Many dog lovers and owners have asked this question severally on different platforms: When can puppies be separated from mom? With the help of Dr. Ricardo Fontão de Pauli (CRMV 5730), a Behavioral Veterinarian, We will provide all the necessary answers and information needed for a better puppy development to adulthood.
Unlike what many think, dogs are not “born ready”. Just like humans, puppies go through several stages of development until they reach adulthood. Respecting these steps is essential for the health and well-being of pets and, consequently, of the owners themselves.
“Some of the most important stages for the development and learning of puppies happen until the 12th week of life. This phase is known as the socialization period and is essential for the puppy’s social learning. Not allowing the animal to have these experiences with its mother and other litter members can have very serious consequences.” – Dr. Ricardo Fontão de Pauli, Veterinarian Behavioralist (CRMV 5730).
Behaviorist veterinarians around the world DO NOT RECOMMEND separating puppies from their mothers before 60 DAYS OF LIFE. Dogs that are separated too early from their families do not have the opportunity to socialize properly or learn to be balanced dogs. Thus, disorders such as fear, anxiety, and excessive aggression in adult life can result from this type of situation. Below, we will better understand why.
Best Diet for German Shepherds: How to Feed your Dogs
Helpful Tips For Trimming German Shepherd Nails
Puppies’ Developmental Stages
In general, the social development of dogs can be classified into 5 stages:
Neonatal stage (0 to 13 days of life):
In this initial period, the young are extremely dependent on maternal interaction to survive. Dogs at this stage usually spend most of their time nursing and sleeping. In this phase, the motor capacity is usually extremely limited until the 5th day. Also, the eyes and ear canals only open between the 10th and 14th day. On the other hand, defection and urination are reflexes to the mother’s licking.
Transitional Period (13 days to 19 days of life):
At this stage, with a little more coordination, the pups begin to walk, but are still very close to the mother. Opening eyes and ears promotes contact with external stimuli, but complete visual and auditory guidance takes place after 25 days. Only at this stage is the perception of pain fully developed.
Socialization period (19 days to 12 weeks of age):
It is the most important period for the development of puppies. In it, teeth begin to grow. With this, the puppies start to bite the mother during breastfeeding, which makes her move away little by little. Generally, full weaning is completed between 4 and 7 weeks of age.
“With the removal of the mother and with active sensory systems, the pups start to socialize more with each other and with the environment (including with other species and humans). In this phase, games, interactions, bites, and fights are fundamental for emotional and personality formation. It is at this moment that they learn that biting hurts, for example, and these stimuli are directly linked to future behaviors. So, introduce other animals, people, motorcycles, trucks, bicycles, etc. Also remember to present variations: animals of different sizes, people with light and black skin, with and without a helmet, etc. black skin, for example.” – Dr. Ricardo Fontao de Pauli, Behavioral Veterinary Physician (CRMV 5730).
It is important to note that pets are also very susceptible to trauma during the socialization period. Negative experiences, such as an accident or attack by another aggressive animal, can lead to lifelong trauma. Therefore, it is important that he feels protected and safe, close to the litter, until at least 60 days of age.
Juvenile Period (from 12 weeks to sexual maturity):
At this stage, the pet begins to explore the environment effectively. Basic dog training is usually complete. Thus, the ability to learn is reduced.
Adult period (from sexual maturity):
In females, sexual maturity usually occurs around 6 months of age. On the other hand, in males, at 7 months. However, dogs are usually socially mature after 18 months and are considered fully mature adults after 2 years.
Basic care for puppies
Pets need a period of socialization to be balanced animals. Taking them away from living with the litter and the mother before 60 days interrupts this process. It makes the animal miss the opportunity to create strong bonds with other dogs, people, and objects.
On the other hand, animals are exposed to dangerous situations during this period. They can generate trauma that will reflect on their future behavior.
“Dogs need to socialize even before their immune systems are fully developed – and before they get any vaccines. On the other hand, they are extremely susceptible to infectious diseases, such as Parvovirus and Distemper. These are the diseases that kill the most puppies, easily transmitted among unvaccinated puppies. Therefore, it is essential to prevent puppies from socializing with sick animals or in environments where animals carrying the diseases may have had access. Parvovirus and distemper viruses can be active in the environment for up to 2 years after an infected animal has passed through the site. So, be very careful when walking your unvaccinated pet on the street, even if there are no other animals there at the moment. Try to socialize your puppy in safe environments, with sociable and healthy animals, and always under supervision. At any sign of stress or discomfort, socialization should be stopped to avoid conflict or trauma.” – Dr. Ricardo Fontao de Pauli, Behavioral Veterinary Physician (CRMV 5730).
Allow the pups to have contact with the mother and her litter for at least 60 days. Thus, you will enable a healthier development for the pet and a happier future for your family.