Recent research has shown that premature separation of puppies from their mothers can lead to behavioural problems later in life. A study in The Veterinary Record, compared 70 adult dogs, who as puppies had been separated from their mother and littermates at five weeks old with 70 adult dogs who were not separated until after eight weeks of age. The study concluded that early age separation was a significant predictor of excessive barking, fearfulness on walks, reactivity to noises, and attention seeking behaviour in adult life.
Excessive stress affects and hinders normal brain development in a dog during the crucial first two months of life. This can then lead to behavioural problems persisting into adulthood. Dogs with behavioural problems may experience an increased risk of abandonment, rehoming or euthanasia.
As vets, we recommend that puppies remain with their mothers until eight weeks of age. Mothers and pups should also be kept in conditions which foster wellbeing and security and minimise stress and fear to reduce the likelihood of behavioural problems developing later.
So if you are looking for a puppy we suggest that you check that all the puppies and their mother are well cared for, have lots of opportunity for interaction with people and that you do not bring your puppy home until it is eight weeks old.