Eventually, all pups grow up.

But the question we all have been asking remains… what is the best age to separate a puppy from its mother?

Is it okay to separate them? And when to separate them?

If you are wondering about the answers to the questions above, you have just clicked the correct article.

Below, let me share with you some of the things you should know about the best time to separate a puppy from its mother and how you can manage the situation.

when to separate puppies from mother

What is the Best Age to Separate a Puppy from its Mother?

Well, based on our research, the straightforward answer to this is 6 to 8 weeks old.

But legally speaking, you may want to cross-check your location with the related laws or administrative regulations regarding this.

According to Michigan State University's Animal Legal and Historical Center, there are about 27 states that mandate puppies to be between 6 to 8 weeks of age before they can be put up for sale or adoption.

Anywhere earlier than that, there may be repercussions depending on where you're at.

However, scientifically speaking, 6 to 8 weeks may just be the barest minimum in separating a pup from his mother.

Because some experts say pups still have yet to learn a couple more social and behavioral skills from their mama dog until their 12th week.

But between 8 to 12 weeks is the perfect time to let the pups socialize with humans.

At this point, they should be ready to interact with those funny two-legged creatures, especially the ones that will be part of their forever family.

What most families do is that they let the person who will adopt the pups visit them from their 8th week onwards.

They let them play and interact until they learn how to communicate with each other.

By the time the pup reaches its 12th week, it should be comfortable and confident to leave its mama dog and be with its new forever family.

As the initial dog owners, make sure that the pups are already comfortable with the other person.

This should allow them to easily adjust to their new environment compared to just giving them away immediately.

So from this experience, I'd say the safest and best age to separate a puppy from its mother is between 2 to 3 months or at their 8 to 12 weeks of age.

Separating a Puppy from its Mother: Why Wait?

Ethologists (experts who study animal behavior) say that the longest time a pup can spend with its mother, the better its growth and development will be.

Apart from the obvious vital care mama dogs provide, pups also learn different important social and behavioral cues from their mother and siblings.

Socialization

As soon as they are born, they first learn to socialize with their littermates.

They get a grasp of what's appropriate and what's not in their play behavior.

Mama dog will surely chastise them if their play biting becomes too much!

Pups also learn how to communicate and interact with others.

By 6 to 12 weeks of age, they start to develop social skills that will later become their attitude and behavior as adult dogs.

What they learn in this stage will determine their attachment and confidence and how they would bond with their future owners.

Weaning

Weaning is where the pups gradually transition from mama's milk to solid food.

This can be a particularly stressful period for the pups as they navigate this transition that could take a couple of weeks.

It's very important not to rush this process.

Until they are happily and confidently eating on their own, they should still be under the guidance of their mothers.

Unique Situations

There are several situations that need to be considered before separating a puppy from its mother.

What if the pup is too small even at 8 weeks?

Some breeders prefer their toy dogs to live a little longer with their mothers because of how tiny and fragile they seem to be.

Some pups, on the other hand, have to be separated from their mother and travel far to get to their forever home.

Before this, it's best to make sure they are completely vaccinated to protect them against possible diseases that they may pick up along the way.

Dalmatian-mother-nursing-puppies

Risks of Separating a Puppy from its Mother Too Early or Too Late

So what happens now if a puppy is separated too early or too late from its mother?

Yep. There sure are consequences both for the mother's health and her pups' too.

Separating Too Early

Making a puppy leave its mama before it is fully ready will definitely cause some serious trouble over its physical and psychological well-being.

Some problems that may arise are nutritional deficiency, poor health, behavioral issues like separation anxiety, and even early death.

Because they become deprived of the vital care they needed as newborns, they are more susceptible to getting different diseases as compared to pups with longer maternal contact.

On the part of the mother, they become anxious and restless. They look around the house and cry for the pups.

When It Is Too Early to Separate Puppies?

But alas, there are special circumstances when it is a must to separate the moms from their pups at the soonest time possible.

It is usually when the pup is too sick upon birth and the mom is ignoring it already. Or the mom could be physically and psychologically incapable of caring for the pups because she might have contracted an infectious disease, or she's stressed or traumatized.

We had to do this once when one of our mixed-breed mamas whelped for the first time.

She was so stressed and anxious that she bit her first puppy. Because of this, we had to immediately separate all the other pups from her.

Separating Too Late

On the other hand, separating them too late from their mama and siblings may also cause littermate syndrome.

Littermate syndrome is an observed behavioral concern where puppies tend to be overly attached to their siblings.

When not addressed, this may lead to aggression, distracted learning capability, and separation anxiety too when exposed to unfamiliar people, animals, or surroundings.

