When to Start
Weaning generally begins when the puppies are about 3 weeks old. However, if the litter is unusually large then weaning can begin a little earlier in order to prevent the mother from becoming overly fatigued.
Avoid Extra Vitamin or Mineral Supplements
Don’t add vitamins and minerals to an already complete commercial puppy food unless the vet has diagnosed any deficiency. This can upset the calcium to phosphorous ratio and result in skeletal problems and other serious health issues.
When the puppies are very young, commercial dry puppy food should be soaked for about ½ hr prior to serving to soften it. Mix it well to form a porridge-like consistency, and ensure that sufficient water is added to achieve a nice consistency for lapping.
Puppies prefer their food at body temperature, so make sure it is at a luke warm temperature. As the puppies get older, you can gradually add less water for a firmer consistency until they are into solids.
Individual or Group Feeding?
The best choice depends on the litter. If there are any concerns that some pups are excessively greedy and others are not getting enough food, individual feeding is better as intake can be more accurately monitored.
Prepare for mess
Puppies, like babies, will play with their food and enjoy it too! Mess is inevitable with puppies so it’s best just to let go and let them enjoy their meal time in the only way they know how.
Little & Often
Feed little and often, and remember that puppies have very small stomachs. Four meals per day are the norm when weaning. Don’t be tempted to over-feed as this can cause diarrhoea and too much nutrition increases the risk of orthopaedic conditions.
Some litters are harder to wean than others. If you are having difficulty getting the puppies to accept food over milk, make sure they are actually ready to eat and haven’t just had milk from the mother.
Identification & Monitoring
Make sure you are able to identify all of the puppies so that you can monitor progress. Keep a record of the feeding volumes and the puppies’ weights so that you can quickly identify any problems should they arise.
Introduce a water bowl around the age of 4 weeks. Make sure it is heavy so that it can’t be over-turned, and that it is of a suitable design and size that won’t allow the puppies to fall into it.