Collecting your Labrador puppy at five or six weeks old

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In the UK,  the recommended age at which to purchase a puppy is eight weeks.

However, it is not unusual to come across people that have brought their new Labrador puppy home at the tender age of six weeks.

Occasionally even younger.

Reasons

There are some good reasons why you should not do this,  but of course sometimes it just cannot be helped.

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A breeder may get taken into hospital, or even die, for example,  and the distraught relatives need to rehome the puppies early.

Excuses

All too often unfortunately, breeders who let puppies go to their new homes at six weeks old, do this for selfish reasons.

If you are considering taking on a five or six week old Labrador puppy,  for whatever reason, you need to know what you are getting yourself into.

Let’s have a look at what puppies learn in those last two weeks that they normally spend with Mum and siblings before going to their new homes at eight weeks old.

Bite inhibition

The process of learning bite inhibition is a long one.  It begins whilst puppies are quite small and first learning to play with one another and with their mother.Collecting labrador puppy at six weeksAnd it carries on until they are several months old.

By the time you bring a puppy home at eight weeks,  however needle sharp you think his teeth are,  he has already learned a lot of bite inhibition from his mum and siblings.   Although you have to continue this process,  some of the hard work has already been done.

At nine weeks, my own young pup could crush the bone in a chicken wing in seconds,  yet never actually even drew blood when biting my fingers.  Although it still hurt, her Mum had already taught her to ‘pull her punches’,  yet she was actually capable of crushing the bones in my fingers.

If you take a puppy home at six weeks,  you will have to do even more of ‘Mum’s’ job and teach the puppy not to cause actual bodily harm when she bites.  This is not easy and has to be done in stages.  You cannot just punish the dog for all biting or it will not learn the vital skill of bite inhibition.  You can read more about bite inhibition here: Biting

Bite inhibition problems are more likely with puppies that have been removed from Mum too early, and can be very difficult to manage if you have small children.

Touch tolerance

A puppy in the nest is being jostled constantly.  This is a normal part of growing up within a ‘litter’.

Labrador puppies that are removed from this jostling experience too young may dislike being touched or bumped in certain parts of their bodies.  There is a potential for this to lead to behavioural problems, including aggression,  later in life.

Resist the temptation

If a breeder asks you to take a puppy home at five to six weeks of age,  be very suspicious.

Only in the most dire circumstances should a breeder let puppies go this young.

Bear in mind that some disreputable breeders will make up excuses to get rid of puppies when they get to this age.  Just as the puppies are becoming both time consuming, messy,  and expensive to care for.

Short of a personal disaster, no reputable breeder will normally request or permit a puppy to leave her premises before seven weeks of age,  eight weeks if you are an inexperienced owner.

Finding a playmate

The main issues around bringing puppies home too young need to be addressed by finding your puppy  another puppy or puppies of a similar age and size to play with, on a regular basis.  This will go some way towards helping to balance the disadvantages of being removed from the nest too young,  or of being a singleton puppy.

If you have an older dog that will play sensibly with the puppy,  and teach him some rules without being too rough,  then that too will help.

You will also need to make a lot of effort to handle this puppy a great deal.  Get her used to having her body touched all over, as often as you can.

Puppies abroad

Sadly, we often get questions from puppy owners outside of Europe and North America that have bought puppies at three and four weeks old.   You can read more about these puppies in this article  Too Young to Leave Mum

Think hard

Do think hard before bringing a young puppy home before he or she is eight weeks old.

You are naturally impatient to collect your new puppy,  but six weeks is really too young.  Resist the temptation if you can,  remember that it is a bad idea to bring a puppy home before he is at least seven weeks old, both for your sake and his.

More information

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Check out our Labrador Puppies section for more help and advice on bringing home a happy and healthy puppy.

If you’d like all this information together in one place, don’t miss my new book, due to be released in October 2015

The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects of your Labradors life, through daily care and training at each stage of their life.

Click hereto pre-order now from Amazon UK, with Amazon’s pre-order price guarantee

 

23 COMMENTS

  1. As a hobby breeder of 7 years experience and a dog owner for over 20 years, I found your article on collecting puppies early very interesting. However, I am concerned that you missed one of the most important reasons. In the UK it is against the law (Welfare of Dogs Acts 2004) to remove a puppy from the breeder, it’s place of rearing and the dam before the puppy is 8 weeks old.
    Please keep up the good work
    Victoria

    • Hi Victoria,
      Thanks for your comment. I can’t find a 2004 act on google. The
      1999 act
      does state that a keeper of a licensed breeding establishment must not sell a puppy before 8 weeks.

