When Can Puppies Leave Their Mom? [Right Weaning Age for Pups]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

When it comes to puppyhood, a moment of transition always looms, blending anticipation with a hint of melancholy.

As a future dog owner, I know you can’t help but ponder: “When can puppies leave their mom?”

Amidst the sea of information, doubt creeps in. When is the right age? What impact will it have?

You can rest easy though, as I will be sharing the secrets in this post, and hopefully help you understand the safest time for these little adventurers to venture into their new homes.

Key takeaways
The optimal age for puppies to leave their mom is between 8-12 weeks.
Puppies need time with their mother and littermates to learn socialization skills, bite inhibition, and other important behaviors.
Leaving their mom too early can result in behavioral issues such as aggression, fearfulness, and separation anxiety.
It’s important to choose a reputable breeder or rescue organization that follows ethical breeding practices and understands the importance of leaving puppies with their mom until the appropriate age.
Tips for preparing for a new puppy, including socialization and training, to ensure a smooth transition from their litter to their new home.

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Dear Dog Owner

What Are The Different Puppy Development Stages?

If you’re a proud puppy parent or planning to be one, understanding the different stages of puppy development is crucial for giving your adorable new bundle of joy the best care possible.

From those early days as a wriggly little neonate to becoming a socializing superstar, let’s dive right in and uncover the secrets behind each stage.

P.S. I’m covering the stages up to around 7-8 weeks. If you wish to learn more about the period after that, you should do additional research. Here’s a useful resource.

0 To 2 Weeks: Neonatal Stage

First up, we have the neonatal stage, which lasts from 0 to 2 weeks.

This is when those little furballs are as delicate as a Tiffany lamp in a hurricane.

At this stage, puppies are completely dependent on their mom for survival – they can’t see, hear, or even go to the bathroom on their own.

They spend most of their time snuggled up to their littermates, creating a squirming mountain of adorable.

2 To 4 Weeks: Transitional Stage

Now, onto the transitional stage, which takes place from 2 to 4 weeks.

It’s like the puppy version of their “Terrible Twos” – minus the tantrums, of course.

During this time, their senses start blossoming like a field of wildflowers in spring.

Their eyes slowly open, revealing the world in all its puppy-sized glory.

Suddenly, they can see those wiggling littermates, their mom’s loving gaze, and even the looming presence of their human family.

Their little ears perk up, eagerly catching every sound, from the gentle hum of the washing machine to the chirping of birds outside.

4 To 7 Weeks: Socialization Stage

Finally, we come to the socialization stage, which spans from 4 to 7 weeks.

This is where the magic truly happens – think of it as their puppy graduation into the big, wide world.

During this stage, the curious little adventurers start exploring their surroundings with gusto.

They venture beyond their cozy den and begin interacting with their littermates, mom, and even the humans lucky enough to be part of their lives.

In my opinion, this is one of the most crucial stages of a puppy’s life and should be treated with utmost care.

In fact, according to Texas A&M University, this is the stage when puppies learn most about socialization!

Why Do Puppies Need Time With Mom And Littermates? 5 Key Reasons

Why Do Puppies Need Time With Mom And Littermates

So, you’re wondering why puppies need some extra time with their mom and littermates before they can venture into the world?

Well, let me break it down for you.

It all comes down to socialization, bite inhibition, weaning, emotional development, and of course, health.

1. Socialization

First up, socialization.

Just like humans, puppies need to learn how to navigate the social dynamics of their environment.

And who better to teach them than their furry family? Certainly not you and me.

By spending time with their mom and littermates, they develop crucial social skills and learn the dos and don’ts of doggy etiquette.

2. Bite inhibition

Did you ever stop to think, why does a dog not bite every hand that waves in its face? How does it know how to control the amount of force to use?

Well, that’s down to bite inhibition.

Puppies are notorious for their sharp little teeth, but it’s during their time with mom and littermates that they learn to control that bite.

You see, when puppies play with each other, they inevitably engage in some light nibbling and play biting.

However, their siblings and mom are quick to let them know when they’ve crossed the line and their bites become too hard.

This teaches puppies the importance of gentle play and helps prevent them from becoming overly mouthy as they grow older.

3. Weaning process

Another important aspect of puppies staying with their mom and littermates is the weaning process.

As they reach the appropriate age, puppies gradually transition from their mother’s milk to solid food.

This is a super important step in their development and allows them to develop the necessary digestive enzymes to handle a different diet.

Plus, watching mom chow down on her tasty meals gives them an important lesson in good eating habits.

4. Emotional development

But it’s not just about physical development – emotional development plays a vital role too.

Being surrounded by their furry family provides a sense of security and helps alleviate any feelings of anxiety or loneliness.

It’s like having a warm, cozy blanket of love and support that helps puppies grow into confident, well-adjusted adults.

Also, watching how mom navigates the world teaches them important emotional cues and social cues that shape them into emotionally intelligent pups.