Although littermate syndrome is not a medically recognized condition, it still won't hurt for us to be aware of the possible consequences of letting the pups be too dependent on their pack.

ALSO READ: How to Split a Litter of Puppies

how to separate puppy from its mother

Best Age to Separate a Puppy from its Mother: A Step-By-Step Guide

As a breeder, or perhaps a dog owner who now has a mama dog and baby dogs in your care, you should know the proper way to separate a pup from its mother and siblings.

1. Limit interaction with a new pup

It may be the most exciting thing for dog owners to meet the newly born puppies but you better hold your horses!

Limit human interaction during the first 2 weeks of newborn pups because they are still very much vulnerable at this age (beware especially of little kids who do not know how to be gentle yet!)

Also, avoid having too much crowd near the whelping box to not stress the mother.

After 2 weeks, the mother should be getting comfortable leaving her pups every now and then even just for a couple of minutes.

This means she is already trying to encourage her puppies’ independence as they start to crawl and explore their surroundings.

Set up a separate box or bed for the mother near the whelping box so she can still watch her pups from her own spot.

The mama dog should also be given high-calorie, high-protein puppy food to help her produce more milk for the pups.

2. Start weaning at 3 to 4 weeks

As the puppies become more and more curious by the day, you can start preparing them for the weaning process.

Let their mother feed where the pups can see her. This way, they might start copying her soon enough.

You may start giving them an artificial puppy milk formula at 3 weeks.

Just be careful to follow the instructions because too much or too little water may cause either constipation or diarrhea.

Soon enough, gradually add dry puppy kibble. Let it soak in the warm milk until you get an oatmeal-like consistency.

This should slowly introduce the pups to a soft, solid food diet.

At this point, it is also important to encourage the mama dog to leave her litter during the weaning period so the pups can focus on their own food.

Otherwise, they may be distracted and try to nurse from their own mama instead.

Also, remember to check the needs of the mother!

The mother may gradually go back to her normal adult food as soon as the litter starts weaning.

Do this little by little as she may get sick if suddenly given her normal food.

3. Teach the pups how to socialize

At 3 weeks, you can start cautiously holding the pups to help them be familiar with a human touch. Just remember to do it gently!

If introducing new people to the litter, do it slowly but surely.

Start introducing 1 to 2 people at a time so the pups will not get overwhelmed.

By 5 weeks, they should also be ready to explore new surroundings and meet new animals. But you have to make sure that they are vaccinated prior to this!

Expose them on new surfaces–hardwood floors, tiles, rubber mats, etc. 

You may also give them toys to play with alone or together! This will help their developing bodies and brains be more active.

4. Leaving the Nest

By 8 to 12 weeks, the pups should now be ready for rehoming.

By this time, the maternal instinct of the mother should naturally go away because the pups are starting to mature.

Soon, she should be ready for her youngsters to leave the nest.

Although you have been trying your best to prepare the puppies to leave their litter, they still need help in adjusting further to their new family.

You may give them any token with a familiar scent. It could be a towel, a toy, or other familiar objects to make them comfortable in their new surroundings.

new puppy at home

How to Care for a Newly Separated Puppy From Its Mother

For the new pup owner, congratulations!

Now that the puppy has left its mama’s nest, it is now your job to make the further transition as smooth as possible.

As the puppies adjust to their new surroundings, accidents may happen (yes, including those solid and liquid accidents!)

They may also be overly attached to you and be kinda dramatic about it (a.k.a. those midnight whimpering).

But remember that what they need from you from this point on is your endless love, patience, and understanding.

Your role as the new owner is to take over the roles of their mama dogs. You have to feed them, teach them, and take good care of them.

This, of course, is apart from all other puppy necessities.

There's their crate, food, toys, collar and leash, grooming supplies, and even the occasional treats!

Train them with basic commands and teach them your house rules.

And most important of all is to set them up for a regular appointment with the vet.

Make sure that they are complete with vaccination and that they are taking all the vitamins they need.

Keeping a constant routine or schedule of activities will help them adjust faster to their new life with you and your family.

ALSO READ: How To Deal With Puppy Separation Anxiety

Best Age to Separate a Puppy from its Mother — Summary

In the end, the best age to separate a puppy from its mother is when both are ready to let go of each other.

Don't worry.

It's natural for all of us to leave our mama's wings at some point in our lives. It's definitely okay and not bad to separate a puppy from its mother.

We just got to know how to do it and when to do it.

READ NEXT: Dog Litter Separation – 7 Simple Tricks on How to Handle New Puppies

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