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What Age to Send Puppy Home?

We have updated our going home day from day 56 to day 49. After 14 years of breeding golden retrievers, it seemed that after every litter went home, we asked ourselves why we kept them back that final week. We have seen happy, playful puppies change their personalities in that final week. It is the time that they are starting to pick who is the pack leader (so start fighting each other for the position), start eating the paper placed down for the potty area (can't be that good for the intestines as noted in the change in bowel movements over a couple of days) and the fact that all they want that week is more and more human contact. We do try to accommodate the contact and take turns bringing them inside, are constantly in the weaning pen and have lots of the new adoptive families come and visit but it just doesn't seem like it is enough for what they really want.


So, we started to research and found out that day 49 is actually an optimal time to bring a puppy into its new home and is recommended by Guide Dog Raisers. I have no idea why there is such a stigma on 8 weeks but from what we have read, large breed dogs fair very well when rehomed at 49 days through 56 days versus 56 days on. Smaller breeds do better getting rehomed later but we won't be getting into that as we only deal with golden retrievers.


The linked chart from Diamonds In The Ruff is really great at explaining the developmental stages and socialization of puppies from birth to maturity.

The following is an excerpt from the charts 7 to 12 weeks section:

The 49th day. The brain waves of the puppy are the same as a mature dog, but the puppy is a clean slate.

Puppy should be completely weaned from mother.

This is the age when most rapid learning occurs. Greatest impact on future social behavior will be made by any experience that happens at this point.

The window of opportunity is closing. Although puppies can continue to learn to be comfortable with new things, it is not as easy.

The best time to bring a puppy into its new home is around week 7 or 8. "The 49th day" is recommended by Guide Dog raisers and supported by studies.

Absolutely critical period in which puppy should be socialized.

Ideal time to capitalize on educating your puppy.

Take into account puppy's physical limitations and short attention span.

The Fear Period

Young dogs go through two fear periods. The first one is when they are around 8 - 10 weeks old. By having the puppy already settled into its new environment, this fear period is hopefully minimized to the point that the new owner never even notices that it happened versus transitioning a puppy at the same time the fear period hits.

Here is a link to Dr. Jen's Dog Blog that covers more on the topic of the fear period.


Another blurb from Ask A Breeder: (click here for the full article)


At what age do the puppies go to new homes?

A breeder should not let their puppies go home before 6.5 weeks of age as the absolute minimum, and that is really pushing the limits of acceptable. The very best time to take a puppy home is at 7 weeks of age (49 days of age). This is unless the dog is a toy sized dog. A toy breed shouldn’t ever go home until it is large enough and old enough to regulate its own blood sugar. Refer to trustworthy sources to determine what age is appropriate for your selected breed.


A puppy should never ever ever (ever) go to his/her new home prior to 6.5 weeks of age. I do not care what the reasons are, they are not acceptable. There is absolutely not one single exception here. Not one. I cannot stress this enough. If you separate a litter too early you can have very significant temperament and training problems with your dog that will require the hiring of a certified behaviorist and a whole lot of training. And that likely will only help and not actually “fix” the problem. You cannot recreate the environment of a litter of puppies for your new puppy at home. Period.


8 weeks isn't really the magic number. Puppies go through a "fear imprint period" in the 8-12 week time frame. 49 days old is the best age to bond with a new puppy. I can only speculate why the 8 week "rule" is pushed so often, but I know it isn't really in the best interest of the puppy (except in the case of a toy sized dog)

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