6-Week-Old Golden Retrievers: Mistakes, Feeding & Development

At six weeks old, a Golden Retriever puppy is a bundle of energy and curiosity.

They’re no longer a teeny baby and are looking and acting much more like a real puppy.

They’re impossibly cute, and while it may be tempting to bring home a pup at this age, it’s actually very important that they stay with their mother and littermates at least until eight weeks old. 

It might seem like the earlier you can bring home your puppy, the earlier you can start bonding with them, but in reality, getting a six-week-old Golden Retriever can actually have significant negative effects on the puppy. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What to expect from a six-week-old Golden Retriever puppy
  • Why it’s so important to wait until at least eight-weeks of age to bring home a puppy
  • What negative consequences can happen if you bring them home too early
  • What to do if you do have a six-week old Golden
  • And much more

First, we’ll start with the question everybody is wondering about 6-week-old Golden Retrievers:

Why You Should Wait to Bring a Golden Retriever Puppy Home Until 8 Weeks

6 week old golden retriever puppy

Even though they might be hard to resist, you should never bring home a six-week-old puppy. 

Six-week-old puppies need to be with their mother and littermates for at least two more weeks before coming home to their new human families.

If a breeder offers you a six-week-old puppy, you should say no, and you should probably find a new breeder because a good, ethical breeder would never try to sell a puppy that young.

It’s best to move on and find a breeder who understands puppy development and why puppies need to stay with their mother and litter until at least eight weeks old.

You might be thinking, can two weeks really make that much of a difference?

Is there really any harm in bringing home a six-week-old pup?

The answer is big fat YES to both questions.

What Can Happen if a Puppy Goes Home at Six Weeks?

If you remove a puppy from their mother and litter too early, you are increasing your risk of dealing with behavior issues as they mature.

It’s also not good for their health to be removed too early, and it’s more common to see a lack of appetite and a weakened immune system in these puppies.

Social Development

At six weeks, puppies still have a lot of lessons to learn from their mom and littermates.

Being with their mother and siblings helps them grow in confidence and understand how to feel and act about everything they encounter as they grow up.

This results in a puppy that is more emotionally stable and easier to live with.

Play is a biological need for puppies at this age, and so they really do need to be spending a lot of time just playing with their littermates.

As they play, sleep and snuggle with their mother and littermates, they also get used to being touched and jostled around.

This is an important thing for them to get used to so they don’t become touch-sensitive, which they will miss out on it if they go home too early.

Being around mom and their siblings helps them feel safe and comforted as they continue to develop, which is very important.

Mom offers a sense of security and stability and without her, a puppy will be deprived of that.

Mom also will provide gentle corrections for behavior that is out of line, and those are lessons that humans simply cannot replicate.

Allowing your puppy to develop alongside their mom and siblings helps prevent future behavior issues later in life. 

Unfortunately, in puppies who go home at 6 weeks old it’s more common to see problems like:

When puppies are left with their litter and mom until at least eight weeks, they are more able to adapt to new environments and develop better social relationships because of the foundation they’ve built.

6 week old golden retriever leave litter

Bite Inhibition

Young puppies also need to stay with their mom and siblings to learn proper bite inhibition.

Puppies have sharp teeth and it’s normal for them to bite.

If they bite their mom or sibling too hard, they will act in a way that communicates to the puppy that the bite was too hard and not acceptable.

Mom might get up and walk away or gently correct the pup with a subtle growl.

Their littermate will usually let out a high pitch yelp with stops the play and tells the bitey puppy that their chomp was too much.

These lessons help your puppy learn how to tone down their biting, and they’re much harder for humans to teach.

They will still be mouthy, but they’ll have a softer mouth with much less hard biting.

Without waiting until at least eight weeks to bring home your puppy, they are more likely to be very bitey and not know how to soften their bites.

It’s possible that your puppy will be ok if you bring them home at six weeks old, but it’s far better to wait a couple more weeks to get your puppy instead of risking all of these potential issues by bringing them home too early.

You give your puppy and yourself the best chance at a happy, healthy life together by waiting until they are at least eight weeks old.

What to Do if You Do Have a Six-Week-Old Puppy

Let’s say you somehow do end up with a six-week-old Golden Retriever.

Here are the best ways to deal with the situation:

Return The Puppy to Their Mother and Littermates

Perhaps you weren’t aware that puppies should be at least eight weeks old, but now you know and you’re worried about potential negative consequences.

The absolute best thing you can do is to talk to the breeder and return the puppy until they are a bit older.

Spending two more weeks with their original canine family will make a world of difference for your puppy and it’s worth taking them back.

If the breeder is hesitant to take them back (which, by the way, is a sign that they are likely not a responsible breeder), you could even offer to pay for their food and care until they’re old enough to come back home with you.

