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Ask AKC

with Lisa Peterson
June 2007

Dear Lisa: I am considering buying a Chihuahua from a breeder who is letting the pups go at 6 weeks old.  I have always heard that puppies should not be weaned until they are at least 8 weeks.  Should I consider a different breeder?
– Early Arrivals 

Dear Early: Every breeder has their own opinion about when the best time to let their puppies go to their new homes. Some go earlier and others go later. But the general rule of thumb is that puppies should go to their new homes in the 8-to-12 week-old age range.

Toy breeds which are smaller than most dogs and very fragile at an early age usually stay with the breeder past 8 weeks. It is also important to note that most states have age requirements, usually 8 weeks, before puppies can be sold to the public. 

Weaning Meaning
There are many reasons to consider why a puppy would be let go before or after the normal 8-week time frame. Depending on the breed of dog and size of litter for example, most pups begin the weaning process, which is when the breeder begins to switch a puppy over from mother’s milk to solid food - anywhere from between 3- and 5-weeks-old. It takes the puppy several days or even weeks to complete this transitional phase to only solid food. It is also a stressful time in the young pup’s life and responsible breeders want to make sure that the pups are well on their way to eating independently before sending them to their new homes.

Before buying a dog make sure you are comfortable with the breeder’s decisions about your puppy. If you feel that the puppies are too young for your comfort level then I would find another breeder. A good breeder will become a mentor to you for the life of your best friend! 

Dear Lisa: While reading about characteristics of a Labrador Retriever I found many terms I didn't understand. Where can I find these words defined: short-coupled, stop, withers, brisket, and hock? Does the AKC site include a dictionary? – Definition Desire

Dear Definition: Many of the terms used to describe the parts of the dogs come from horse vocabulary as many of the early purebred dogs breeders where avid horsemen and breeders. For example, George Washington, an accomplished equestrian was not only the father of our country, but the father of the American Foxhound.

In the back of AKC’s The Complete Dog Book is a glossary of canine terms as well as several excellent diagrams (one anatomical and one skeleton) on the parts of a dog.  This handy reference is also available online at www.akc.org/about/glossary.cfm.

But to give you an idea how important it is to know the parts of a dog, since they are all connected I will define the terms you asked about and some others.

Short-coupled means the when the distance between the last rib and the beginning of the hindquarters (known as the loin) is relatively short. Stop – The step up from the muzzle (The head in front of the eyes: nasal bone, nostrils, and jaws) to the back of the skull; indentation between the eyes where the nasal bones and cranium meet. Withers - Highest point of a dog's shoulders.Hock – The tarsus or collection of bones of the hind leg forming the joint between the second thigh and the metatarsus. This is the ankle in the man. Brisket – Usually refers to the sternum, but in some breed standards it refers to the entire thorax. Okay, you may ask what’s a sternum, breed standards and thorax? Under sternum it says see breastbone. Breastbone – a row of eight bones that form the floor of the chest.

Parts is Parts
A major advantage to knowing the parts of the dog is that it will help you when researching the right breed for your lifestyle. While reading the breed standards (A word picture describing how the perfect dog of a breed should look, move, and behave.) you can determine what size, grooming requirements and temperament it will be because of the predictability of purebred dogs since breeders look to the standard when making breeding decisions.
 
Also, having a working knowledge of all parts of the dog will help you navigate around your best friend especially when checking its physical health. This has many advantages, especially when talking to your vet you can tell her that Fido’s left rear hock appears swollen or that he’s been stung by a bee on his stop.




Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at lxp@akc.org and she may select it to be answered here in Ask AKC.

© 2007 The American Kennel Club, Inc.