When Can Puppies Be Separated From Their Mother?

Bringing home a new puppy is one of the most exciting, enjoyable times in any person’s life, it’s true. A new puppy brings life, love, and fun to any home and can change your life in the process. (Do you remember your first puppy?)

However, the thing about adopting a puppy is that most come from litters with several siblings. That’s because dogs are pack animals, and large litters make for large packs. Like all pack animals, a puppy needs to learn how to get along with others, and being part of a large litter is one of the best methods to do that.

That makes it essential that every puppy spend at least a few weeks, if not longer, with their mom, brothers and sisters. The socialization skills they learn during this critical time will serve them well for the rest of their life.

I was thinking about this very thing the other day when a reader told me about their plans to adopt a pup. They weren’t sure about the timing and also wondered what, if anything, separating theirs from the litter would do to their puppy’s psyche and demeanor. This particular reader also asked me a question I get all the time, namely, when can puppies be separated from their mother?

The answer is that, unless there’s a mitigating circumstance, a puppy can safely be separated from its mother at about eight weeks of age. Before that, the physical and social trauma of being separated might be harmful to a puppy’s health, as they will miss valuable social-skill training from their momma (and much more).

Now that you know that puppies can be separated at eight weeks of age or older, I’m betting you have other questions about the subject. What happens when a puppy is taken from its mother too early, for example, and is it illegal to sell puppies before 8 weeks? If so, please continue reading. I’ve got the answers to those questions and several more below to help you with this commonplace puppy predicament.

What Happens When a Puppy is Taken from its Mother Too Early?

There are, to be sure, several risks when removing a puppy from its mother too early. The thing is, a newborn puppy needs their mother for several fundamental reasons. For example, they need to nurse from her to get milk, but also, while they’re young, their mom will teach them many essential behaviors that help them become more socially acceptable.

Also, within the first 24 hours after a puppy is born, their mother produces special milk called colostrum, just like a human mom. The special milk contains necessary antibodies that will help prevent your puppy from getting several different diseases.

Puppies can’t hear or see for the first few weeks, and they can’t go to the bathroom without their mother’s help. (She stimulates their GI tract with her tongue on their anus.) Plus, she keeps them warm while their bodies are maturing. Below are some other negative consequences from removing a puppy from its mother too early, including:

  • Puppies can become hypothermic, hypoglycemia, and dehydrated if taken away from their mom too early.
  • Social interaction can be problematic if a puppy hasn’t been taught by its mother.
  • Dogs that have been removed from their mother too early tend to bite people and other dogs, an unpredictable and potentially dangerous situation.
  • Severe constipation can be a problem, as well as ruptured bladders if a puppy’s mother doesn’t stimulate them to go potty.
  • Puppies removed from their mother too early experience more health issues, gain less weight, and have a higher mortality rate.
  • Puppies that are taken away from their mother too early are less likely to accept disciplinary measures when they do something wrong.
  • Studies show that puppies removed too early from their mom have problems with frustration because they can’t self-soothe like they would when their mother was around. 
  • A mother dog teaches her pups to have basic manners and be more submissive. If they’re taken away too early, many will be difficult to train later.
  • Excessive barking is a problem with dogs that have been separated from their mother too early.
  • Puppies separated too early from their mom have a greater reactivity to noises, possessiveness with food, and destructive behavior.

How to Care for a Puppy that was Taken from its Mother Too Early

Taking a puppy away from its mother too early is much the same as taking away a human child from its mama. Your puppy will be scared, anxious, and have problems sleeping, urinating, defecating, and getting along with others. If this is your first time as a puppy parent, all of these problems can be overwhelming for both of you. Below are a few tips on how to care for a puppy that was taken from its mother too early, including:

  • During the first few days at home, try to keep everything as calm as possible. That can be difficult, of course, especially if you have children who are excited to have a new puppy. However, the noise, mayhem, and excitement can be a problem for your new fur baby.
  • Give your puppy plenty of love and attention (in a calm way) and allow them to be involved in what’s going on in your household.
  • Teach younger children how to handle your new puppy as well as they can. You might need to do this over several days so that both your children and your puppy get the picture. 
  • If you’re going to crate train your puppy, put their crate where they will feel safe and comfortable. Having your pup’s crate in your bedroom is a sound choice for the first few days or weeks. It will help them feel secure and allow them to settle down.
  • Stick to a routine as far as walking, potty breaks, using their crate, and so forth. The thing is, puppies and dogs tend to thrive on routine and, if you stick to one, they will adjust much faster.
  • Place an older clock that ticks in your puppy’s crate right. The ticking simulates their mother’s heartbeat and calms them down.
  • Wrap a water bottle with hot water in a blanket. Place this where your puppy sleeps to remind them of their mom and siblings.

Is it Illegal to Sell Puppies Before Eight Weeks? 

Veterinarians and dog experts do not recommend adopting a puppy before 8 weeks. Some breeders, however, will let you adopt a puppy before that time. (They shouldn’t, but many do.) Luckily, there are 23 states in the United States where selling a puppy before 8 weeks is illegal. They include;

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Main
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas 
  • Utah

Note that it’s illegal to sell a puppy under 7 weeks of age in both Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Final Thoughts 

Veterinarians and dog experts agree that removing a puppy from its mother after 8 weeks is usually okay. The fact is, however, that many breeders won’t allow their puppies to be taken until 10 or even 12 weeks of age. Many veterinarians agree with this and agree that a puppy should be left with their mother as long as possible.

What did you think of today’s blog and the information about puppies being separated from their mom? Did it answer all of your questions? Did it bring up new and different questions? If so, please see some of my other blogs on the subject. They’re packed with actionable information to help you keep your puppy safe, healthy, and happy and help you become a better puppy parent.