Your puppy can’t drink milk from their mother forever. At some point they need to be transitioned to “real food” to meet their growing nutritional demands.
Weaning is also essential to keep the mother healthy after getting pregnant and nursing her puppies.
So, when should your puppy stop drinking milk? This guide will cover everything you need to know, including when and how to start weaning your puppy, and what type of food they need.
When Should Puppies Stop Drinking Milk from Their Mother?
Puppies should completely stop drinking milk from their mother at eight weeks old. It’s the perfect time for them to start eating soft and high-quality puppy food.
This process is called weaning, which means transitioning a puppy from milk to more solid types of food. Weaning should be gradual so that your puppy’s appetite doesn’t get shocked.
Start introducing soft puppy food at three weeks old while slowly minimizing their mother’s milk. Slowly increase their food intake over several weeks until they are ready to eat pure puppy food.
The mother dog will accompany you throughout this process. She usually starts weaning her puppies at three to four weeks.
The mother dog stands up every time her puppies try drinking her milk. The puppy then starts following their mother everywhere until they learn that they can eat the same food that their mother eats.
Do not suddenly stop your puppy from drinking milk because it might affect their health. It can also stress your puppy’s mental well-being and appetite.
Weaning is also the phase of your puppy’s life where they start to develop their social skills. Puppies begin to discover that their relationship with their littermates and mother go beyond feeding.
Trying new foods also means learning more about their environment. It’s a critical time for the development of a puppy.
This weaning process should also prevent your puppy from developing into a territorial, insecure, and aggressive dog.
Let them play appropriately with their siblings. Make sure they receive equal attention, food, and love.
Most importantly, train your puppy well. It will help them become more used to the world around them and will build a solid foundation for their character.
When Should Puppies Stop Drinking Commercial Milk?
If you have an orphaned puppy who drinks formula milk, they should stop drinking it at seven to eight weeks old.
Orphaned puppies should undergo the same process that other puppies experience. They should be weaned off puppy formula gradually until they are ready to eat soft, high-quality food completely.
Start introducing soft food to your puppy at three weeks old as you gradually reduce their milk. This process should be easy for a curious puppy who likes to try everything.
The taste also matters. Your puppy gets more interested in new food when it’s not only nutritious but also delicious.
They might also need love, praise, and rewards when trying new things with your puppy. Give them enough encouragement to eat new foods.
A simple pat on the head will often do, but daily doses of playtime after eating are also great.
You can make feeding more enjoyable by letting your puppy lick the food off your fingers.
These small techniques not only help them become more comfortable with their new diet. But it also makes your puppy more confident.
Letting them try new food will make them love exploring. It will avoid fear, anxiety, and aggression over time.
What Drink Does My Puppy Need?
Your puppy only needs water and milk until they are eight weeks old. Once they exceed eight weeks old, the only drink they need is water.
Whether they drink milk from their mother or formula milk, they should be fully weaned at two months old and ready to rely on soft foods.
One way to know if your puppy doesn’t need milk is by examining their behavior and body.
Check if their belly is still round. If it looks flat, their milk is not enough to provide them adequate nutrition. It’s time to provide them with “real food” and water.
This process is similar to puppies’ survival instincts in the wild.
Once puppies in the wild reach eight to twelve weeks old, their mother stops feeding them. They start independently hunting for their food with the pack.
Domesticated dogs consider you their “pack” in terms of feeding and survival. You must give them a balanced, nutritious diet at the right time.
Never feed puppies and adult dogs cow milk to replace their mother’s milk or formula. Many dogs are lactose-intolerant, so they might experience an upset stomach after drinking fresh or powdered cow milk.
Should I Bottle Feed My Puppy?
Yes, bottle-feeding is vital for puppies who are orphaned or adopted. Newborn puppies may benefit more from a small syringe than a bottle.
Cool the formula to room temperature and feed them with the bottle with their face down. You can place your puppy on your lap or top of a table.
Repeat this process six times a day from 6 am to 11 pm. You can reduce this to four feeds a day once your puppy turns three weeks old.
Make sure to wait for your newborn puppy to burp before letting them finish the whole bottle. You can induce the burping by holding them against your shoulder and rubbing their back.
What Food Does My Puppy Need?
Your puppy’s first year will require various nutritional demands, including soft foods.