5. Health issues

Lastly, let us not forget about health issues too.

You and I both know that puppies are prone to more health risks during their early weeks of life and having the care and supervision of their mother is a top priority.

Mom takes on the role of a dedicated nurse, ensuring her puppies are clean, warm, and fed.

She also provides them with essential antibodies through her milk, boosting their immune systems and helping them ward off potential illnesses.

Read this too: What is the oldest age a dog can have puppies?

Why You Should Not Separate Puppies From Their Mothers Before 8 Weeks?

Why You Should Not Separate Puppies From Their Mothers Before 8 Weeks

Taking Puppies Too Young is Illegal In Some States

First things first, taking puppies too young is actually illegal in some states.

Yep, you heard that right!

There are state laws in place to protect the welfare of these little furballs.

These laws vary, though.

Some states have specific age requirements for selling puppies, such as a minimum of 8 weeks, while others have no explicit age requirements.

So, it’s important to do your research and know your state’s regulations before bringing home a puppy. More info here too.

Breeder care

Breeders who truly care about the well-being of their puppies understand the importance of allowing them to stay with their moms.

You might not know, but I can tell you that it’s like a breeder’s secret recipe for producing happy, healthy puppies.

A responsible breeder will ensure that the puppies receive proper care, nutrition, and socialization during their time with their mom.

Think of it like a puppy boot camp where they learn skills that are useful for life.


Furthermore, vaccinations play a crucial role in a puppy’s health.

By staying with their mom until they are at least 8 weeks old, puppies have the opportunity to receive important vaccinations that protect them from potentially deadly diseases. such as distemper, parvovirus, and rabies.

These diseases can be incredibly dangerous and even fatal for our furry companions.

Moral concerns

Finally, let’s touch upon those moral concerns.

Separating puppies from their mothers too early can have adverse effects on their emotional well-being.

It’s not good to be torn away from your family at a tender age and thrown into a completely new environment.

Puppies need time to bond with their moms and siblings, learn important social cues, and develop emotional stability.

By allowing them to stay together until the appropriate age, we’re ensuring that these little ones have the best possible start in life and are set up for a lifetime of happiness.

Doggy says, you might be keen to read this too: Small dogs that bite

Signs That Puppies Are Ready to Leave Their Mom

So, you’re at the point in your puppy parenting journey where you’re eagerly anticipating bringing your furry bundle of joy home.

But how do you know when your little pup is ready to leave the nest and start a new adventure by your side?

Read on to learn the signs that puppies are ready to leave their mom and take on the world.

Eating habits

One of the first indicators that your puppy is ready to spread their tiny little wings is their eating habits.

Remember earlier when I talked about the first 3 stages? At around the 4-week mark, that’s when a puppy transitions from their mother’s milk to solid food.

When you notice that your puppy is consistently gobbling up their meals with gusto, it’s a good sign that their tiny tummy is ready for the transition.

Regulate temperature

Another clue that your pup is ready for independence is its ability to regulate its body temperature.

During those early weeks, puppies rely on their mom for warmth, cuddling up to her to stay toasty.

However, as they grow, their little bodies become more efficient at maintaining their own body heat.

You’ll notice them venturing away from their mom and littermates, seeking coolness or warmth from other sources in their environment.

Social skills

Additionally, keep an eye on their behavior and social skills.

As you know now, puppies start learning important lessons from their mom and littermates about proper puppy etiquette and social interaction.

As they grow, they become more independent, confident, and curious about their surroundings.

Check with a vet

Lastly, you can of course consult with a trusted veterinarian.

They will assess the overall health and development of your puppy and provide guidance on when they are ready to leave their mom.

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Thank you. The rest of the article continues below.

What is The Fear Stage?

We’re not talking about your nervousness when you first asked your high school crush out.

Instead, we’re focusing on cute little puppies, and how as ironic as it may sound, fear plays a vital role in their early developmental stages.

What? Yes, you got it right! Let’s dive a bit deeper into that.

Now, imagine being born into a world of unknowns.

Remember when you got your first job?

The fear of messing up? The anxiety about fitting in?

This “Fear Stage” in pups is pretty similar.

It’s the time when they start to distinguish what’s safe and what’s to be feared.

“Safe spaces”. That’s the coined term I like to use when explaining the fear stage officially known as the secondary fear phase.

It lasts from about 8 to 12 weeks old.

Yes, no typos there, just weeks.

That’s when they discover their safe spaces and start noticing the world.

During this “Fear Stage”, puppies might experience kooky moments of unexplained phobias – be it the grass, your grandfather’s cape, or even that expensive teddy bear you bought for them.

Poor fellows! Can you blame them though? Remember how the monster under the bed gave you the heebie-jeebies as a kid?

Relax though. Bearing through this period is essentially what shapes their personality, and helps them grow into a well-rounded pooch.

Your job here: Give them plenty of reassurance and encouragement and be ready to lend any support.

How to Separate Puppies From Their Mother?