      But I believe that most breeders are not licenced ( it defines a licenced breeding establishment for dogs as one where its keeper is licensed under the 1973 Act.)
      So presumably the law does not apply to the vast majority of breeders that are hobby breeders, and this means that these breeders can legally let puppies go at any age they choose?

      Pippa

      It is an interesting subject. Does anyone have any more information on this? Or a link to a more recent Act?

      • I knew a breeder (an amateur, not a registered breeder) who insisted on keeping his puppies until they were 12 weeks old. I have a lovely Black Lab now who is a great friend but was more difficult to train than the Boxer I bought from that breeder years ago. I wonder what your view is on this issue as his stated reason was to ensure they had learned a lot from their mother before leaving home, and it seemed to work well.

  2. Hi Pippa I sent you an e-mail before about my friends buying a Labrador puppy. Not only did they visit and were all in with and handling the puppies at 2 weeks old but they have just shown me recent pics of the puppy they chose being bathed at 4 weeks! I am beginning to think that they have made a mistake and the breeder although knows all about the health issues in breeding but really doesn’t know much about behaviour and how it is important that the puppies get the best start possible.
    My friends have set their site high in that they want a Labrador the same as my Holly, as she is very well behaved and is a dream to own. I bought Holly at 9 weeks old, I never got to view the pups until they were six weeks. She came from a man who was very experienced in breeding gun dogs and took part in the sport. He also practised as a dog behaviourist. I actually asked for his expertise when picking Holly as a puppy and as a result a got a big healthy puppy who was easy to train with his guidance. he has now retired but I keep intouch with him. Not sure that my friends pup is going to have such a good start.
    Pauline x

  3. Hi Pippa, I am currently waiting on a puppy of my own and am suppose to pick it up the third week in December. It is not a labrador but a Siberian Husky. After coming across you article online I have become very concerned. The breeder that I have purchased him from requires the new puppy owners to pick their puppies up at 6 weeks old. Her website states that she has been a breeder of Huskies for 15 yrs. and that she will not hold a puppy past pick up date unless there is an emergency situation. She also has people who have puppies in this litter that have come to her before. I have already paid the non-refundable deposit for this puppy and will have the time to give it all the special attention that it requires. Should I just take the loss and find another breeder? Will he really be that damaged it i do get him at 6 weeks? I have done my research on this breed and have found that they can be aggressive if not properlly trained right so I am a little scared now that this can cause many problems in the way he turns out.

    • Hi there Cara
      This site is for and about Labradors but much of what is written here applies to all breeds of dog.
      If there is some particular reason why Siberian huskies should be adopted at six weeks I am not aware of it. Nor can I imagine what reasonable ground for such a requirement might be. But that does not mean I would discount it out of hand. If I were buying an unusual breed like this, I would consult with the breed clubs in the first instance.
      I am sure that you have already done your research, but this is the UK Siberian Husky Club’s page of minus points for those thinking of owning a Siberian Husky. It does not mention early adoption as being necessary. Here is a page from the American Club, again, it does not mention early adoption.
      The fact that someone has been breeding for 15 years and has return customers, does not make them a good breeder. It does not make them a bad breeder either. I would however be very suspicious of the six week requirement and in your position I would be consulting with the Kennel Club and Siberian Husky Club in your region for advice first thing on Monday morning.
      Good luck with your decision, and I hope you get some good advice. Pippa

  4. Hi, My name is Sarah,
    My puppy Alfie is now 4months old nearly 5 months, he is a Labrador crossed with a German Sheperd, he’s such a clever little character! His Mum is the German Sheperd and his Dad is the Labrador. When I first got him he was 5 weeks (nearly 6 weeks old) old due to his mother abandoning them and was becoming aggressive towards the liter. When he was 5 weeks old we had to feed him his milk every 4 hours, i’m not going to lie it was hard but you get used to it and the routine/very early mornings become easier to handle. Its just absolutely amazing watching them grow and develop and the little things they do what make them unique. He’s no trouble at all, and thats quite rare to say with a puppy, he is crate trained also. He used to nip quite a bit but what puppy doesn’t, this website helped a great deal in dealing with it and cutting it out for good and now he hardly does it. He’s going puppy training at the end of the month just to top up his training and my knowledge so I can be the best for him as he’s so mentally alert I need to think of new things for him so he doesn’t get bored aswell. He loves his walks, I follow the 5 min walk for every month etc and he loves it! Cant wait to take him for long walks on the beach or in the forest, he’s so good on the lead already so with the puppy training he will be even better at it. He gets plenty of my time which is great for both of us, my partner works full time so i’m at home with Alfie and I work a few hours in the mornings but my mum only lives just down the road so if need be my mum will let him out in the garden.

