Originally published July 13, 2013
We have recently seen a spate of puppies who have been coming home at 13, 14, and 15 weeks of age. People have a variety of reasons for holding off on getting their pups, and most often we hear that they don’t want to go through the early puppy training. They wait a little longer in the hopes of getting a puppy who is less needy than a young pup or who might be toilet trained. There are some issues though, including diminished socialization and substrate preference.
We know that the bulk of socialization for a puppy is finished by the time the puppy is 16 weeks. We like our puppies to meet between 200 and 400 people and between 100 and 200 hundred dogs. Is that overkill? Yes, but If your puppy has trouble with meeting people, this will ensure that you have your bases covered. The easiest way to do this is to count out 600 kibbles, and put 200 of them in one bagggie and four hundred in another. Every time your puppy sees, interacts with or plays with another puppy or dog, feed him one kibble from the bag of 200. When you have used up all your kibbles you know your pup has met enough dogs. Do the same with people using the 400 kibble baggie and when you are finished that, you know you have connected with enough people to ensure that your puppy is well socialized.
The name of the game is to get rid of all your kibbles before your pup reaches 16 weeks. If you get your puppy at 16 weeks, then you cannot do this preventive exercise because you have run out of time. If you get your puppy when he is 15 weeks, then you have a week to get rid of all 600 kibbles. That is a lot of work. If you get your pup at 14 weeks, you have two weeks to get rid of 600 kibbles or 300 greetings in two weeks. 13 weeks translates to 200 hundred greetings a week, 12 weeks translates into 150 greetings a week, and 11 weeks translates into 125 greetings a week. Ten weeks means 100 greetings a week, 9 weeks means about 75 greetings a week and 8 weeks means 50 greetings a week. Fifty greetings a week, means about seven greetings a day. 7 greetings a day is a whole lot easier than 90 greetings a day which is how many you would need to do if you got your puppy at fifteen weeks.
Even though everyone likes a puppy, they are not going to all line up at your door step when you get your older pup home. The closer to eight weeks that your puppy comes home, the more likely it is that you will be able to get all these friendly folks to come and gently visit your puppy! Image credit: logoboom / 123RF Stock Photo
Aside from the number of people and pups your dog will need to meet, there is also all of the handling, grooming and veterinary procedures you will have to practice. When the puppy is young, it is very easy to gently introduce handling to them. You can work with them when they are tired and they will often accept handling readily. By twelve weeks though, your pup will be a lot more active, and wiggly and may not accept handling and grooming very readily. If the puppy hasn’t been handled much at the breeder’s, you may have your work cut out for you. The more that the pups have been handled before 12 weeks the easier this will be, but we are seeing more and more pups who have never really been handled before going home and these puppies may be very difficult to restrain, groom, pat and take to the vet. Ideally, puppies are handled daily at the breeder’s from the day they are born, and by an increasing number of people as the time to go home approaches, and then by as many people as you can get to handle the pup before he is 16 weeks. Getting a cheap stethoscope and playing veterinarian with everyone the puppy meets can pay big dividends later on when you go to the vet. If you are trying to squeeze that activity in between weeks 12 and 16 along with the dozens of people you need your pup to meet each day, you are going to have a tonne more work to do each day than you would if you were going to spread these tasks over more time.
Between 8 and 12 weeks pups do a lot of resting. At about twelve weeks, puppies often “wake up” and become significantly more active. This means that instead of a puppy who konks out after twenty or thirty minutes, you have a puppy who will regularly stay awake for two to four hours at a time. The advantage to having a pup when they are younger is that you can set boundaries and rules while the puppy is awake, and then when he is naughty you can put him down for a nap and take a break. Older pups are generally awake and active for longer periods of time, so they have more chance to make mistakes and then you have to have a plan to get them to do something else.
The final big thing that happens with older pups is that they are often sent home before they are toilet trained. If your pup was at the breeder and not getting out to socialize with new people, or handled, the chances are pretty good he also didn’t get the advantage of early toilet training. Toilet training in dogs is somewhat like toilet training in people. If you have never seen a toilet before you are about three or four years of age, you may have difficulty using the standard equipment; not because you cannot, but because you have learned that something other than a standard toilet is the place to go. Dogs are just like us, except they need to learn what is a toilet before they are twenty weeks. If your puppy was in a kennel until he was 13 weeks, all of his experience will be on cement. If he has been in a home, but hasn’t been taught to go outside, he is going to think that carpets, tile and hardwood is the right place to go. You have time to fix this, but you will have to put in the work to get your dog to understand that outside is the right place to toilet. Due to his age, he is going to be awake for longer periods of time, and have a longer digest tract to fill up and empty. A longer digestive tract means that you can go outside with him and he may not go when you want him to. If you are pressed for time and you bring him in, you may end up with a puppy who still needs to go but who doesn’t need to go urgently. My general rule for older pups is that if they don’t perform outside, they get to go back to their crates and try again in a half hour until they go. Once they have gone to the toilet where I want them to, THEN they get breakfast, to play in the house or to go on a walk. If they haven’t gone in a timely manner, then they go back to their crate for a half hour and try again. Every time your older puppy has an accident indoors, you are setting him up to think that toileting indoors is just fine. If you have lots of mistakes, then by twenty weeks, your dog will happily toilet in the house whenever he needs to go.
Older pups should be at least on their way to being toilet trained. If they are not, the breeder has not done their job.
There are reasons that a breeder might hold a puppy back. To start with, the pup may be immature in some way or another. If this is the case, then a good breeder will be doing everything that you would do with an 8 week old puppy. The pup would get to go for car rides and to meet new people and would have supervised house time to learn what is permitted and what is not. He would get toilet training and meet lots of people and other dogs in different contexts, with someone who is experienced enough to know when her pup is overwhelmed and needs more time or space. Some breeders will keep several pups till they are 16 weeks old so they can get a better idea of which pups will be worth breeding before she sends her next breeding dog away. Again, this breeder will be putting in the work to make sure that the pup gets everything he or she needs. Sometimes not every pup in the litter gets sold in a timely manner. The breeder should still be doing the work that will turn out an exemplary puppy.
A breeder may choose to keep a puppy back if she thinks he might grow up to be a good breeding prospect or if she thinks he might have potential in dog sport. If she does this, and then at 12, 13, or 14 weeks, she should be selling a puppy who is well socialized, has had a good amount of handling, who may have been to a dog show or two, and who is already toilet trained. If a breeder keeps a puppy back for any reason and he is coming home without the basics, you should be prepared for lots more work than it would have been had you purchased your puppy when he was eight weeks of age. Image credit: reddogs / 123RF Stock Photo
If you are purchasing an older puppy, you need to know about what has been done with the puppy from birth to eight weeks ( see “How Much Is That Puppy In the Window?” at http://dogsinthepark-suenestnature.blogspot.ca/2013/07/how-much-is-that-puppy-in-window.html), and also what has been done between 8 weeks and when you got your puppy. Raising a puppy properly takes time, effort and excellence, so if you want to skip that, you need to make sure that the older puppy you get has had everything you want them to have. Your puppy deserves the very best, not just of what you can give him, but what the breeder gives him too.