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Weaning Puppies: What to Do

Weaning is the gradual reduction of a puppy's dependency on his mother's milk and care.

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 dogs.

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 available.