Weaning: What is the Best Time to Start Weaning Your Puppies?

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Weaning is a crucial phase in a puppy’s life, and understanding the process can help you provide the best care for your furry companions. Find helpful tips and guidelines for a smooth and successful transition to solid foods.


If you are a new puppy owner, you might be wondering when it’s the best time to start weaning your puppies. The weaning process is an essential part of a puppy’s development that helps them transition from their mother’s milk to solid food. It’s a gradual process that can take several weeks to complete, and it’s crucial to get it right to make sure your puppies grow up healthy and strong. Puppies can start the weaning process when they’re three to four weeks old, and it’s usually completed in around seven to eight weeks, as per the American Kennel Club. But the exact timing depends on the puppies’ health, size, and weight. In this article, we’ll tell you everything about the weaning process – when to start, how to wean, and what to expect along the way.

What Is Weaning? 

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

When Is the Best Time to Wean a Litter of Puppies?

Puppies can start weaning between three and four weeks of age and should be finished by about seven to eight weeks of age. It’s best if weaning is done gradually over several weeks, but sometimes it has to be done quickly, especially if the puppies are orphans. Puppies need time to learn important behaviors from their mothers and littermates, so it’s important to allow them to spend time together. It’s also better for the mother dog to slowly stop producing milk. Weaning can be stressful for both puppies and mother dogs, so it should be supervised and done gradually if possible.

When to Start Weaning: As mentioned earlier, puppies can start weaning between three to four weeks of age. However, it’s essential to pay attention to your puppies’ behavior and physical health to determine the best time to start weaning. Puppies that are thriving and gaining weight normally can start the weaning process earlier than puppies that are struggling to gain weight. Similarly, puppies that are showing an interest in solid food can start the weaning process earlier than puppies that are not interested in food.

How Do I Wean a Litter of Puppies?

How to Wean Puppies: The weaning process should be gradual to prevent digestive upsets and other health issues. Start by introducing a soupy mixture of high-quality puppy food and warm water. You can make the mixture more appealing to your puppies by adding a small amount of puppy milk replacer. Allow your puppies to explore the food mixture at their own pace, and gradually reduce their dependence on their mother’s milk. Over time, you can gradually increase the thickness of the food mixture and decrease the amount of water and milk replacer.

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?

When you start weaning your puppies, give them the same high-quality puppy food they’ll eat when they’re grown. You can make the food easier to eat for your puppies by adding warm water to create a soupy mixture that they’ll enjoy. During the first few meals, your puppies may need a bit of help to start eating.

Try dipping your finger into the food and allowing them to lick the mixture to encourage them to start eating on their own. Most puppies will quickly learn to feed from the bowl. Always have fresh water available.

How Should I Care for the Mother During the Weaning Process?

Make sure to feed the mother dog and puppies at regular intervals to avoid overproduction of milk, which can cause her discomfort. It’s also important to separate them for a set amount of time to avoid constant feeding. This should be discussed with your veterinarian to make sure that the puppies are receiving adequate nutrition, and that the mother’s food intake is being adjusted properly when she is no longer nursing her litter.

What if the Puppies Are Orphans?

If you stumble across a litter of orphaned puppies or you’re volunteering at a shelter, you can start the weaning process as early as three to four weeks of age. To help the puppies transition from bottle-feeding to eating solid food, give them canine milk replacers in a shallow bowl. If the puppies hesitate to drink from the bowl, you can try dipping your finger in the milk replacer and letting them lick it. Never force their noses into the bowl. Once they are comfortable with the milk replacer, you can introduce them to moistened dog food. If they like it, you can finish the weaning process with regular dry or canned food as described above.

What to Expect During the Weaning ProcessWeaning is a gradual process that can take several weeks to complete. You may encounter some challenges, such as puppies that refuse to eat solid food or mother dogs that are reluctant to let their puppies wean. However, with patience and proper care, you can successfully wean your litter of puppies. Make sure to check your puppies’ weight and overall health during the weaning process, and contact your veterinarian if you notice any signs of illness or digestive upsets.

What Are Some Tips to Make the Weaning Process Go Smoother?

  • Take your time. If your puppy doesn’t like their new food right away, don’t worry! It’s normal for them to need some time to get used to it. Just be patient and keep trying, even if they have trouble adjusting at first. Remember, it’s all part of the process.
  • Keep the babies dry and warm. Weaning is a messy process, and puppies will often find themselves covered in milk or food. Wipe off any “leftovers” and move the puppies away from drafts.
  • Remember, size does matter. It’s okay to leave dry food out for small- or medium-sized dogs to peck as they wish, but it’s important to control parts for larger dogs, who can suffer from bone or joint problems if they eat too much during this period of growth.
  • Check with your veterinarian to be sure that the puppies are progressing normally.


Weaning a litter of puppies can be a challenging process, but it’s an essential part of their growth and development. To help puppies grow up healthy and happy, it’s important to start weaning at the right time and take good care of them during the transition to solid food. Remember to be patient, watch your puppies’ health, and contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns

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