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Puppy Protocol: What Age to Adopt


Because puppies are just the cutest bundles of furriness in the world, it's tempting to want to take them home and "mother" them when they're at their youngest and most adorable (and until you witness the pooping and chewing). But their real doggy-mum also adores them and there are reasons (and, by George, we're going to tell you them!) why your mini-man's best friend needs to be a certain age before he becomes part of the family.


Dam, Not Damn

First off, if you do any reading on this subject you'll come across the word "dam" a lot. Don't be alarmed. Breeders don't swear a lot and they do give a damn. A "dam" in the doggie world is: "A female parent of an animal." So now you know. No more damn confusion!


One Question, So Many Answers

Ask anyone how old a puppy should be when they leave their mom (dam) and you'll get a range of different answers. Why? One of the reasons is the fact that, physically, a puppy can be weaned from about 3 weeks of age and started on solid puppy food. But up until 3 weeks, it's vital that the pup receives the dam milk; it has antibodies in it to help immunise against disease, as well as essential nutrients for healthy growth and bone development.

The food facts are that at 3weeks it's okay to start weaning a puppy from its birth mother, but there are things they learn with their dam that make it important to keep the bonding going for longer. (By the way, if you happen to be looking after brand spanking new puppies, check-out Caring for Newborn Puppies). So, what are the other things that happen in a newborn puppy's life? Well, their life-skills, behaviour and personality become holistically shaped if they spend that special, extra time with their dam-mom.



Emotional Bonding

When puppies are small, their dam will lavish individual quality time on them; grooming them, feeding them and making them feel welcome in the world. This transfers a sense of well-being to the pup. Puppies who don't get this can be needy and afraid when they're out and about in the big blue world and this insecurity can sometimes (unfortunately) last forever.


Socialisation 101

  • Litter-Love - A pup's first knowledge of other dogs comes from being in a litter. This allows him to socialise and do a bit of adorable rough 'n tumble with his brothers and sisters. This is Socialisation 101 - how to get along with others.
  • Touch Tolerance - Also related to socialisation, being allowed to jostle around in a litter will make a puppy more tolerant of being handled.
  • Bite Inhibition - Puppies learn the first and most memorable socialisation lessons from their mom, particularly when it comes to biting. She's the one who can encourage gentle nuzzling and playing, from birth. A puppy will also get a sharp nip from his siblings if he gets out of line! You might find a dog that's removed from its dam when it's too young has issues with controlling his biting and this is not an easy "skill" for a human to discipline in a dog.
  • R.E.S.P.E.C.T - Find out what it means to me. (Singing along?) The first commands a puppy will learn are also from its dam; important as she has the ultimate respect of the litter and is the dominant figure in the group. And respect is something he's going to learn more about in the future, when you're training him. Oh yes...
  • Competition - Not to be underestimated in this dog-eat-dog world. Puppies in a litter learn how to find their way to the dam food source by being pushy and attention seeking (note to self: so THAT's how to do it!)

But seriously, there are great early learning life-skills for a pup in its first months on earth, especially about the ins and outs of touching, resources and attention, and getting to know how to connect with other dogs and where the doggie ground-rules of behaviour are drawn. These are all things that will help them grow into a fine, even-tempered, well-adjusted icon of adult dogginess.


How Old Is That Doggie In The Window?

So, "What's the answer to the dam question already?!".

How old should a puppy be before you whisk him home for a lifetime of love? Well, we recommend that he spend at least 12 weeks of his new life with his doggy-mommy. For those with the intention of importing a pup into the UAE, the law states that a puppy of 4 months of age can be legally imported into the country. But a note to the wise here, as there are unscrupulous characters (who knew?) who will actually "fudge" a doggie date of birth in order to get smaller and cuter puppies into the system - less than ideal for their health and well-being. Most good quality dog breeders (and really, if you value your animal - and we know you do - you'll go for the top-dog breeders) only allow puppies to leave their dam at between 12 and 16 weeks of age.

Phew! If, after all that, you're ready for the love and mayhem of a puppy, from 12 weeks is the time to take your little life-changer home and introduce him to the family.

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