When Should You Start Weaning Puppies From Mother Dog?

Updated on April 23, 2017
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Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

At what age can puppies be weaned?
At what age can puppies be weaned? | Source

Wondering when puppies can start the weaning process? Your batch of puppies may be nursing like there's no tomorrow, but the reality is that mama dog's milk bar won't always be open for business. While pups and mama dog start the weaning process on their own, you can roll up your sleeves and lend a helping paw.

The topic of weaning puppies may be a bit of a controversy. Some prefer to immediately “jump-start” the weaning process once the pups hit 3 weeks by offering new foods. Others prefer to wait until the mom starts giving signs. I personally prefer the more natural approach where you wait for mama dog and pups to tell you when it’s time, as you stand by with lots of napkins, food bowls, and the puppy's first mush. Following are some signs suggesting that it's time you can help pups and mom through the weaning process.

Signs the Weaning Process Is About to Begin

Don't assume the puppies will stop nursing one day out of the blue; the weaning process is rather gradual, and in all but vet-consultation-worthy cases, it is normally started by the pups and mom. At around 3 to 4 weeks of age, expect the puppy's first milk teeth to start erupting. At this point, the pups are like little Piranha pups. When the pups nurse, these needle-sharp teeth start hurting mother dog, who understandably becomes more and more reluctant to nurse. As she moves away to escape, ultimately leaving her puppies for extended periods of time, the puppies grow less dependent and become naturally drawn to other sources of food.

In the wild, the weaning process starts early in canids, often rights after the puppies open their eyes. A nursing mom would leave the den to eat; upon coming back, the puppies would greet her and avidly lick the corners of her mouth. In response, she would regurgitate her last meal and provide the pups with their first ration of easy-to-digest "puppy food." In a modern-day, domestic setting, owners may become concerned when mama dog regurgitates while nursing or weaning; in reality, it's a natural behavior. Always consult your vet if you think your dog or puppies are ill.

Because dogs are kept in a domestic setting, it's now your job to ensure the puppies start the weaning process on time. When the pups are 3 to 4 weeks old, you can start creating a slurry that mimics a mother dog's regurgitated food. To obtain this slurry you can blend together in a blender the same food you have been feeding mom along with some puppy milk replacer and hot water, according to the Vet Info website. Feed this mush three or four times a day. Expect the first feedings to be quite a messy affair; pups will walk right into the food and get it all over their fur. Be prepared with lightly damp paper towels.

As the puppies start eating the slurry, you can gradually start reducing the amount of milk and water so that the meal is more and more solid. While puppies are weaned off milk, mother dogs needs help to "dry up" her milk supply. You can start helping mother dog produce less and less milk by gradually introducing her regular adult food and cutting back the puppy food over several weeks. Remember: weaning is a bilateral process where puppies are weaned from mother's milk and the mother is gradually tapered off from milk production and the company of her pups, explains Beth J. Finder Harris in the book "Breeding a Litter."

Generally, puppies are completely weaned by the age of 6 to 7 weeks. At this point, their diet consists of mainly puppy food. While this may sound like a good time to place the puppies in a new home, it's wise to wait a little longer, as the next week or two spent with mom and litter mates are important for a pup's social development. To learn more about this please read "Why Removing Puppies too Early from the Litter is a Risk" Depending on your pups' breed, the best time to place them in a new home can be anywhere between the ages of 8 to 12 weeks.

Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If you are unsure on when to start weaning or are concerned about the health or well-being of your pups, please consult with your vet.

Poor Mama Dog Doesn't Want Anything to do with Nursing!

© 2012 Adrienne Janet Farricelli


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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks for following me! I am happy you found my hubs great! Kind regards!

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      dogfond 4 years ago

      Hi I have recently followed you. Again, your hubs are great.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for stopping by! I am happy you enjoyed my hub on weaning puppies, best wishes!

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 5 years ago from Kolkata, India

      I had my pack of puppies and doggies..but that has been some time now. I still keep on looking after puppies and new mothers among the neighborhood strays and try to give them as much of shelter and care as possible- but sometimes they unhappily yield to the vagaries of a stray life. Your hub gave me a lot of insight into the initial nurturing of puppies - which I had learnt only to a certain degree on a trial and error basis. Lovely video too- had me hooked for hours. Thanks for this wonderful hub, sharing with friends.

    • aziza786 profile image

      Zia Uddin 5 years ago

      Good quality information on weaning puppies, they surely need assistance. Thanks a lot for sharing this.