When it’s time for a mother dog to wean her puppies, she knows what to do naturally. You can help the process along if you need to though. Generally, a mother dog begins to wean her puppies at about three or four weeks of age. Weaning usually ends at about eight weeks, but it is a gradual process over a period of weeks, not an instant removal of nursing.
During the nursing period, the puppies are beginning to learn proper behavior and socialization skills from their mother and through the interactions with their siblings. They also get nurturing and bonding during the nursing period, so they have a sense of belonging. Because a puppy’s vision is limited in the first couple weeks, they need to stay close to their mother. Nursing is not only food and nutrition; it provides a sense of security for the puppies.
Teething begins at about three or four weeks. Those razor sharp little puppy teeth, sometimes referred to as milk teeth, can hurt their mother when a puppy is nursing. The irritation can be something that inspires the mother dog to begin to wean as the pain of those sharp teeth increases. If you’ve ever been nipped by a puppy and felt how painful those sharp teeth can be, you have an inkling of what the mother is feeling when she nurses.
If you want to help the weaning process, give the puppies some CANIDAE Turkey & Brown Rice Puppy Food to begin getting them used to the idea of eating solid food after the first four weeks. If you are giving them kibble and not canned food, try adding a little water to soften it until their tender mouths can get used to dry food.
In the beginning, while the puppies are being weaned, feeding will be a mix of nursing and eating solid food. You can feed puppy food at specific times and allow the mother to nurse at other times until they get used to solid food as their only source of nutrition. Take the puppies away from the mother for a few hours at a time so they get used to the idea of finding food another way. You can slowly increase the amount of time they are away from their mother to help her wean them away from nursing. If they are hesitant to eat the food, try putting your fingers in the softened or wet food and allow the puppies to sample the food off your fingers.
The mother may decide to cut off nursing altogether on her own. She may push the puppies away and refuse to nurse. When they are hungry, the puppies will quickly learn that solid food is now their only food source and they will go to their bowls when their tummies are growling.
The mother needs time for her milk supply to dry up so she is not in pain from overfull mammary glands. Keeping the puppies on an alternate feeding schedule will help her to lessen milk production and help her to wean the puppies.
Like any learning, weaning is an individual thing. Each puppy may have a different learning curve or style. Be patient with the process and the mess as the puppies are being weaned.