Hannadic Rufus
During the first months of his life, a puppy goes through a number of critical development stages that will leave an everlasting impression through the dog's entire life.  This makes the age at which you acquire your companion crucial to the further development of its behavior and your future existence with your dog.  Unlike most other species, a puppy has to learn to identify its own species. 

Indeed, at birth the puppy doesn't possess the innate recognition capability of members of its own species, which means that it has to learn it is a dog in order to interact well with other dogs and humans.  Failing to respect the learning curve of the puppy leads to poor socialization, i.e. aggressive or inhibited behavior (anxiety).

Clinical practice shows, for example, that a puppy acquired at  the age of 6 weeks already shows a handicap in developing its adult social and sexual preferences. 

Also, puppies raised in stimulus-poor surroundings ("industrial" kennel conditions, like puppy mills) and placed for the first time in a highly stimulating environment (a family with children, or living in the city) at 12 or 16 weeks are most likely to display inhibited behavior (anxiety, fear). 
The puppy needs food, rest, protection and warmth.  It is fully dependent on the mother, as it is not capable of regulating their body temperature or eliminating without their mother's stimulation.  At this age puppies aldreay react to heat-cold-odors.  Puppies destined to become show dogs should already be acclimated to MILD stress during this period.  By mild is intended weighing puppies daily, putting them on a cold surface or holding them up 10 to 15 seconds.
Another important point is that the puppy's interspecies socialization (attachment) is not generalized to all individuals of the species concerned, but remains relatively limited to the individual's characteristics, it is a "type" socialization. 

What does this mean?  This means that a puppy will not extrapolate the socialization process it acquires with one specific human during the critical socialization period, to all other humans it will encounter after that period.  Socialization will be limited to that human's type (man, woman, adolescent, child, baby, with or without beard, etc.), or, in other words, dogs interpret babies, children, man and woman as belonging to different species, which explains why adult dogs that where not taught to interact with small children during the socialization phase as a puppy, will often show fear or aggressiveness towards them at a later stage of their life.  However, the capacity to generalize (thus to identify a child, for example, as belonging to the same species as an adult human) varies from one breed to another (watchdogs less than other dogs; Fox, 1978), the family line and the individual dog. 

The perfect age to buy a puppy from a breeder is after the seventh and before nine weeks of age.  Of course, puppies that have been raised with the family and properly, individually socialized by the breeder may be adopted at any (st)age. Let's have a look at the development stages of the puppy to understand why.
2 to 3 weeks        Transitional period

All of the puppy's senses (taste, sight, hearing) will gradually begin to function.  They where present during the first critical period, but were dormant.  It is important to continue picking up the puppies daily, spending a few minutes with each one individually.
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Swimming Puppy Syndrome
21st to 28th day : the Awareness period

By the 21st day puppies have full use of their senses.  The brain and nervous system keep developing.  The first signs of humping (pre-imitation of future sexual behavior) appear (Scott and Fuller, 1965).  Species identification (filial, fraternal and sexual imprinting) starts now and ends somewhere between the 11th and 17th week.  The total absence of other dogs during this period fosters identification with, social preference for and courting behavior with another species (humans, cats, etc) or a substitute (stuffed animal, etc.) and rejection (flight or fight) of the own species (dogs).  This identification is persistent, occasionally for life.  At this mental stage, puppies are extremely sensitive to stress and radical changes in their environment, which they experience as frightening.  During this stage the puppy needs its mother more than ever.  If removed from the nest during this critical period it will never attain the mental and emotional maturity necessary to socialize adequately.  Once adverse conditions during this critical period have developed negative behavioral traits, no amount of re-conditioning or training at a later stage will be able to significantly improve or compensate these negative characteristics.
The Critical Development
Stages of a Puppy

See also:
How to choose the right vet for your dog
Skin problems in bulldogs
Dog fleas
Everyday care of the bulldog
Care of the senior bulldog
Anal gland problems
Canine parasitic skin diseases
Hereditary Diseases
Transferable Diseases
Heat stroke in Bulldogs
Inverted hind feet
Swimming Puppy Syndrome

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