The Stages of Weaning
Weaning puppies from their mother should always be done gradually and carefully! We like to have our puppies weaned by 6 weeks of age, so we can devote the final 2 weeks of time to getting each puppy to eat enough kibbles and on a feeding schedule that will allow the puppy a smoother transition into a new home. And this means that the puppies are no longer nursing from the mother by 6 weeks, not that the mother is absent entirely.
How does a mother dog wean her puppies?
Some mothers will naturally jump out of the whelping box when the puppies reach around 4 or 5 weeks of age (when the puppies sharp little teeth come in!) and never look back! And some mothers will nurse until they are around 6 weeks of age, but it all depends on the mother. If a mom jumps out of the whelping box around 4 weeks, it doesn't make her a bad mother, as each mother's instincts will vary, and most females who are accustomed to
help from the breeder also instinctively know that we are there to "take over" and give her a break!
Dogs are descendants of wolves, and in the wild the pack starts to bring back scraps of fresh meat for the puppies around 3 weeks of age. Domestic mother dogs don't have the instinct or the availability to hunt for fresh food, so the breeder must step in and provide food for the puppies.
How do we wean our puppies?
We wean our puppies gradually over a 6 week process. As soon as the puppies eyes are open around 2 weeks of age, we offer the puppies some goats milk (click here to read about the benefits of goats milk!) in a small saucer for them to try! Most puppies LOVE the goats milk right away, and some still prefer the taste of mommy much better! But, that's ok, because we are only introducing them to the goats milk to get them used to drinking it so that when the mother is ready to hop out of the whelping box the puppies have an alternative food that they are already used to! Please keep in mind that the below stages are a general guideline and it may vary slightly from litter to litter based upon their individual needs:
~ At 2 weeks of age we offer 1 to 2 meals of goats milk per day depending on how much milk the mother got in to begin with, and the puppies will still have full day/night access to their mom.
~ At 3 weeks of age we offer 2 to 3 meals of goats milk per day depending on how much milk the mother has, and the puppies will still have full day/night access to their mom.
~ At 4 weeks of age we offer 3 to 4 meals of goats milk per day, and by this time we are also introducing pre-soaked kibbles that are mashed up to be about an "oatmeal" consistency, and the puppies will have access to the mother for a few hours in the afternoon (they usually feed 2-3 meals from their mother during this afternoon time) and then again throughout the night.
~ At 5 weeks of age we will be feeding 4 to 5 meals of goats milk per day with added pre-soaked kibbles, portions according to the size of each puppy. The puppies will have access to the mother for 1 afternoon feeding and then again night time only, and this depends on how much milk the mother still has for her puppies.
~ At 6 weeks of age we will be feeding 4 meals of pre-soaked kibbles with a little goats milk added, and the puppies will try other foods like, but not limited to, peas, carrots, watermelon, apple, egg, and cheese. The puppies will no longer have access to the mother as her milk will be dried up by this stage.
~ At 7 weeks of age we will be feeding 3 slightly larger meals per day of pre-soaked kibbles, only adding goats milk if a puppy needs some "comfort food". The puppies will continue to try new foods, but always keeping the kibbles as the main bulk of their diet.
~ At 8 weeks of age the puppies will be sufficiently eating enough pre-soaked kibbles (usually still too hard to crunch the hard ones!) to sustain themselves, and they have learned to eat at scheduled times in the morning, afternoon, and evening which will make the transition to their new homes a lot easier.