Weaning Puppies: What to Do

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on July 18, 2023
3 min read

When a puppy reaches a certain age, it is time for them to wean. This process involves lessening their need for their mother’s milk and care. 

After giving birth, the mother dog naturally takes care of her puppies. They depend on her fully for nutrition and for security. After some weeks it is important that the puppies learn to eat solid food and rely less on their mother. 

When should you start to wean puppies? You should start weaning a puppy when they are around three to four weeks old when their teeth start to erupt. This process can continue until the seventh or eighth week.

The weaning process should happen gradually, over a few weeks. Begin by separating the puppies from their mother for a few hours at a time. While separated, introduce the puppies to eating from a pan. This will begin to lessen the puppies’ dependence on their mother’s milk and presence.

Feeding. Over time, gradually increase their food and length of separation. The puppies will develop self-confidence and independence during weaning. Don’t separate a puppy from the litter during this time as it might be too soon.

Socialization. This is when puppies learn most about social behaviour from their mother and littermates. You can help by taking them to puppy classes and giving them social contact before they are twelve weeks old. This will make your puppy less likely to develop aggressive or fearful behavior.

Socializing your puppy can prevent later problems. Along with weaning, it helps with behavioral development and can affect the way puppies act when they’re older.

When weaning your puppies, pay attention to the quality and taste of their new food. Dogs need their food to be appealing, not just nutritious. 

Puppy Food. Feed them high-quality puppy food that has been created for them. Talk to your vet about choosing a food with nutrients that are essential for the growth of a young dog.

You should mix new solid food with warm water or canine milk replacer to moisten it. Puppies will love the warm soupy gruel and will eat it more easily. Always provide clean drinking water in addition to the food.

Encouragement. Puppies might need encouragement to eat food from a pan for the first time. You can help by letting a puppy lick the gruel from your fingers. Most puppies will learn to feed from the pan by themselves quickly.

The weaning process is complete when you’re able to feed the puppies regular dry or canned food. The puppies will also be more independent and not look for their mother all the time.

When weaning orphaned puppies. The weaning process is the same for puppies without a mother. Provide nutrition for the orphaned puppies using puppy milk replacer. You can get it through your vet or at a pet supply store. Your vet can teach you how to prepare and give the milk replacer safely.

Don’t forget to check on the needs of the mother dog while focusing on weaning the puppies. Your goal is to make sure that the puppies are adequately fed, but their mother also needs support. 

Keeping the mother healthy. Prevent milk overproduction and other problems, such as mastitis, by observing a feeding and separation schedule. 

Ask professionals for advice. It is vital to involve your vet when keeping your pets healthy. A professional can help you manage the mother dog’s health and weight during the weaning process. 

Be patient. Weaning can be stressful to both the puppies and the mother dog, along with everyone in the household. Remember to be patient with the mother and puppies during the weeks it takes to wean the puppies. Give them enough time to get used to their new diet and their changing relationships with each other and you.