When you are still gradually weaning your puppy, their diet needs to be similar to their mother’s milk. Try crumbling canned puppy food and mixing it with puppy formula.
You may bottle-feed them or use a syringe when feeding. As days go by, you should decrease the amount of milk in their food until there is little to no moisture.
It’s also okay to introduce your puppy to dry foods during this period. Consult your vet regarding the best products your puppy needs for balanced nutrition.
Puppies also require vitamins and nutritional supplements depending on their health needs.
Reward your puppy with praises and puppy treats to encourage them to eat more.
Once your puppy is completely weaned from their mother, it should be eating moist food four times a day.
By three months, they can eat completely dry dog food. You can also reduce the frequency of their meal to three times a day.
How to Start Weaning My Puppy?
Here are the exact steps you should take when weaning your puppy.
Make a Gruel and Give it to the Puppies
Gruel refers to a homogenized mixture of dry food and water or milk. You should use dry or moist puppy food and mix it with puppy formula.
The measurements are as follows:
- Fifteen ounces of puppy formula.
- Two cups of moist or dry puppy food.
You can also use one cup of water and mix it with less puppy milk.
Then, separate the puppies from their mother in a comfortable space. Give each puppy a shallow dish and place the gruel on it.
Let your puppies consume the gruel. If they do not like it, dip your finger in the formula and let them taste it on your finger.
Reward the Puppies
Once the puppies enjoy the milk, offer lots of verbal praises, belly rubs, and pats. In the future, you may give them puppy treats as a reward.
Continue rewarding them for eating the gruel until they do not need reinforcement anymore.
Socialize the Puppies and Mother
Only reunite the puppies and mother together when they like the formula.
Once they are together again, let the puppies lick the rest of the food from the dish. This step will help them remember the satisfying taste of the gruel so they will avoid suckling from their mother.
Skip this step if your puppy is orphaned or adopted.
Increase Solid Food
At three to four weeks, the ratio of milk to puppy food should be 90% milk to 10% food. Transition as the weeks go by, slowly increasing the food percentage to get your dog accustomed to it.
Once your puppy reaches twelve weeks or three months old, they can eat dry food three times a day without diluting it. You can experiment with other dog food products or ask your vet for advice.
What to Do if Your Puppy Doesn’t Wean
It’s okay if your puppy is a little behind the ideal weaning schedule. If they are not yet ready, socialize them with other puppies who have started eating dry foods.
Try experimenting with other moist foods, too. Soon enough, they will get used to this food because their mother will naturally stop her babies from suckling.
How to Take Care of the Mother
When the mother is pregnant, she should be on an energy dense diet to ensure her and her offspring are getting enough nutrients. She should be on the same diet until she stops nursing her puppies.
Offer her meals at regular times to prevent her from excessively eating. Too much milk production can cause the puppies to experience difficulty weaning.
Her milk production should also decrease once the weaning process starts. Once the puppies are around four weeks old, the mother should go back to eating normally.
Take the mother to the vet regularly to prevent mastitis and other health issues.
At What Age Do I Crate-Train My Puppy?
You should crate-train your puppy at about eight weeks old, so they will have a stable place to rest and enjoy.
Crate-training will help your dog become more independent and calm during vet trips, travels, or when you are boarding them. It will also teach them boundaries at home.
Choose a comfortable and inviting place where the crate will stay. Drop treats, toys, blankets, and pillows inside to make the spot more enticing.
Find out the exact steps you should take when crate-training your puppy.
When Should Puppies Be Independent?
Puppies should be independent at about 6 to 12 months, also known as their adolescence stage.
Here, your puppy becomes more self-sufficient in a social, sexual, and behavioral way. You should be able to leave them alone, let them meet new playmates, and try new foods.
Puppies now have a stable personality because they are grown up and finished with all the training they need.
This independent phase also means they are physically ready to reproduce puppies.
Learn when your puppy should be independent and how to train them.
Help Your Puppy Leave the Nest
Puppies stop drinking milk at different rates, but the ideal age is seven to eight weeks.
This critical phase is stressful for the mother dog and puppies, so they need your full support for their nutritional and social needs.
Be patient during the weaning process. Be gradual when increasing your puppy’s dry food intake and reducing milk consumption.
If you’re preparing to adopt a new puppy, this new puppy checklist will help you get started.