Race Foster, DVM, Marty Smith, DVM
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.

Many people with a new litter of puppies are unsure of how to start the weaning process. In fact, some do not even really understand what weaning means or implies. Weaning refers to the process of the puppies beginning to eat food other than mothers' milk or milk formula. There is no magic trick in weaning puppies; most do this naturally.

A female dog is capable of supplying milk to her offspring for several months. In the wild, pups will be born in the spring and may (in some situations) still be nursing from their mother as the fall season arrives. They will definitely be taking food from other sources, but the mother will still be producing milk. The signal for the mammary glands to continue to produce milk is nursing or manipulation of the glands. Following whelping, if someone massages the mammary glands, they will continue to produce milk, even if the pups are taken away.

In today’s world, weaning is not done to aid the mother. Rather, it is done because puppies generally make their way to their new home at about seven weeks of age, and since their mother is not going with them, the pups need to have their gastrointestinal tracts accustomed to eating commercially prepared foods. In most kennels, puppies get the first taste of food other than Mom’s milk at about 3˝ weeks of age. This may seem early to you, but after working with numerous breeders and seeing many litters raised in our own homes, we can guarantee that the puppies of any breed can take food on their own at this age. To make a puppy mush, we stay with the same brand of food the mother is fed, selecting the company’s dry puppy food. It might be Iams, Purina, Science Diet, Nature’s Recipe, etc.

Prepare the puppy mush by placing 2 cups of high quality dry puppy food in a blender with 12.5 oz liquid puppy milk replacer and fill the rest of the blender with hot water. This should be blenderized until the consistency of human infant cereal. (This feeds 6-8 puppies of a medium-sized breed.) The puppies should receive 3-4 meals a day of this to start. Once the puppies have checked it out, walked in it, and have eaten some, the dam can be allowed to finish it and clean the puppies off. Each week, increase the amount of food, decrease the amount of the milk replacer and water that is added, and the time of blenderizing, so by 7 weeks, the puppies are eating dry food.

Once they are on dry food, it may be left in with the puppies (when the dam is out of the box) or the meal times can continue. As the puppies eat more solid food, the bitch may be let away from the puppies for an even longer period of time. By the time they are 6˝-7 weeks, they should be fully weaned from the dam's milk, eating dry food, and drinking water.

If the weaning is not rushed, the bitch will naturally start decreasing milk production as the puppies increase their intake of solid food. As the puppies begin eating the puppy mush at 4 weeks of age, start changing the bitch's diet back to adult food to also help her decrease milk production. Start by replacing 1/4 of her puppy food with adult food. Keep increasing the adult food and decreasing the puppy food until by the 8th week postpartum, she is eating only adult food. During the last week of weaning, the dam's food consumption should be less than 50% above the maintenance levels and declining toward maintenance levels.

If you're new to pet care and aren't sure what weaning is, it's the process where puppies start to consume food other than their mother's milk or milk formula. There is no quick way to get your puppies to wean. Most wild puppies do this naturally as their mother's milk production decreases and they become more interested in solid foods their parents bring home. However, weaning your puppies will take a bit more effort.

things you'll need:
Dry puppy food
Liquid puppy milk replacer
Hot water

Know when to start the weaning process. Many experienced dog breeders start the weaning process when a puppy is three to four weeks old. In most kennels, weaning starts when puppies reach three and half weeks of age. Doctor Race Foster, of the Doctors Foster and Smith Pet Education website, guarantees that dogs of any breed are capable of consuming food by themselves at three and half weeks old.

Prepare puppy mush. Stick with the brand of dry food that you fed the puppies' mother. Put two cups of dry puppy food in a blender. Pour 12.5 oz of puppy milk replacer into the blender. Pour in enough hot water to fill the blender. Blend the mixture until it resembles a soft mush.

Transfer the food to a bowl to feed the puppies. This preparation feeds six to eight puppies. Let them eat as much as they want. Their mother will finish what's left in the bowl afterward. Initially, feed your puppies this meal three to four times a day.

Increase the quantity of food every week, but decrease the amount of milk replacer and water and the blending time each week. This way, the puppies become accustomed to drier food each week. As they start consuming more solid food, they'll nurse less often. With this process, your puppies should be completely weaned to dry food in seven weeks.