I had a fun day today working with Boise Bully Breed Rescue at a local Petco to raise awareness and educate the public on all things dogs. One thing that was troubling to me, however, was the number of people I saw with VERY young puppies in the store. I saw a handful of well-intentioned new pet owners with little tiny pups under 8 weeks of age. This is concerning on two very serious levels.
The first, and simplest, is that puppies so young have not had their second round of shots and are therefore very susceptible to Parvo. Parvo is a HIGHLY contagious disease that affects almost exclusively puppies, but anyone or anything can carry it. It can be on your shoes, your ten year old dog, a grocery cart and many other places. It can be deadly, is always painful, and is expensive to treat. It is just not safe taking a puppy out before they have had their second round of shots. Ask anyone who has dealt with Parvo...it is very scary and you wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy.
The second, and this is what bothers me the most, is that every person I spoke to said they got their puppy at around 4-5 weeks of age from a breeder. PLEASE, please, believe me, that any breeder willing to sell you a dog before 8 weeks of age is not a person you should get a dog from. Do not walk, RUN if someone ever offers you a pup that young. No reputable breeder who knows what they are doing would ever give a pup away so young. Most of the time there are behavior issues down the road.
Why? Because the mother provides nourishment until around 4 weeks of age, then she begins to ween the pups...but her job is far from over. One person today told me their breeder told them the mother stopped nursing at 4 weeks so that's why she was selling them so early. That is a huge red flag that the "breeder" knows little to nothing about a dog's development process.
In the process of weening her pups the mom teaches them boundaries that they just don't learn fully any other way. Between 6-8 weeks they learn bite control and body language from their mother and litter mates. Let me be clear... THE MOTHER AND LITTER MATES ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN TEACH A DOG THIS THE WAY NATURE INTENDED. Yes, you can do some of it with another dog or yourself, but you will NEVER be able to replace those crucial weeks fully.