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When Can Puppies Sleep Away From Mom?

Whether your dog has had newborn puppies and you are planning on sending them to a new home or you are adopting a new puppy, it is important to make sure the pup is old enough to adjust to the separation with its mom and transition into the new space as easily as possible. Hence, if you are wondering when should puppies leave their mom, this article will walk you through everything you need to know about when they can be safely let go.

The “A to Z” of When Should Puppies Leave Their Mom

It is a common misconception amongst dog owners that puppies can be taken away from their mother as soon as they’ve finished weaning. Instead, pups should stay with their mommies for a little longer to avoid future behavioral problems, struggle with interacting with other dogs & human beings and health complications.

After all, mother dogs teach their puppies lifelong lessons such as self-grooming, learning how to bury their waste in the litter box, waiting before eating, play fighting with a sibling pup, and overall discipline including responses and punishment. So, a pup that is separated from its mother too soon may also struggle to adjust to its new home and of course, you.

Growing up with a mother and littermates is hence an important aspect of dog socialization, and a lack of it may cause fear, skittishness, or even aggression in newborn puppies. These pups may also be unable to properly communicate with other dogs. So, if you are wondering when should puppies leave their mom, this article has rounded up all you need to know about the same.

How Long Do Puppies Stay With Mom?

Ideally, the nursing period for most dog mothers lasts between three to five weeks and most moms will reduce their breastfeeding time at around three to four weeks of age. The mums will gradually encourage their pups to try out some easy-to-chew moist foods and focus more on disciplining them. Once they reach 7 weeks of age, most puppies are ready to start eating solid foods regularly.

Puppies need to obtain all the necessary nutrients from their mother's milk as much as they can but until at least four weeks for the least. Puppies that wean too soon are exposed to many health ailments as their body doesn't have the nutrients required to fight off harmful bacteria and infections.

Recommendations from Experts & US Laws vs the Typical Dog Adoption Age

According to most veterinarians, dog breeders and behavioral experts, the ideal age of when should puppies leave their mom is between eight to twelve weeks of age. This is because, by eight weeks, puppies are properly weaned, have acquired adequate antibodies from their mother’s milk during the first few weeks of maturation and have learned most of the essential life skills.

Furthermore, at eight weeks, most pups have also been exposed to various sights, sounds, and smells and are thus ready to go to their new homes. According to the US laws under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the ASPCA regulations, “a puppy must be at least eight weeks old before being offered for sale or adoption.”

However, unfortunately, most puppies are separated from their moms and littermates far too young - approximately at five to six weeks of age. Some are even made to leave their mums even younger. This is because many people are of the viewpoint that weaning puppies at 6 weeks are fully ready to leave their mums. However, such pups struggle in various phases in life and many even don’t live for long enough.

When Can A Puppy Leave Its Mom: The Ideal Age

Although puppies that have reached eight weeks of age are allowed to let go by the US government and are also usually ready enough for the transition, it is better to wait one or two more weeks and let the pups go away from their moms at nine to ten weeks of age. At this time, puppies are fully confident and ready to move to their new homes both developmentally as well socially.

However, for some tiny dog breeds such as the Chihuahuas, Papillons, etc., it is better to wait until 11 to 12 weeks of age. This is because these puppies mature slowly mentally, physically and emotionally.

Sometimes, if the mother dog has passed away, pups are given away for adoption for the sake of better care. In such a case, it is advised to let the littermates remain together. But if this is impossible, the new caretakers should immediately begin bottle-feeding the puppies using puppy formula to ensure they are not deprived of any essential nutrients.

Why Is It Important To Give Puppies Enough Time With Their Mothers & Littermates?

It is not only beautiful to watch a mother dog care for her newborn puppies but this is also a highly crucial time to see pups learn essential life lessons. Here are a few major reasons why puppies need to remain with their mothers and littermates until about age eight to twelve weeks.

1. To Learn Behavioral Skills

Mother dogs teach their puppies to soothe themselves, relax when left alone, socialize when in front of human beings and experience different smells, sounds and sights.

2. To Control Biting

With experimentation and the curiosity to explore more and more things, most puppies urge to bite everything they see. The mother dog teaches them to control their biting but if the pup is separated from its mother too soon, it will bite more and harder in its new place.

3. To Act Well With Other Puppies Or Dogs

Pups that are separated from their littermates too soon react badly to other puppies and dogs. So, staying with their mom and sibling puppies helps them know how to react with co-dogs and puppies once they reach their new home.

