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Mama Knows Best – The Dangers of Early Separation

:Nicole Young, for TAPACT

Image: https://www.treehugger.com/animal-news-4846084

One of the many problematic things about the illegal peddling of puppies at the border is that these dogs are typically just four to six weeks old when they’re put up for sale, but research suggests that puppies should stay with their moms and siblings for at least eight weeks after birth.

We know that there are five stages of healthy dog development, the most crucial of which being the socialization stage, which occurs from 3 to 13 weeks. During this period the puppies move from just eating and physical survival to interacting with the members of their family and learning the social rules of their society. However, the critical period, which is not categorized as a separate stage of development, but rather a component of the socialization stage, occurs after six weeks. It is within this developmental stage that a dog’s potential as a companion animal is either fostered and nurtured, or impeded and even destroyed. It is also within this stage that at least 50% of the dog’s eventual temperament is developed. So, by extracting a pup from its family before the eight week mark you increase the risk of it being ill-tempered and unfit to socialize with other dogs.

If a puppy is separated from its mom before the eight week mark there is also the likelihood that it will be particularly sensitive to psychological and physical disturbances. The separation from their mothers, littermates and familiar environments may result in fear, distress and impaired learning. Puppies depend on their moms and littermates to learn important behaviors that have lifelong implications. For example, during this stage puppies engage in social play with their siblings and learn behaviors related to social hierarchies and bite inhibition. Puppies separated from their moms and siblings too early often tend to bite more readily and harder than those that are separated at eight weeks of age because they never learned proper bite inhibition. Puppies who experience early separation also commonly develop other behavioral problems as adults, such as high reactivity, anxiety, attachment-related problems, and inter-dog aggression.

Image: https://www.instagram.com/p/CIR4vahn_eC/

We also know that between 3 and 8 weeks old moms begin weaning their pups. The weaning process begins with puppies consuming semi-solid food at around three weeks of age, and then they typically are separated from their mothers between 6 – 8 weeks of age for rehoming. The weaning process coincides with one of the earliest and most important periods for learning, so it is imperative that puppies are not weaned too early or abruptly because it can have long-term implications for behavioral wellness as adults. Taking nursing puppies too early from their moms may adversely affect the dogs that are not as physically or psychologically ready to cease nursing entirely. Many health benefits are also proven in keeping pups with mom and not weaned until eight weeks old, such as improved weight gain and growth, decreased illness and mortality, and improved coat condition.

In summary, a 4 – 6 week old puppy is not ready to leave the emotional support of its extended dog family. Crucial puppy development happens from 6 – 8 week age. The mom’s job at this stage has changed from physically nurturing the puppies to giving the puppies their first lessons in submission, compliance, social order and social ranking. From 6 – 8 weeks of age, the puppies’ natural temperament begins to emerge. Social rules are taught and reinforced by mother dogs during this crucial development period, so the consequences of removing puppies from their littermates and mothers too early are both far reaching and impactful.

Illustration: https://www.thesprucepets.com/puppy-development-part-1-2804676

The only benefit of removing a puppy from its mother before the eight week mark is so the breeder can reduce costs or make a faster sale. The separation is done out of extreme ignorance, irresponsibility, or greed. Removing a puppy too soon from their family unit is the equivalent of taking a three year old child and sending him off to boarding school, and then expecting that child to be able to cope emotionally and socially with the experience.
If you encounter a puppy vendor and suspect that the pups for sale may be younger than eight weeks old, the best thing you can do is report the seller to Tijuana Authorities at +52 664 186 9498, or Tijuana Animal Control is +52 664 973 7006. You can also send photos, videos, recordings and any other information to TAPACT@theanimalpad.com. Signs that a puppy is too young to have been separated from its mother are that the pup doesn’t have its eyes or ears open, is unable to walk, and/or is unresponsive, as newborns are deaf.If you’d like to help these animals further, adoption or fostering is one of the best things you can, and will ever, do. Contact your local animal shelter or rescue organization – like The Animal Pad – to learn more about adoption, fostering or other ways to help.

Info pulled from: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1C4L5IoOEl9CElrEEAYs77MOeyH0y3JCj-Tf4F9-VUOE/edit