  5. Hi there! I understand that this page is for labs but I feel this is relevant. I was puppy hunting with my fiance and found a beautiful little boy (we’ll call him Dexter) The owner is not an experienced breeder and the litter was an accident. They were going to just get rid of the pups (AT 3 WEEKS OLD) to a shelter or who nows where. I Rescued one pup and even offered a small amount of money to encourage them to keep it with the mother and the other pups till they are of age. He is now 7 weeks old and I’m concerned with how he is being handled. REMEMBER I rescued him. the other dogs will go to a shelter at 8 weeks. I want to know if at 7 weeks it is better to bring him home and have control over what he eats and his experiences or if another week in an unpredictable environment is worth it. Please note that there is no cruelty at its current home. Just an unprepared accidental breeder who got in over his head.

  6. pippa i got labrador puppies at 3 weeks….i made a big mistake……..now n feedin him with cows milk……..will it engh?…….plz help me out

  7. I got a lab mixed with a cur yesterday. It’s a female and she is 6 weeks old. I’ve brought her around a lot of people and she is very quiet. With me she plays and stuff but bites alot. Any way I can help out with that instead of punishing her. And also , she won’t drink water. I’ve given her milk and she’s drank that. I gave her some moist food from Petco and she’s eating that. I got her puppy formula but she won’t drink it. Any ideas on what to do ?

  8. I have a yellow labrador puppy 2 month old. His nose is slightly brown on edges and remaining is black. Is it a problem or normal. He is very active and healthy and weigh around 4 Kgs much heavier then other siblings.

  9. Hi Pipa! My 4 months old lab as lost a tooth while playing with a rope, ( the rope is suitable for dogs). Is one of the front peaked…..I don t know if its normal or not. Can you help me? Thank you so much.

  10. […] Neha…Looking at your other questions…you are 19 years old and this is your first ever pet and you have no idea how to care for it, and your mother is not pleased about you having one! A recipe for disaster. You have now obtained a pup from an unscrupulous breeder that should still be with its mother and siblings and needs even more care than is usual. Why oh why did you go and do this. Your best bet is to take the pup back to the breeder and tell them you do not want a pup until it is 8 weeks old. Chances are it has never been wormed or even properly weaned. This pup is under a lot of stress and will sleep most of the time. He needs warmth and company and no you must not leave him alone at night or even during the daytime. He needs feeding on good quality puppy food made mushy with warm water at least 4-5 times a day.Little and often is best for him. If you are adamant on keeping him then have him in a box or crate next to your bed at night so as you can put a hand down to comfort him when he cries. Get up and take him outside to relieve himself at least once during the night. Puppies are really hard work and even more so at this tender age. Read up on the internet on how to care for young puppies and their needs, vaccinations and worming etc. Read this;>>>http://www.thelabradorsite.com/collectin… […]

  11. Good day,
    We are getting a lab puppy at 7weeks. Its in between too early and correct timing, so I hope this isn’t too bad?
    My question is this: Our pups mom did not give birth naturally and had to be rushed to the vet to help remove the pups. 4 of the 5 were still born, so our pup is an only child.
    I met him at 3 weeks(yesterday) and he is quite a big(fat) pup.
    I guess he did not have to fend of 4 brothers and sisters for milk/attention from mom!
    I would like to know how this will affect him in future?
    I want to take the best possible care of our new family member!
    Thank you

  12. We found Labrador puppies for sale and they are supposedly not breeders. They want everyone to get their puppies when they turn 6 weeks old. They will not be vet checked so I am taking our puppy to the vet the next day. Any suggestions or concerns about getting her this early? She along w the other puppies are being kept in a barn. I have 2 small children and an 8yr old pug. Suggestions on training this early and chewing/biting? Thanks

    • Hi Michelle, the information you need is in the article above. You should not purchase a Labrador puppy at six weeks old for the reasons given and because it demonstrates that the breeder is not responsible. Your first task when sourcing a puppy is to find a responsible breeder. Good luck with your search.

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