What Age Pup Should I Get?
A guide on how old your pup should be when you take them home
So you’re planning to get a puppy? How exciting!
There are so many decisions to make during this time – what breed to get, how to choose a puppy from a litter, whether or not to buy from a breeder or rescue? It’s a big decision when you’re choosing a new family member, who’ll be by your side for the next 10 – 15 years!
One decision that can make a big difference in your puppy training journey is your puppy’s age when you bring them home.
What age pup should you get?
It’s highly advantageous to get a pup that’s 7-8 weeks old. This is the beginning of the absolutely critical Formative Period. This is when 80% of your pup’s brain gets wired up and they learn basically most of the behaviours and socialisation they’ll need for the rest of their lives. Do the right thing at this time, and you set yourself up for a sociable, well-behaved dog for life. Miss key socialisation and training in this period, and you could be in for a challenging ride.
This is also the age when a pup would naturally be leaving its mother’s den to go out and bond with the rest of the pack. You are your pup’s new “pack”, so it’s a very natural time for your pup to move in and begin bonding with you. This is when they learn who their extended family is.
What is the Formative Period?
The most critical time in a puppy’s development is the “Formative Period” when pups are between 2 and 4 months old (8 – 16 weeks). During this time, the pup’s flight or fight nervous system isn’t fully developed, which means the puppy is almost always in a Learning State, non-fearful, and ripe for picking up new behaviours and adjusting to new situations. At this age, you are shaping behaviour rather than trying to change established behaviour. In particular, dogs’ sociability towards people, dogs and other species is learned during this time. Plus, this is a key time to build resilience to new and novel experiences – whatever pups experience during the Formative Period, they’re much more likely to accept calmly later in life.
Why should I get an 8 week old pup?
If you bring your pup home at 8 weeks old, you will be completely in charge of their experiences during the Critical Formative Period. This means you get the opportunity to raise your puppy to be sociable, confident, resilient and well-behaved. Sociability is then really key thing that pups learn during this time. If they get inadequate socialisation (with other people, dogs and other species) during their Formative Period, there’s a large risk they’ll become reactive, fearful or aggressive in future. Getting your pup at the start of the Formative Period means you can make sure they get the socialisation they need.
What happens if I get my pup later?
Getting a pup later can work out absolutely fine, especially if they’re in a situation in which they’re getting adequate training and socialisation before they come to you.
If not and pups aren’t socialised extensively before they come to you post 8 weeks, then it is much more likely they’ll have aggression or fear based issues later in life, which can be immensely stressful and dangerous. Also, if pups aren’t exposed to certain experiences during this time, they may become phobic towards them (e.g. cars driving past, bikes, scooters etc).
This is a scale – 8 week is optimal, but 10 weeks is better than 12 weeks which is better than 16 weeks etc.
What if there’s no option?
If you don’t get a choice about your pup’s age when you bring them home (e.g. because you’re choosing a rescue pup or can’t travel to pick up your pup earlier etc), don’t stress. You will still absolutely be able to train and socialise your pup, you’ll just need to be a bit more proactive about it, invest a little more time into it, and make sure your techniques are bang on.
Experienced dog owners
If you’re an experienced and skilled puppy or dog owner, you can have more flexibility about the age of the pup you adopt. You will likely be more skilled and able to handle any little challenges that present and also make up for the missed training and socialisation opportunities.
With so many older rescue pups looking for homes, we absolutely need people who will adopt older pups and I wholeheartedly encourage this! Anything can be rectified, it’s just that if you have never had a dog before you’re probably best to start with a younger pup so that their training and socialisation is more controlled.
Ready to train your pup?
Whatever age your puppy, we can help you with training them so you know you’ll have a beautifully behaved, sociable, loving dog that you can rely on for life. We have a Virtual Puppy School, Virtual Teenage Puppy School and Virtual Dog School – each with techniques suitable to the age and stage of your new dog. Prevention is better than cure, so start early.