Updated: Oct 7, 2019
It always surprises me when I get a call from someone who wants me to train their new 6 week old puppy. I always feel torn. I want to pat this person on the back for deciding to get training for their puppy, when so many feel pups can't learn before a certain age (Hint: They can). But, I also want to get a name, number, address, place of work, and name of next of kin for the breeder. Why? We need to have a chat.
Puppies younger than 8 weeks old should not go home.
I repeat: If your puppy is younger than 8 weeks old, he or she needs to stay with the litter!
Now, there are some exceptions:
If you're adopting siblings (you're mad, and please reconsider!), it's possible to balance the age developments more easily than if your pup is a lone adoptee. This is not easy, and I do not recommend it! If your puppy was raised alone, such as an orphan with no siblings, there is no additional harm bringing him or her home to you at an earlier age than is typical. Just brace yourself for the additional responsibilities. If you're an extremely experienced animal raiser who has a puppy of the same age, or you're ready to spend quite literally 80% of your day with this pup for the next 2 to 3 weeks.
Now, recently I've heard people saying you can't remove a pup before 8 weeks from the mom. If you're thinking a 6 week old is still nursing, you're mistaken. Puppies wean off of mother's milk between 4-5 weeks old as a raiser introduces mushy puppy food. Puppies must be fully weaned from mom by the time they receive their 6 week vaccines. If puppies nurse after their vaccines, those vaccines are useless and void. (Besides, puppies are getting those needle-like puppy teeth starting at 4 weeks. Do you think Mom wants to nurse them after 5 weeks? She doesn't.)
Your puppy needs to stay with his litter, not his mother. This is very important time of mental and social development skills. Ages 4-12 weeks form the most important parts of socialization skills. Puppy learns manners from his siblings and mother. When he is taken too soon from the litter, this part of development is stunted, and you could very likely end up with one of those dogs I end up meeting in Board and Train who "can't make friends."
Additionally, puppies are hard enough to potty train at 8 weeks. At 6 weeks? You're asking for a major headache. It can be done, in the way of conditioning a certain area for the use of waste, but you'll be visiting the outdoors almost 2 times as much as you would with a pup who is 8 weeks or older. Only at 8 weeks does a puppy even begin having control over waste movements ("begin" is the keyword here -- it's not 100%). At 6 weeks, your only chance is to get your pup to go on a porch potty or outside every time you take him or her.
Now, I have seen puppies who were taken from their litters at 6 or 7 weeks and be raised with extra attention and care to become fine and balanced adults. The important thing to note here is that those pups were given extra care. If you work a full-time or even a part-time job away from home, don't even consider getting a pup under 8 weeks old... Really, I wouldn't recommend a puppy under 16 weeks if you're working full-time, but that's for another post.
So, unless you are ready to dedicate yourself to a true infant-state canine, please don't consider accepting a puppy from a breeder before 8 weeks old. If your breeder is offering you pups prior to this age, you might want to reconsider who you're working with! A breeder who doesn't understand the important development stages of puppyhood, or does understand but ignores the importance of them, is not someone I personally would recommend you work with.
Let's remember that breeders are given a bad rep, and aren't all bad, so let's be sure to work with the good ones who are looking out for the great good of the breed and pups they raise! Responsible breeders will not let their puppies go before 8 weeks, and will not bend to pressure from excited pet adopters. Know who you're working with, and where your puppy is coming from! It's important.
Have questions? Contact us or leave a comment!