It’s worth shelling out some money if that’s what it takes to help your puppy develop properly.

Then, when your puppy is at least eight weeks old, you can pick them up again from the breeder and start your life together.

Find a Surrogate Canine Family

If getting your Golden Retriever puppy back to their mother and littermates is impossible, the next best thing is to at least let them spend those last couple critical weeks with other dogs and puppies.

This is especially important if you don’t have any other dogs at home.

Puppies need to be learning lessons from other dogs at this age, ideally their own mother and siblings, but unrelated dogs and puppies can help.

Do you know someone else with a puppy?

Do you know someone who has a dog who is good with puppies?

Maybe there is a friend of a friend who is fostering a litter of puppies?

Ask around and see if friends and family might have some puppies and dogs that you can get your puppy around.

Social media can be really helpful for networking with other dog lovers who could help you out with the situation you are in.

Consult Your Veterinarian

If you end up keeping a six-week-old puppy, definitely talk with your vet so you know how to meet your puppy’s physical needs.

They can help you understand what to feed them and come up with an appropriate feeding schedule.

Your vet might also have some tips to ensure your puppy stays healthy and to prevent behavior issues from developing.

What to Expect With Six Week Old Golden Retrievers

6 week old golden retriever puppy food

If you end up with a six-week-old puppy, or just want to know what they’re like at this age, here’s a spoiler alert: they are a lot of work!

Here is what is typical for a puppy of this age:

Sleep

If you were to spend a day with a litter of six-week-old Golden Retriever puppies, you might be surprised by just how much they sleep.

At this stage, puppies are undergoing a lot of physical and mental growth so they need plenty of rest to make sure that they develop properly.

It’s common to see some puppies piled up together snoozing away, while a couple of other littermates are still running around or playing.

Eventually, they’ll all crash in an adorable puppy pile and get in a good nap.

Pottying

You might also be surprised by just how much a six-week-old puppy poops and pees.

As soon as they wake up from that long nap, they’ll need to be taken outside to potty, as well as many times throughout the day, including after meals and playtimes.

A good breeder will be working diligently on potty training a litter of six-week-old puppies so that they start to learn good potty habits before they go home to their forever families.

Play

When they’re not sleeping, eating, or pottying, a six-week-old Golden is playing with their mom and littermates.

Puppies this age love romping around, playing chase, tug and wrestling with their siblings.

They also can start to show off their retrieval instincts with little games of fetch.

If you were to play with a six-week old Golden, you’d definitely notice how sharp their little baby teeth are.

Teeth

It’s normal for pups of this age to explore the world using their mouth, and most six-week-olds will have a full set of baby teeth.

If they don’t already have all their teeth, they should grow in very soon.

Eating

Those sharp teeth come in handy because, by this age, puppies are weaned off of their mother’s milk and onto solid food.

Some puppies might still nurse from their mom, but by six weeks, they are able to be on solid food exclusively.

Breeders usually feed many small meals throughout the day, so a six-week-old puppy might be eating between four and six meals a day.

Socialization

At this developmental stage, their sense of smell is getting better and better and they’ll be using their noses more to learn about the world.

Responsible breeders will also be very mindful that six-week-old puppies are in the prime window for puppy socialization. 

This means they’ll be introducing the puppies to lots of novel objects, sounds, and experiences in a way that builds each puppy’s confidence and prepares them for life as an adult dog.

Early socialization is very important in preventing potential behavior issues from arising as the puppy matures, and it helps bring out the absolute best in the puppy.

If you visited a litter of six-week-old Golden Retrievers, you’d want to see an enriched environment with lots of objects for the puppies to check out and different toys rotated through their play areas.

It’s also important that each puppy is handled and spends time interacting with the breeder as well as other people.

Many breeders will even start some basic training with young puppies, such as sitting for their meals and acclimating them to spending time in a crate.

In short, you can expect six-week-old Goldens to be eating, pooping, playing, napping machines with brains that are little sponges ready to learn and explore over the next couple of weeks before they go home to their new families.

Puppy Patience

6 week old golden retriever

When it comes to adding a puppy to your family, patience truly is a virtue.

Resist the temptation of a cute six-week-old puppy and give them just a couple more weeks to be ready to come home.

Even better, find a breeder who has your puppy’s best interest at heart and who wouldn’t dream of letting them go home at six weeks.

A little extra waiting will go a long way to setting you and your puppy up for a long, happy, healthy life together.

Have any questions about 6-week-old Golden Retriever puppies?

Let us know down in the comments!

Read the rest of our Golden Retriever puppy series here:

And if you’re about to bring home your new Golden, then check out the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook!

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About the author:

Alisa Healy is a professional dog trainer in the Chicago suburbs, with a wide range of training experience from shelters to in-home training to dog sports. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and is passionate about helping people and dogs live fulfilling, harmonious lives together.

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