One in four puppies in the UK may be being acquired before the recommended minimum age — a figure that is considerably higher than what has been reported before — suggests research published in the latest edition of Vet Record.
Separating a puppy from its mother too early may have long-term consequences on physiological and behavioural development that risks behavioural problems later in life, a major reason why dogs are given up or left in shelters, warns the author of a linked comment.
In the UK many welfare and veterinary organisations, such as the Animal Welfare Foundation, Blue Cross, PDSA and the Dogs Trust, recommend that puppies shouldn’t be separated from their mothers until they are at least 8 weeks (56 days) old. There are legal restrictions on selling a puppy under this age in the UK.
Their guidance also recommends that prospective buyers should view the puppy with its mother, and this has been enshrined in English law since 2018.
The researchers wanted to find out if particular factors were associated with the acquisition of puppies under the age of 8 weeks and without viewing the puppy’s mother.
They drew on data for 2392 puppies collected between May 2016 and February 2019 as part of ‘Generation Pup’, a long term UK study of dog health, behaviour, and welfare.
The data were obtained from three questionnaires, with details around the process of acquisition completed by owners