Archived Message

Why 12 weeks?

by Sharon

Why must a Maltese stay with it's mother till it's 12 weeks old? Is it just the Maltese, or is it all puppies? I like to get mine young because I like to enjoy that age with them. However, I know they don't let Cornish Rex cats go till they're 2 months.


This has been discussed numerous times in the past here. I went through the archives and pulled a few responses for your reference. There lots more.

Although I am new to breeding Maltese, I have read some very good books that I would recommend that you read. One is 'Breeding Your Own Show Dogs' by Anne Serrane. This book explains all the critical stages that a puppy goes through from birth to age 12 weeks and beyond. Bonita Greene

Puppies between the age you're speaking of not only need their mothers, they also learn a lot about being a dog from their siblings in the litter. Submissive positions, like rolling over and exposing the belly, are learned in the pack and playing teaches other behaviors, like how hard he can bite without being bitten back. Its also important that puppies gets lots of love from people during this period otherwise they may never make a very good pet. Ignoring or lack of attention can be devastating, especially with the Maltese breed. - Jay

The American Maltese Association Code of Ethics calls foe all of its members to keep pups until at least 12 weeks, and we ascribe to this not just because someone told us to but because it makes sense and works for us. On a purely physical level pups, particularly older ones may be able to handle the very emotional, often traumatic, transition from the only environment the pup has ever known into a new one. Littermates are gone, mom is gone, familiar scents and sounds and faces and voices are all gone. No, we keep them the additional four to six weeks (much longer for the tiny ones) for their emotional well-being. Their dam provides a certain amount of socialization for the pups in this 8-16 week period that helps prepare them for "life". She teaches them to be submissive to a larger, more dominant dog and she teaches them to learn how to play "politely" with their siblings. This additional time allows any traits or physical infirmities to surface so a new owner does't ever feel inclined to need to return the pup for a medical or temperament problem.

I will not say that an eight week pup is too young to go to a new home - I will insist that a twelve week pup is so much MORE prepared to go to a new home that we will not do otherwise, ourselves.

I agree with Jay, if the breeder will not accept a deposit to hold the dog for you for another month then I'd examine their "real intentions". If the welfare of the pup and the match for it into a new home is not the breeder's primary concern then they are approaching all of this from the wrong angle. Larry Stanberry - Divine Maltese

Hi, Sharon! The "12 week rule" is for the most part universal among AKC and CFA(Cat Fancier's Association) serious breeders who show and want to adhere to the standard and have a good reputation. Jay is right in saying that at 12 weeks, a puppy (or kitten) is so much more prepared to go to another home. However, breeders are always evaluating their lines and hoping one of their own will be the next best-in-show. Puppies and kittens are very difficult for even the most experienced breeder to evaluate. This is one of the primary reasons breeders who show use the "12 week" rule. I know because I was a showing breeder. I understand that Maltese can be very hard to evaluate and some breeders will keep their pups until 4 months or more. I got my puppy at 9 weeks. He was ready to go. I believe some puppies can be placed anywhere from 8-12 weeks. What to look for: The puppy should have all its baby teeth, be well-socialized, be eating on his own well, and be on his way to paper training, if not already paper-trained.
-April B.

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