How Old Should a Puppy Be to Adopt?

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Stewart.

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Do you want to bring an adorable bundle of fur to your home? If that’s your cause, you might be wondering: how old should a puppy be to adopt? Since a puppy’s age can affect long-term behavior and health, I’m sharing the ideal age of puppies for you to adopt.

How Old Should a Puppy Be to Adopt?

It’s best to adopt a puppy that’s 8 to 14 weeks old because this is the socialization stage where they learn to adapt to a new environment, sounds, and individuals. Even if this means moving away from the litter, the puppy can transition to having human parents and new surroundings.

While you can still train older puppies, this is a significant phase in their lives as it’s the development stage for their recognition, body language, and behavior.

Puppy Stage: 8 to 14 Weeks

Eight weeks is the earliest you can bring a new puppy home. Puppies must spend the first 8 weeks with their mother to get the proper feeding to stay healthy. Most puppies under 8 weeks don’t have body control yet, so they would be too young for training.

Selective focus of a black and white puppy that is going to be adopted

At 8 to 14 weeks, a puppy can adjust more to a new environment, picking up social cues and bonding with you. Similar to caring for human babies, young ones would have more flexibility in learning, making it easier for them to have harmonious living conditions.

Aside from that, this is the perfect stage for puppies to start getting wellness examinations and vaccinations from our clinic. Thus, it’s best to adopt puppies when they are around 8 to 14 weeks old so that you can manage the vet requirements properly.

Curious Puppies: 15 Weeks to 6 Months

If your desired puppy is more than 8 to 14 weeks old, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t adopt it anymore. You can still bring home the pup, although you have to be more careful since this is a puppy’s curious phase. 

This means a lot of things will attract a puppy’s interest, causing it to test or explore boundaries. Like in human toddlers, this is where you notice more challenging behaviors, such as mouthing or barking. 

This is an incredibly essential stage as you need to set the groundwork for training, especially once they form habits, like leaning on your body or digging.

Factors That Influence a Puppy’s Adoption

Age is a crucial factor in a puppy’s adoption since it can influence other aspects, including physical features, medical conditions, and behavior.

These attributes vary depending on the puppy’s development stage, and this is why you must understand the physical and behavioral factors of adopting a 8 to a 14-week-old puppy. 

Socialization Period

A puppy’s socialization lasts between 6 to 14 weeks of age. This stage makes sociability outweigh the fear, which is an excellent opportunity for puppies to adapt to new experiences and people.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior states that behavioral issues are the primary cause of death for dogs aged under 3 years old. This is because improper or incomplete socialization increases the risk of behavioral issues, which affect mental and physical health later in life.

Research shows that adult dogs separated from their litter and adopted between 30 and 40 days were more likely to manifest problematic behaviors. This is why it’s important to adopt a 8 to 14-week-old puppy so you’ll have a window to apply these things to your puppy.

  • Get accustomed to new sounds, smells, and sights
  • Learn how to behave in a variety of situations
  • Interact with different people
  • Exposure to various stimuli
  • Relate to other animals or communicate with other dogs


Weaning is the transition between the puppy’s diet from mother’s milk to a solid diet. Keep in mind that puppies can wean for 6 to 7 weeks.

This is why it’s not ideal to get puppies away from their mothers when their bodies still can’t digest solid food, which is around 3 to 5 weeks old.

A black puppy licking its paws while being carried

Legal Limitations

Some states impose laws that specify age requirements to adopt puppies, usually at least 8 weeks old. While the laws exclude non-profit animal shelters, these are some of the states that make it unlawful to adopt puppies from pet breeders and pet stores before 8 weeks of age.

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas

What to Do When Adopting a Puppy 

There’s more to cuddling and playing with puppies. Adopting a puppy aged 8 to 14 weeks old is ideal, especially since it will be easier for you to adjust to these responsibilities.

  • Health checkups: A responsible owner ensures pets are in optimum health. Puppies are more vulnerable to diseases, which is why I need to examine your puppy right away.
  • Developing a diet plan: The great thing about adopting a 8-week-old puppy is that you can train it to eat nutritious food. I can help develop a meal plan according to your dog’s breed, weight, and medical needs so that it can grow into adulthood healthily.
  • Scheduling vaccination: A puppy’s immune system isn’t strong enough to fight viruses and other causes of illnesses. It’s vital that I schedule immunization sessions to help strengthen your puppy and develop antibodies to fight diseases.

Related Questions

Can I Adopt Adult or Senior Dogs?

Yes, you can still adopt older dogs, especially since some of them may have been housebroken or already trained. However, there are dogs that struggle in adapting or may have diseases. With proper guidance from a vet, you can still help older dogs get through the process or situation.

Why Are There Unwanted Puppies?

Some owners fail to neuter or spay their dogs, which causes unwanted reproduction, and consequently, litters of puppies. In some cases, owners buy from breeders without considering the lifetime commitment to owning a pet. This is why it’s important to consider the responsibilities first to avoid unwanted puppies.


A puppy should be at least 8 to 14 weeks old before being adopted. You can adopt puppies aged older than 14 weeks, although they may need more guidance at first. Make sure to schedule your new pet to our veterinary clinic for a well puppy visit by calling (951)676-4690.