Understanding when you can start separating puppies from their mom is not just a matter of popping a date on the calendar. (Wouldn’t that make life easier?)

Weaning a litter of puppies involves reducing their reliance on their mother’s milk and care, and it’s a slow dance; a step-by-step process that looks a lot like this:

  • Begin when the puppies are around three weeks old and continue until the seventh or eighth week. It should be done gradually.
  • Initially, separate the puppies from their mother for a few hours and introduce them to eating from a pan.
  • As weaning progresses, increase the amount of solid food and the length of separation.
  • Socialization is very important during this period, and exposing puppies to social contact before twelve weeks can help prevent behavioral issues later in life.
  • Use high-quality puppy food and mix it with warm water or canine milk replacer to make it more appealing to the puppies.
  • Don’t forget the mum! Prevent milk overproduction and seek advice from a veterinarian for proper care during weaning.

What Happens At 8 Weeks For Puppies?

At 8 weeks old, puppies are ready to leave their mother and littermates and join their new home.

The following is a summary of what you can expect during this period of time.

  • Puppies grow rapidly, and their size will depend on their breed and nutrition during their youth.
  • Teething begins around 8 weeks, and puppies may have both baby teeth and adult front incisors.
  • Puppies are curious but have a short attention span. Socialization with people and pets is crucial.
  • The puppy’s appearance changes, with a baby-type hair coat and potential ear standing in some breeds.
  • Puppies sleep for about 18 to 22 hours per day, spending the rest of their time eating, playing, and taking potty breaks.
  • They should have received their first set of shots and may need deworming, heartworm prevention, and flea/tick control.
  • At this time, the puppy is capable of understanding some commands, and it’s time to leave its mother and join its new family.

Doggy says, you might be interested to read this too: Liquid heartworm medicine for dogs

What Do You Need To Bring A Puppy Home?

Ready to pick up your new puppy from the breeder?

Don’t get caught out though as there are a bunch of essential stuff you should have before welcoming them home.

Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Puppy Food.
  • Feeding and water dishes.
  • A crate and/or bed.
  • Leash and collar.
  • Doggy shampoo and conditioner.
  • Chew toys.
  • Training treats.
  • Puppy Pads for house training.
  • An ID tag with your contact information.
  • A comfort item, such as a blanket or toy from their first home for familiarity.

I have a good idea of which exact product is the best in class, so don’t forget. to take a look at our post about dog essentials!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can puppies leave their mother at five weeks?

Generally, no. Puppies leaving at five weeks is too early as they are still learning important behaviors and getting essential nutrients from their mother. The recommended time to separate a puppy from its mother is around 8 weeks. Consult with a vet for specific cases.

Can puppies leave their mother at seven weeks?

While it’s possible for puppies to leave at seven weeks, it’s not generally advised. Waiting until eight weeks allows puppies more time for social and behavioral development with their mother and litter mates, leading to happier, healthier puppies.

Is it better to separate puppies from their mom at 8 or 10 weeks?

Both 8 and 10 weeks are considered safe times. However, the optimal age really depends very much on factors like the dog’s breed, health, and socialization progress. While some puppies may be ready at 8 weeks, others may benefit from two extra weeks with their mom and litter mates. An experienced breeder will be able to help you decide.

Why could I only get my Chihuahua at 12 weeks old?

Certain small breed dogs like Chihuahuas mature slower compared to larger breeds, which is why breeders often prefer waiting until 12 weeks to ensure they have developed adequate social skills, completed early vaccinations, and to ensure they are more prepared for the transition to a new home.

How long should a puppy be with its mother?

A puppy should ideally be with its mother for around eight weeks. This time allows for crucial development, learning social skills from litter mates, and getting vital nutrients from their mother’s milk. However, some smaller breeds benefit from a longer period, up to 12 weeks.

Do puppies get sad when they leave their mom?

Yes, puppies can experience separation anxiety when leaving their mother and litter mates, leading to symptoms like whining or lack of appetite. However, with proper transition methods and by providing tons of love and care in their new home, puppies can quickly adjust.

Should puppies be treated for worms?

Yes, puppies should be dewormed as they can easily acquire worms through their mother’s milk, the environment, or other animals. Regular deworming, starting from a young age and continuing throughout their lives, is recommended by vets to ensure their health and well-being.

Is it illegal to separate a puppy from mom too early?

In several U.S. states, it’s illegal to separate a puppy from its mother before it’s at least 7 to 8 weeks old. Violation of these laws can result in fines or even misdemeanor charges. I would advise you to consult local legislation for guidelines in your area.

In Conclusion: When Can Puppies Leave Their Mom?

Now, I understand the excitement and eagerness to bring home your new furry friend, but please please please remember that it’s important to give them the time they need with their mom and littermates.

Rushing the process can have long-term consequences for their development, which I’m sure you don’t want, right?

So, relax with your breeder and concentrate on being the best dog parent when they arrive instead!

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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