets older.

Also, it is important to note that many states have laws that forbid a puppy from being picked up before EIGHT weeks, so check your local laws before you pick up your pet.

What Happens if You Pick up the Dog too Late?

Though the 6 to 8 week window has been considered the norm for many years, there is a consensus among the dog behavior community that any time between 9 to 11 weeks is still perfectly adequate, and may even be preferable for ensuring your pet understands dog behaviors. However, after 12 or so weeks, it is best to try to get your puppy to its new and permanent home, as around that time the dog will start to form permanent attachments, and you want your puppy to feel more of an attachment to you than to its parents.

Overall Thoughts on Picking Up a Puppy

Though 6 to 8 weeks has been the norm and acceptable time period for many years, the best time to pick up your new family member is around the 8 week mark, and possible weeks 9 or 10. Some breeders like to keep the pets until as long as 6 months to help teach it good behaviors, but it is better if your dog is in its permanent home before than to help create attachments to your family members. If the breeder allows you to pick up your dog before 6 weeks, you may not be working with a reputable breeder.