4. To Switch From Milk To Solid Food

When separated, puppies that are still dependent on their mother's milk are not only deprived of essential nutrients but also have difficulty in switching to solid foods later on. Hence, mother dogs gradually introduce semi-solid foods before weaning and teach their puppies to get accustomed to eating only solid foods.

5. To Learn Self-Grooming

In the early days of life, a mama dog will lick its pups' limbs, chew on their nails and use their teeth to relieve any itchy spots to groom them. If this stage is missing in a pup's life, they have difficulties learning self-grooming when they grow up.

What Are The Challenges If Puppies Are Separated From Their Mothers Too Soon?

Imagine how difficult it would be for a newborn, cared for and safe with their parents and siblings - being abruptly removed from everything they know and suddenly plopped down in a new place, with new people, and of course, new sounds and sights. Sounds distressing, doesn’t it? That’s how a new puppy feels when it reaches its new home for the first time.

Moreover, when weaning puppies at 6 weeks are made to leave their mums before the ideal age, there are many challenges they face, some of which are:

1. Prone to Illness

The colostrum and nutrients in the mother dog’s milk are responsible for eye health, bone development, full organ development and overall health of the puppy. Hence, a puppy that is weaned too soon is more prone to stunted growth and is at a higher risk of acquiring health issues as it hasn’t got all the nutrients required to grow and thrive.

An ill puppy

2. Aggression

Newborn puppies not only need nutrients from their mother but also essential behavioral life lessons. Hence, puppies that are taken away from their families too soon are quite aggressive and play rough. Such pups also find it harder to interact with others, are shy and fearful, and super quick to bite or scratch.

An aggressive puppy

3. Fear

Puppies pick up social cues and learn how to react to human beings and other animals from their moms. Hence, pups taken away from their mothers too soon don’t grow into confident, non-fearful dogs and may become timid, shy, and fearful of other animals — including humans.

Fearful puppy

4. Litter Box Issues

Pups deeply observe their mothers and learn how to use the litter box by watching them. Furthermore, they typically begin using the litter box at the age of eight weeks, but if they are separated from their mothers too soon, they may not have been taught this essential behavior and may struggle to learn it.

Puppy learning how to use the litter box

5. Self-Grooming Issues

When the mother dog is present, she encourages the young puppies to lick and groom themselves to eliminate impurities from their body. Hence, when a puppy has been separated from its mother early, it may not know how and when to groom itself properly.

Puppy learning self grooming

How Much Time With Mom Is Too Much?

Although tiny dogs should leave their moms until they are 11 to 12 weeks of age, normal and larger puppies should not be kept longer than nine to ten weeks. This is because once puppies are stronger and more mature, it is very difficult for them to bond with their new owners. Furthermore, if a pup remains with its mum and littermates for more than 12 weeks, it may not have the desire to socialize with human beings.

Frequently Asked Questions About When Should Puppies Leave Their Mom

Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about when can a puppy leave its mom.

Can I let my 2-month-old puppy sleep alone?

A 2-month-old puppy may feel lonely and needs company to sleep. Hence, two month pups should not be made to sleep alone but near you during the night. This is especially important as they might be unfamiliar with their new habitat at this age.

Can 4-week old puppies go all night without eating?

Newborn puppies need to nurse about every two hours but once they are around three or four weeks old, they can be introduced to semi-solid food to sleep soundly all night long.

Can you leave an 8-week old puppy alone?

Generally, it is not advised to leave an eight-week-old puppy alone. The puppy must be near the mother dog but if you have recently adopted it, it should be given full attention to ensure they are fully safe.

Can puppies be fully weaned at 5 weeks?

It depends on the mother dog when she decides to fully wean her puppies but generally, puppies are introduced to semi-solid foods by 5 weeks. By this time, their milk supply is also much reduced. Some puppies can be fully weaned at 5 weeks depending upon their mother’s overall health. However, such puppies should not be given away for adoption as it is an essential time to learn certain crucial behavioral life skills.

The Bottom Line

Separating a mom from her puppies is probably more heartbreaking for you than her but is a natural process of having pets. Hence, knowing when to do it can significantly help in avoiding the chaos and freaking out the puppies.

After all, if you do it too early, the pups will not thrive physically and socially but if you wait too long, the separation might be harder for everyone involved. Hence, if the transition is made at the right age, it can happen easily and quickly.

That being said, we hope this article helped you understand when should puppies leave their mom. Remember to stay calm throughout the process and understand that the puppies will always exude some strange behavior when they are separated from their mommy and taken into a new environment – even when they appear fully prepared.

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