How Old?

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How old should a puppy be when you take him/her home?

Different breeders will give differing answers, ranging from 6 to 12 weeks of age.   In Deborah Wood's book, The Shih Tzu (2006, T.F.H. Publications) she recommends waiting until 12 weeks to take your new puppy home.  And I've seen many breeders' websites state that 6 weeks old is perfectly okay.  From our experience acquiring our own puppies, I think somewhere in the middle is best, around 8-9 weeks, depending on the puppy and the experience and circumstances of his/her new owner.

The argument against acquiring puppies at 6 weeks of age is they need more time with their littermates for proper socialization.  I agree with this argument until at least 8 weeks of age.  But other factors are relevant, such as whether the new owner has other dogs or cats, or possibly wants to acquire two puppies.  We have brought home a 6 week old puppy once, and he may have had minor socialization issues, although he is a terrific dog.  But we have other dogs and cats. 

In our experience, the younger the puppy is when acquired, the quicker the house training goes.  This is the primary reason we don't completely agree with Deborah Wood.  Puppies develop bowel and bladder control at about 3 weeks of age, and at 8-9 weeks of age, they develop a strong preference for a particular surface for elimination (see Giffen, J.M. and Carlson, L.D., 2000, Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, Howell Book House).  New owners can capitalize on this developmental tendency to make house training go more smoothly.  Puppies we've acquired at 12 weeks of age have always been slower to house train, probably because they have been eliminating in the corner of a playpen or similar enclosure during this important time.

If you take your puppy home at 8-9 weeks of age and properly crate train him/her, they will learn quickly and exhibit adequate socialization, especially if you have other compatible pets.

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