Today I took two of the 12 weeks old pups and Esther, who is 9 weeks, to the vet. The older pups are leaving this weekend and all my k-9 kids get a thorough and I mean thorough medical exam before they go. I wanted Jane to check Esther out to be sure she is a normal pup considering her seemingly rough start in life. All three passed with flying colors.
But the point of this post is... the difference between placing pups at 12 weeks and placing them at 9.
The two older pups were NOT happy to discover other Two-Leggers in the world. They were pretty freaked out about strangers looking at them, talking to them, touching them. When we were in the exam room, before Jane came in, they sort of strolled around, sniffing here and there, but came back to the chair where I was sitting every time there was a loud noise or people laughing or a squeal from some kid in the lobby. Once Jane came in, they retreated UNDER my chair. And when Jane finished each one's exam and put her back on the ground, the pup came immediately back to me and stayed put.
Esther was all over the place. The only thing she DIDN'T do was climb in the water bowl I asked for (because of how hot it got on the trip over and the wait in the car.) None of the noises impressed her, if she even noticed them. When Jane came in, Esther was sitting in front of the door with the exam table between her and me. She just sat there, even when Jane leaned over and picked her up. And when she was back on the floor, she started exploring the room again.
Obviously, it is much harder for the older pups to adjust when they first move into their new homes. So why keep them to 12 weeks? Because the same mental maturity that makes the transition more difficult makes other things a lot easier... like house training, which is a major consideration especially with people experiencing their very first puppy. AND at 12 weeks, they've had two of the three puppy shots, are started on heartworm protection and one of the most important considerations, have learned how to be DOGS. Younger pups, like Esther, could care less about their environment... they are still infants and as long as they are fed, warm and dry, everything is hunky-dory. Potty training is much more difficult... think 9-10 months old babies versus 2 year old toddlers... and frustrating for their people and one of the main reasons dogs end up in shelters. Younger pups haven't learned they are dogs and in the wrong hands, grow up being treated like children until their behavior isn't cute or tolerable any more and they go to shelters... IF they're not eaten by some bigger/older dog at the dog park because they don't know how to read the dog's silent communications. The fact that the younger pup has had just its first shot means a period of almost 2 months when it can't be allowed to socialize with other dogs and learn all the canine ins and outs the older pup learned at its mom's knee. (The older pup shouldn't be out and about with other dogs either until it is 16 weeks and has finished its shots, BUT if it should be exposed to diseases it is more likely to have some immunity than the younger pup.)
For homes with other dogs in residence or people who have had recent successful puppy raising experience, a younger pup isn't much of a challenge. However, most of MY clients don't fall into either of those categories.
And when we got home, the two older pups immediately collapsed and slept for almost two hours... a pup's way of dealing with stress. Esther is still going strong... thank goodness the pups at home had some rest while we were gone!