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Puppies should stay with the litter until 8 weeks. No questions about it.

There is almost no reason for a breeder to send a puppy home prior to 8 weeks of age.

If your breeder is doing this, they are very unlikely to be a reputable, ethical breeder (no matter what they tell you about ‘why’). In many States, it is also illegal to send a puppy home prior to 8 weeks.

Puppies Should Stay with the Litter Until 8 Weeks

BREEDING PRACTICES: Puppies Should Stay with the Litter Until 8 Weeks

There are a few reasons why a breeder may claim that a puppy needs to go home before 8 weeks.

Here are some you may have heard:

  • The mom ‘rejected’ the puppies
  • The mom is being ‘mean’ to the puppies
  • The mom ‘weaned’ the puppies and they are eating solid food
  • The puppies are ‘fighting’
  • The puppies will ‘bond’ better if they go home before 8 weeks
  • The breeder has cancer/health issues/etc. and can no longer keep the litter
  • It’s ‘better’ for bonding

Do these sound familiar?

Puppies that go home prior to 8 weeks of age may lack bite control, will be immature and may have a harder time with potty training, puppy biting, crate training and socialization. 


The mom may actually appear to have rejected the puppies. She may be nippy or snappy and walk away from them when they try to nurse.

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Inexperienced breeders see this as a sign that the mom is becoming aggressive and may hurt the puppies, not realizing that this is an incredibly important part of the process. Or they will use it as an excuse to be lazy.

This is how the mom weans the puppies and begins to teach them manners and appropriate social skills.

A puppy who has not had a mother snap at them to establish ground rules is a puppy who may grow into a rude, pushy adult.

Puppies Should Stay with the Litter Until 8 Weeks

Puppies learn incredibly valuable social skills while with their mom and litter. If they don’t have their mom and litter to correct them, they may never learn how to properly interact with other dogs.


Inexperienced breeders may think that their pile of puppies has become aggressive with how noisy, growly and bitey they are.

The puppies are not fighting. They are teaching each other bite control and social skills!

They will growl, chase, nip, attack, pin, grab and bite each other. They yelp, bark and make all kinds of racket to tell the other puppy that they bit too hard.

This time spent learning how to control their jaws and bite pressure = puppies that have a LOT more maturity when it comes to social interaction and puppy biting.

Puppies need time and lots, and lots of play to teach each other how to interact with dogs. Be cautious about any breeder that is so tired of the puppies that they would skip this time.

Puppies Should Stay with the Litter Until 8 Weeks


Sometimes a breeder is tired of the litter for any number of reasons. They are expensive, noisy, needy, and aren’t worth much cash until people pick them up.

So they will say all sorts of things to get you to pick the puppies up, pay them, and take them out of their house as soon as possible.

They may even claim that the litter was an ‘ooops’ and that they have cancer and cannot deal with the puppies anymore (this is why we have rescues!); we see this a lot with ‘Craigslist’ breeders.

They want your cash and they do NOT CARE that they are setting a puppy up to fail by encouraging you to take it home at 5, 6, or 7 weeks of age.


Great Dane puppies that are sent home prior to 8 weeks of age may:

Bite harder, may not have a ‘soft mouth’
Be timid & shy
Be exceptionally immature
Cry more & have a harder time with separation anxiety
Struggle with potty training & bladder control
Be rude or pushy and struggle to have appropriate interactions with other dogs
Be difficult to socialize

It is a truly rare situation where a puppy may need to go home prior to 8 weeks of age. Do not let an unethical breeder convince you otherwise!

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It can happen where a puppy must leave a litter early.

  • Sometimes, the Dam really is just a bad mom, or she is inexperienced. An ethical breeder will work with the Dam and may  hand-raise the puppies until 8 weeks or seek out the help of another breeder with an established Dam to help raise the litter.
  • Occasionally health issues may require that a puppy be separated (including the death of the Dam or severe health problems with the puppy). Ethical breeders will do everything in their power to thoughtfully and humanely resolve this, including placing the puppy in the care of another Dam and litter to learn social skills, or hand-raising it as needed.


For more information on what ethical breeding practices and finding a quality breeder looks like, search our ever-growing collection of helpful topics!

If you have a young puppy in your home, what is done is done. Recognize first that your puppy will be developmentally behind others that come home at 8 or even 10 weeks, so you’ll need to be extra patient.

As obnoxious as puppy biting is, for an exceptionally young puppy they NEED to do it to learn how to control their jaw. If you can, meet with other (HEALTHY) same-aged puppies (be conscious of Parvo and other communicable disease!)

For information on Puppy Biting and how to make it stop, visit our blog post! 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

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