When Is the Right Time to Start Weaning Puppies?

Weaning puppies refers to the process of moving the puppies from a diet of their mother's milk to one of solid food, which occurs naturally in the wild during many months. However, in pet homes, the process must happen more quickly, in time for the puppies to be sent to their new homes at 8 to 10 weeks of age. While there is no science to this, breeders have been perfecting the process for generations.

Age to Wean

By the time a puppy is sent to his new home at 8 weeks, he must be accustomed to eating solid food, which is a gradual process because dog's stomachs have enzymes that attack strange substances in the stomach. This helps them prevent poisoning in the wild but makes the process of switching foods more difficult in a pet home. Thus, most breeders give puppies their first taste of solid food between 3 and 4 weeks of age to give them time to adjust to the new diet.
Weaning Formula

To ease the transition between the mother's milk and solid food, blend two cups of the same kibble that the mother eats with 12 ounces of liquid puppy milk replacer, which can be purchased at any pet store, and enough hot water to fill the blender. The first meals should be the consistency of baby food.

Each week, gradually increase the amount of dry food and decrease the amount of milk replacer so that the puppies will be eating dry food by the time they are 7 weeks old. Send the puppy to his new home with the same brand of food you have been feeding and explain to owners how to gradually switch to the food of their choice during a three-week period.
Introducing Food to Puppies

Remove the mother from the puppy pen when you are introducing the new food. Put the food in a large bowl with a low rim or a flat surface like a cookie sheet. Puppies learn how to take the food by walking in it, mushing their face in it and eventually learning to chew. This is a messy process but must be done.

Allow at least a half hour before allowing the mother back in the puppy area. Once they have had a chance to eat, allow her to come in, finish off the food and clean off the puppies. As the puppies get more experienced, you can introduce a bowl more like the one a pet owner will likely buy.

Feed the puppies three to four times a day. In addition, gradually begin placing the mother back on her adult food to reduce milk production. This will naturally occur as well as the puppies nurse less frequently.

In the wild, puppies may nurse for several months, but in a pet home, puppies need to be on solid food by 8 weeks. Thus, 3 1/2 weeks is the time generally agreed upon by breeders to start feeding solid food. If done properly, the puppy will still receive the proper nutrition and be ready for a new home about a month later.