|So, what's the best age to bring home your wolfer pup?|
|Most experienced owners strongly recommend that a high content puppy be brought home between 2 and 4 weeks of age. (Approximately 20 days is my personal preference.) Wolves, having been persecuted by humans for so long, are genetically programmed to be initially fearful or suspicious of them, unless socialized to people from a very early age. Pulling and bottlefeeding allows a pup to become bonded to humans (and especially to the human who bottlefed him!) from infancy, with no discomfort to the animal. Research has proven that at 3 weeks of age (the awareness period), a pup's nervous system is developed to the point where they have full use of their senses--as well as newly acquired motor control of their bodies. :-) This means that they are now ready to explore their world! --and they are hardwired to investigate new and unfamiliar things at this time. At 3 weeks, they can slide right into the world of humans and domestic life, without all the stress of a pup who makes the transition at a later age. (Care must be taken to also expose the pup to other dogs during this period, to avoid him becoming "humanized"--he needs to learn that he is a dog!) This period lasts until about 5 weeks, then begins to decline steadily, and is replaced by fear or caution of the unfamiliar.
For some fascinating reading on canine sensory and social development, check out this article. :)
If you are inexperienced, or uncomfortable handling & bottlefeeding a pup that young, perhaps you can buy from a breeder who puts the effort into doing so themselves, then sends them to new homes at an older age. In that case, it is advisable to take the pup soon after she is weaned--say, 4 to 6 weeks.
The majority of high content breeders pull pups at 10 to 14 days, bottlefeed them, and <hopefully!> make sure the pups receive plenty of handling & human attention every day. Leaving baby wolf crosses "to the dogs", can result in spooky, unhandleable animals in very short order--even as early as 4 to 6 weeks, unhandled & non-bottlefed pups are likely to be terrified of their new adoptive families. This can take many weeks to overcome. (Fully domesticated dogs, having lost their shyness of humans and the suspicious & alert nature that allows an animal to survive in the wild, don't have this complication...and can normally be left with their parents indefinitely without ill effects, if handled adequately. However, with NO human contact during critical times in their life, even domestics will usually grow up wary and uncomfortable in human society!)
More insight on pulling & bottlefeeding can be found by following this link to the Anglian Wolf Society .
Pulling pups "too" early--before 10 days--has its own set of hazards: first and foremost, the colostrum in the female's milk contains antibodies which guard against illness and 'tide the puppy over' until it is old enough for its initial puppy shots to "take". This is an important benefit for the pup, and should not be sacrificed if at all possible. Pulling before this point can also be emotionally harmful the mama...some breeders have noticed that after approximately 10-12 days, mom won't be extremely upset that you've taken her pups...prior to that, her worry over them is a consideration. (For the record, pups' eyes open at around 12 days as well.) Infant pups are very fragile, and pulling them at a few days of age requires more intensive care than doing so a bit later, and is naturally taking a bigger risk with their health than pulling at the much more stable age of 2 weeks. (There will be trade-offs that go along with *whatever* age you decide on, of course.)
There are also important social lessons that the pups learn from mom, and each other, in those early days; things that bottle-fed pups miss out on, and you--as the new parent--have to compensate for...such as bite inhibition (how hard they can bite down without hurting), and how to test for dominance and learn about their position in the pack. (A pup who has imprinted solely on humans--i.e. become "humanized"--may perform his dominance-testing, food-competing behaviours upon his humans. These displaced behaviours are no fun for the humans! Please provide appropriate canine interaction for your pup.) Also, a big lesson on self-control occurs as pups are weaned and mom teaches them they can't always have what they want. IMO, these things can be taught effectively by their human parent (and the other canines in the family)...but be aware that nature had a plan for these things that you have interfered with, by choosing the 'lesser evil' and taking the pups early. Be sure to learn how to compensate for what your pup has missed.
Keeping the litter together, or raising multiple pups at once, helps to offset some of the losses and make for a more well-adjusted puppy...and for that reason, some breeders do pull the litter, but insist on keeping them until 4 to 6 weeks of age. If the breeder is capable and dedicated, this may be the best possible scenario. In addition, you (the buyer) have the advantage of seeing older pups, whose personalities are more developed--this way, you have a better idea of the temperament of the animal you'll be spending the next 10 to 15 years with!
The only disadvantage to this scenario is that with wolves and high contents, the person who bottlefed them shares a bond with them that nothing I'm aware of--done after the fact--can equal. Proper, loving bottlefeeding is a truly special experience that neither you nor the pup ever forgets. I don't mean to glamorize it or make it sound mystical, because it isn't...but it is a very effective means of bonding--for both the puppy, AND the human! In our "throwaway society", a pup someone has bottlefed as an infant...one whose first tentative steps they witnessed, who had all the intensive extra care put into him in the beginning, whose very first glimpse of vision was into his human parents' eyes...is perhaps less "disposable" than a pup bought as the typical older age, who required much less effort.
Some people feel that taking pups from the mama at such a young age is "mean" or inappropriate, and recommend leaving them on her until they are fully weaned. In an ideal world, where the female lives indoors, raises her pups in a family setting, is not frightened or upset by visitors, and allows plenty of human handling of her pups from the beginning...that would indeed be a great way to go! After all, the best scenario for any pup is to have an abundance of human and canine contact, from the start. However...the reality of it is that these breeders (and their bold, doggy-acting high contents) do not seem to exist--most high content females do not live indoors, either by their own choosing or by the owners' frustration with their poor house manners...and they are easily scared by people visiting to see the pups--and subsequently pass that fear on to their highly impressionable babies. (Even when pups are still in the womb, their mothers' stress and fear is passed along to them. Pups from a female who is stressed and afraid during pregnancy will be born more fearful than pups from a calm, social bitch.) Given a choice between pups out in the pen with a timid mom...or pups underfoot in the human household, dependent on people for food and affection...it's a no brainer ;)
Lower content wolfdogs can often be kept with the mama for much longer without becoming overly cautious and distrustful, although adoption at a fairly young age is generally still preferred. (Be aware that 8 weeks--in 'regular' domestic dogs--is a fear period...it is poor timing to pull any pup from its litter & send it off to its new home at that age, in my opinion.
As with any topic, there is a large range of opinions and experiences! I *personally* have had fantastic results with pulling pups early(!), and have had no detrimental effects on the end result (a happy, enjoyable companion dog). However, not everyone has experienced the same level of satisfaction with pull/bottlefeed that I have! Each new parent needs to consider all the pros and cons for themselves, and make an educated decision regarding what is best for their situation.
|Care to share your experiences with your pup? Email me! :)|