How to Wean Puppies off their Mothers Easily

Below we discuss how to wean puppies at four and eight weeks, how to prepare puppy food, when the puppies should be weaned of their mother and when to introduce adult dog foods to puppies.

How to Wean Puppies

Immediately they are born and for the next few weeks, puppies exclusively rely on their mother’s milk for survival and nourishment. Additionally, the colostrum produced in the first days after birth is rich in antibodies which protect them from diseases and helps in building their immune system. They also have a chance to get nurtured, acquire proper behavior and be socialized by their mother. The bond created during nursing helps to give the puppies a sense of belonging. Since their vision is limited, it is also necessary for them to stay close to their mother to be safe.

How to Wean Puppies at 3 Weeks – How to Start Weaning Puppies

Wondering how soon to wean puppies? In most cases, weaning starts at three weeks. As the caregiver, you should facilitate a smooth transition from breast milk to semi-solid and solid foods with time. The process does not occur suddenly and takes time for them to get used. Before you get into the weaning itself, you need to know how to prepare the weaning mush. Below is how.

How to Prepare Puppy Weaning Food

It is not enough learning how to wean puppies. While the procedure is important, learning the right foods for the process also is. That being the case, how do you prepare to puppy weaning food?

Get some dry commercial puppy weaning food brand. This should be highly nutritious. It should be high in protein, fats and facilitate the healthy development of the puppy through the provision of necessary nutrients and supplements.

To prepare the puppy weaning mush for a litter of six to eight puppies:

  1. Place two cups of dry puppy food, one and a half puppy milk replacer and some warm water in a blender.
  2. Blend these until they attain the consistency of infant cereal at the beginning.
  3. With time, decrease the number of fluids added to the food and reduce the time taken to blend to move them towards dry food.
  4. By the age of seven to eight weeks, the dog should be feeding on dry food.

Once the food is ready, here is the procedure on how to wean puppies:

1.      Offer Small Amounts of Puppy Food

Weaning is meant to be gradual. You don’t go full throttle in offering food as this may cause problems in the transition. To begin with, you will start by offering 10 percent of the puppy’s daily calorific requirement at three or four weeks. They will take this while at the same time nursing on their mother.

2.      Increase the Food Gradually

In the coming weeks, gradually increase the amount you feed them on. With an increased food intake your puppies should nurse less and less until they no longer need to.

3.      Observe Individual Puppies

Some puppies will be slow to eat. Where you notice this, do not hurry them up as it could cause undernourishment. Allow them to continue nursing while you adopt a slow weaning process.

4.      Weaning at eight Weeks

By the time you are around seven to eight weeks old, you should wean the puppy off its mother’s milk. They should by then be feeding on dry puppy food and consuming water.

5.      Cleaning Up

Once the puppies are done feeding, you should wipe them off. This is more so in the first days when their feeding is messy.

How to encourage a Weaning Puppy to Eat

Just like toddlers, puppies may be reluctant in consuming their puppy chow. To encourage them to feed:

  • Always place the puppies in front of their food. Doing this repeatedly will eventually prompt the puppies to eat. This is necessary for any puppies resisting to eat.
  • Start separating the puppies and the mother for one to three hours a day. This should be done prior to feeding. It will keep the puppies from breastfeeding this time and encourage eating.
  • During feeding time, get the mother out of the puppies’ sight. You could take him for a walk or to another part of the house or in the yard.
  • When these are put into place the puppies with time get to associate their food bowls with satisfaction and can feed with no problems.
  • Once ready, the food should be put in a large but shallow pan to ensure the puppies reach the food. Large and deep bowls are hardly accessible to the puppies.
  • In the initial days, you could get the puppies interested in the food by dipping your clean fingers into the food and allowing them to lick them then direct them to the food bowl.
  • Feed your puppies three to four times a day to get them accustomed to food.

How Long To Wean Puppies – Switching from Puppy Weaning Mixture to Adult Food

How long does it take to wean puppies? Puppies respond differently to weaning. Therefore, there is no specific duration suitable for every dog. For breeders whose dams have a large litter, weaning can start as early as three weeks. On the other hand, small sized litters can be weaned as late as five months. This is despite the fact that the recommended time of weaning is four weeks.

Additionally, some dams may quite nursing completely within a few weeks leaving the weaning mush as the only source of nourishment. The development of dogs also varies. Some miniature and toy breeds attain adult size as early as 10 to 12 months while giant breeds may take up to 18 months.

All these factors come into play in determining how long to wean puppies. To be certain, you should consult your veterinarian or dog’s breeder to know when is the best time to switch to adult dog food.

In case you are wondering how to wean puppies of their mothers, by the time they are seven weeks old, they should be on dry food. This is when they should be completely weaned off the dam’s milk and start drinking water instead.

Additional Tips on How to Wean Puppies Successfully

In addition to the procedures above, here are more tips to help in weaning your puppies successfully:

  • Start weaning a bit early if your dam has an unusually large litter to protect the dam from fatigue and general weakness.
  • When using a complete commercial puppy food, do not add any supplements unless when advised by a vet as these could upset the puppies’ health.
  • Where you suspect gorging or slow feeding in specific puppies, adopt individual feeding as this will allow for accurate monitoring and ensure each of them gets enough food.
  • When weaning your puppies, give them little food frequently. It is recommended that you feed them four times.
  • For reluctant feeders, make sure they get hungry before offering food. This can be attained by ensuring they stay without nursing for the time leading to meal time.
  • Use a suitable bowl size and design for the water bowl to ensure they do not overturn it.
  • In case of any remains, allow the dam to finish it off. Alternatively, you can leave it with the puppies for a while longer.

With the above how to wean puppies guide, the task should not be laborious. Both the puppies and you should get through it smoothly. Where you are not certain, consult your veterinarian.

Sources and References

Dr. Winnie
About Dr. Winnie 350 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone

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