Updated: August 13th, 2022
The best age to get a puppy is a much discussed issue on the internet, with most answers ranging from between the 7 and 10 week mark, but with some outlandish answers going all the way up to many months!
So what is correct? What is the best age to bring a Golden Retriever puppy home?
Furthermore, what factors should you consider before taking a puppy away from its mother and litter-mates to start a new life with it’s soon to be new owners?
I think the most important things to consider are any long-lasting negative effects on the puppy by taking it away too early.
Taking A Puppy Away From It’s Mother Too Young Can Lead To Many Problems
There have been scientific studies performed that have proven taking a puppy away from its mother and litter-mates too young leads to an increased possibility of behavioral and personality problems later in life:
- Possessiveness of food and toys
- Increased aggression
- Learning difficulties
These behavioral problems arise due to a puppy missing out on important lessons it can only get from its mother and siblings. Lessons that are vital to the early development of a normal puppy.
What Does A Puppy Learn From It’s Mother And Siblings – What Happens If It Misses Out?
There are many things a puppy learns from its mother and litter-mates that are vitally important to their early development and could take you an extreme amount of time and effort to make up for if they miss out:
When a puppy bites and hurts their mother or litter-mates they get growled and snapped at. Or their mother / litter-mate will move away due to being hurt, thereby ending the puppy’s play and fun. Combined with being the victim of biting from their litter-mates in return, this gives continuous feedback and an education in how painful biting can sometimes be.
And so they very quickly learn to inhibit their bite, to not go full force and to hold back when play biting. This is called ‘bite inhibition‘ and for obvious reasons is a very important thing for every dog to learn!
If a puppy is taken from the nest too soon they miss out on this learning process and the responsibility passes to their new owners who will at first have a puppy who bites hard. And sometimes extremely hard.
Acceptance Of Discipline
When a puppy does wrong in the nest, their mother regularly disciplines them to keep them in line. And a puppy will often throw a little hissy fit but the mother will be unmoving.
They learn that bad behavior gets you disciplined and they have to accept it. They learn their actions have consequences and they cannot have things their own way.
Missing out on this important interaction increases the possibility of behavioral issues and a dog that doesn’t accept guidance and commands from their owner. The puppy then becomes a dog that is so much harder to train and is less controllable for their owners.
It’s important for your dog to accept being touched all over their body, so you and others can groom them or inspect them for health and medical reasons.
In the nest, a puppy will be constantly pawed, clawed, rubbed against and climbed all over, all day every day by their litter-mates. This results in your puppy getting used to being touched and becoming highly tolerant of it.
Remove a puppy too young though and it will not experience this which can sometimes result in a dog that doesn’t like to be touched and can even become ‘touch-aggressive’.
Canine Communication, Pack Hierarchy And What It Means To Be A Dog
A puppy in the litter learns all about pack hierarchy, about dominance and following the lead of others.
They also learn how dogs ‘talk’ to one another, canine body language and the subtle physical signals that dogs give off to show how they’re thinking and feeling.
They learn about appropriate play and how to interact with others of their species safely, considerately and happily.
A puppy that’s taken away too soon will miss out on a lot of this and will be under-socialized to other dogs. This can very easily lead to a dog who is scared of other dogs, doesn’t know how to interact with other dogs and is simply socially awkward.
This can mean less time…or no time…interacting with his own species, having to be on the leash in dog parks and woods when other dogs are around and ultimately living a less fulfilling life than they could otherwise have had.
Is Leaving A Puppy With It’s Mother Too Long Problematic?
First of all, leaving a puppy with its mother longer than necessary isn’t as harmful as taking it away too early as long as it’s socialized well. And this is the important thing when it comes to leaving a puppy in the nest for too long.
A puppy must be introduced to as many sights, sounds, environments, people and other dogs and animals as possible before they reach 14 weeks of age. Anything you don’t want a dog to be scared of they must be exposed to in this early part of their life.
This 14 week window of opportunity is a time where a puppy has little fear and instead has heightened curiosity that compels it to explore and test things out. After 14 weeks, as a natural instinct for survival in the wild, the puppy will begin to fear new things it hasn’t already experienced.
The first 14 weeks is also the time when a puppy will form its strongest bonds with people and other animals. And so for the best possible relationship and strongest bond between your puppy and you, this is a time when you want your puppy living with you, seeing your entire family and social network so your puppy truly integrates and feels a part of the pack of humans around it.
So think to yourself, if you get a puppy at 8 weeks of age, you have 6 weeks to take them to the shopping mall, the park, the pet shop, to meet as many people as possible, get them in the car, on the beach, in a swimming pool etc. get them at 12 weeks and you have only 14 days!
So leaving a puppy with its mother for too long isn’t ideal.
So What Is The Best Age To Bring A Golden Retriever Puppy Home?
Throughout this article I’ve not actually once mentioned the age at which you should take a puppy home have I?
I did this for a reason! So you would read the whole thing and hopefully understand why you should follow this advice:
Leave a puppy with its mother and litter-mates until it’s 8 weeks of age and then you can take him or her home to live with you.
Yes, 8 weeks old is the recommended perfect time to take a puppy away from its mother and litter-mates and home with you to live. This is when they’ve learnt a good deal already from their mother and litter-mates but are still very open to bonding strongly with others and openly accepting of new environments and experiences.
You may want to have them earlier because after all, they’re extremely cute when younger! But you would be doing far from the best for your new puppy and could be stunting their development, leading them toward behavioral issues and affecting their entire future lives.
On the other end of the spectrum, leaving it later than 8 weeks to take your puppy home they could be missing out on essential socialization opportunities. Responsible breeders will have started this process way before 8 weeks, but it’s something that you need to be aware of and make sure you provide for your puppy.
Take your puppy home at 8 weeks of age. For the reasons above, it’s best for your puppy, best for you and best for the future relationship between you.
A breeder telling you to take them any earlier is trying to avoid investing further time and effort into caring for them and possibly trying to save a little money by moving them on faster. They certainly aren’t acting with the puppies best interests in mind.
Leave the puppy with their mother until it’s 8 weeks of age, this is an important time for your puppy where it learns a lot of things that you cannot really replace.
And this early time spent with their mother ensures the best development of a puppy that will result in a dog far better suited to spending an entire life with you.
So don’t be hungry to grab your puppy an extra early week or two. Do what’s best for the puppy and leave them with their mother until they’re 8 weeks of age.