Weaning Puppies: What to Do
is the gradual reduction of a puppy’s dependency on his mother’s milk and
When Is the Best Time To Wean a Litter of Puppies?
Whether puppies are orphaned or with their mothers, weaning can generally
begin between three and four weeks of age, and is ideally completed by about
seven to eight weeks of age. Although it’s often unavoidable, especially in the
case of orphaned dogs, it’s preferable to allow weaning to be a gradual process
that occurs over several weeks. Puppies need time to learn important behaviors
from their mother and littermates, including how to interpret signs of
dominance, inhibit their own biting habits and submit to more dominant
It is also preferable for the mother dog to slowly dry up her milk supply.
Weaning can definitely be a stressful time for puppies and mother dogs and,
whenever possible, should be a gradual and supervised process.
How Do I Wean a Litter of Puppies?
Start by separating the mother from her litter for a few hours at a time.
While separated, introduce the puppies to eating from a pan. This time apart
will reduce the pups’ dependency on their mother’s milk and overall presence.
The amount of food and the frequency and length of separation can gradually be
increased. As the puppies become independent and self-confident, they can spend
more and more time away from their mother until they are completely weaned.
What Should I Feed Puppies During the Weaning Process?
During the weaning process, it’s a good idea to feed puppies the same
high-quality puppy food they’ll eat throughout their growth period right from
the start. Be sure to moisten the food with warm water to create a soupy gruel
that’s appealing to their sensitive palates.
For the first few feedings, pups may need encouragement to eat. For example,
puppies may be allowed to lick gruel from a finger dipped into the pan. Most
puppies will quickly learn to feed from the bowl. Always have fresh water
How Should I Care for the Mother During the Weaning Process?
To prevent the mother from overproducing milk, which can lead to painful,
engorged mammary glands, it is important to observe a feeding and separation
schedule both for her and the puppies. This should be discussed with your
veterinarian to ensure that the puppies are receiving adequate nutrition, and
that the mother’s food intake is being adjusted properly when she is no longer
nursing her litter.
What if the Puppies Are Orphans?
If you stumble across a litter of orphaned puppies or you’re volunteering at
a shelter, you can start the weaning process as early as three to four weeks of
age. In conjunction with bottle-feeding, provide the wee ones with canine milk
replacer in a shallow bowl. (If they hesitate to drink, dip your finger in the
milk replacer and let them lick it, but never force their noses into the
The puppies should soon be off the bottle and introduced to moistened dog
food. If they enjoy their new gruel, you can complete the weaning process with
regular dry or canned food as described above.