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If you’re trying to figure out the best time to bring a new puppy home, keep reading as we discuss the stages of puppy development and the “best” age to bring home your newest furry family member. 

State Laws Around Puppy Adoptions 

Several U.S. states actually have laws surrounding when a puppy can be adopted.

Twenty-seven states (plus Washington D.C.) have laws that regulate how old a puppy has to be before it can be sold or adopted.1 The majority of these states say puppies need to be eight weeks of age or older before they’re put up for sale. Some states also have laws pertaining to when a puppy can be separated from its mother.

These laws are in place to stop puppy mills. In some states, underage puppy laws apply to everybody — no one is allowed to sell underage puppies, and people who break the law can receive a criminal misdemeanor or a fine. Other states, however, have laws that only apply to pet shops and other breeding businesses. And often, these laws don’t apply to any nonprofit animal rescue or Humane Society that might have puppies available.

Do your research on relevant laws in your state before you set out to bring a new puppy home. 

Puppy Developmental Stages

Puppies go through the following developmental stages as they age:2

    0-7 weeks: During the first seven weeks of a puppy’s life, puppies learn about social behavior with other dogs through interacting with their mother and siblings. 

    7-8 weeks: This is the best time period for puppies to bond with humans.

    8-10 weeks: It’s essential for puppies to have as many positive experiences as possible during the eight- to ten-week period. Puppies will be very impressionable, needing lots of praise and positive reinforcement. 

    8-16 weeks: By this time, puppies will be ready to start learning. Training sessions or group classes can be introduced.  

    4-6 months: Puppies will become more and more independent. You’ll notice your puppy’s curiosity increase as he or she starts to explore the world. Continue bonding with your puppy and going through regular training sessions. 

    6-12 months: Known as the “teenager stage,” six- to twelve-month-old puppies need lots of stimulation and activity. They get bored easily. 

    12-18 months: Puppies reach emotional maturity sometime within this time frame. 

Since the seven to eight-week stage is the best time for puppies to bond with people, experts say that’s when you should bring a new dog home. 

If you’re in doubt about when to adopt a puppy, speak with the breeder and any vets or dog trainers you’ll be working with.

Every situation is different, so the “best” age to adopt a puppy might vary. For example, sometimes toy breeders will keep puppies longer to allow their tiny bodies more time to develop — or if your new puppy has to fly to its new home, it may be best to wait until the dog is older and able to manage the travel.

In general, however, the best age to adopt a puppy is eight to ten weeks. This will give your puppy plenty of time to work through the developmental stages that take place while the puppy is still with its mother. It also allows you to make sure you’re complying with any laws that might pertain to your area. Once it’s at least eight weeks of age, your puppy will be ready to bond with you and get used to its new home. 

Consider Investing in Puppy Insurance

Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1   Get your free quote today.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions. 

Michigan State University College of Law Animal Legal & Historical Center: Table of state laws concerning minimum age for sale of puppies, 2020, Rebecca Walsh 

PAWS: Developmental stages of puppy behavior