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How to Wean Puppies | When to Wean Puppies

How to Wean Puppies

Summary: Raising a litter of puppies is both rewarding and a lot of hard work. So now it is time to learn how to wean puppies. We cover some of the basics regarding ‘how to wean puppies’ and suggest two options for replacing mother’s milk in the puppy’s 2nd stage.

How to Wean Puppies?

Okay. So you made it this far. The puppies are nearing time to make the jump to real dog food instead of dog’s milk. It is time for weaning your puppies. Breeders and veterinarians vary on their opinions on when is the best time to start weaning your puppies. Some say it is best to start minimally at three weeks of age. Others wait until the puppies are around five weeks old. We have generally had great success standardizing on about the 5 week mark with smaller breed dogs. It can also vary according to breed.

When you begin to wean the puppies, do it very gradually so their fragile digestive systems do not get upset. A sudden change will generally give the puppies diarrhea. You can ask your veterinarian what type of soft food will be best for your puppies. It is always best to choose a soft food that is made just for puppies. Puppy food has the extra nutrients and minerals that puppies need. Some breeders prefer regular brand name puppy foods and others prefer all natural puppy foods.

Puppy Weaning Product Options

A great option available from Amazon is a product from PetAg called 2nd Step Puppy Food . It is described as, “the second step in your puppy’s weaning process. This puppy weaning formula is a complete balanced diet in a creamy, easy-to-eat cereal. Helps make the move to solid food easier. It’s completely balanced nutrition meets the nutritional requirements for growth and has superior digestibility and palatability.”

Another option available is what some breeders do when puppy weaning. They start weaning their puppies by replacing a meal from mom with a pan of warm formula. They gradually over the next few days will add pabulum to the formula. Soft puppy food is added next. Eventually you will replace the pabulum and formula with a little warm water and soft puppy food, getting the consistency of gravy. The last step is to pour this gravy over quality dry puppy food three times a day; at this point in the weaning process always have dry puppy food available.

Remember, fresh water needs to be available at all times. The goal is to get your puppies eating a quality, dry puppy food. Dry puppy food helps to keep their teeth clean. Remember that once you have weaned your puppies from their mother’s milk, many moms will no longer clean up after their puppies. This makes keeping your puppies clean and sanitary a lot more work.

If you have further comments or questions about ‘How to Wean Puppies’, feel free to visit our Forums, Use our ‘Ask a Breeder a Question Link’ or make a Comment on this article below. We encourage participation and feedback.


  • Please can you give us some advice.We found a 1 day old puppy in our garden in Portugal.Rushed him to the vet who said the only option was to try hand rearing.We have worked so hard with him and up until this last week all was fine,he is now 4 weeks old.We have no idea what size dog he will be,he weighed 320 grams and is now over 2000.We increased his milk up to 80ml but then he stopped pooing.We reduced the milk to 60ml with a little less powder.The vet gave him an enema which worked and then 2 days later ended up giving him liquid paraffin.That also worked (that was on Sat),it is now wed and he has still not passed a poo.We gave him 1ml of paraffin last night and are still waiting to see if it works.We are now unsure if we are feeding him enough or if he should be weaned.This is a complete learning curve for us and we are desperate to keep him alive.I gave him 60ml of milk this morning and then let him lap 20ml on his own.Do you think by putting him on solids this would help the situation?The vet gave us some small biscuits to mash into his milk or warm water.Not sure how much to use and don’t want to overload an all ready full tummy.Any advice on this would be a great help.I have been on the internet constantly looking for help but most help is for puppies with their canine mums.

    • trying mixing baby cereal with the milk like u would do for a infant… i been raising 2 puppies from 2 days old. that someone dumped off. they r doing great with the milk and cereal mix. u can use rice but i prefer oatmeal they r 3 weeks today and going strong ill make it a lil thicker each week until they get use to eating food
      im no expert but i been raising puppies from hand for yrs

    • With human babies you add Karo Syrup to their formula and it helps them poo. Use the clear syrup. Worth a shot.

  • We are foster family for a rescue, we have a sweet litter of mini Dachshund mixes born 6 weeks ago from a mini dachshund momma. Our problem is the puppies will not eat food, we have offered puppy mush, wet food, soaked dry food over the past 2 weeks, the mom is very skinny and she is scheduled to be spayed this Wed and to go to her new home Fri, but the puppies will not eat the food, they hold out for momma, who does not want to nurse them anymore. Please help. All positive suggestions welcome.
    The vet says when they get hungry enough they will have to eat, but I worry about blood sugar getting to low. I am putting mom in 2 times a day she mostly runs around growling at them and then lets them suckle for a short time. She then lays on her stomach so they can’t get her nipples. I look forward to hearing suggestions. This is our 4th rescued momma dog and the puppies have always loved the first food, This is our first small breed litter, are they pickier?

    • Hopefully by now you’ve gotten the pups on puppy food.

      I am not sure why your pups wouldn’t want to eat the food. If you are still having problems mix ground up puppy food with a puppy milk replacer or canned milk. I use a bit of canned pup food to make it more appealing, and mix it all up in a blender. Try taking your finger and smearing it around their lips, usually if they get a taste of it, they will get the idea. If you see a pup that looks like it is having a blood sugar issue, you can put a drop of honey or karo syrup on their tongue and it should perk them up pretty quickly. My kids are on a 100% dry puppy food by the time they are 6 to 7 weeks old. (I raise poms)
      Good luck!

  • we gave our pup 1 can of condensed can milk, 1 cup of plain yogurt, 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon of karo syrup. put in doggie bottle. at 3 weeks of age we started using just condensed milk and baby rice cereal. All is working great.

  • I have always started to wean my pups at 3 weeks. I use Origin puppy kibble food and break it down with hot water. I make the consistency about the same as I would pablum for a baby.
    Should they develop diarrhea, which has never happened yet, I would give them 1/4 tsp of pure pumpkin. I use pure pumpkin(not the kind for pies) if my adult dogs ever get diarrhea and it’s usually cured by the next time they have to go

  • Lauren

    My little darlings are now 3 weeks old, I’m a first time breeder who has researched an found this is the place o help me. I’m very nervous do to the fact this is my first litter and we had 7 little angels. To my understanding weaning should start at 3 weeks but smaller breeds a 5 weeks. Which am I suppose to do. One of the vets at our office said 3 weeks and the other said at 6 weeks. Yes, they work at the same office. Instead of pulling my hair, maybe I can find advice here. They are so small, I scared to make a mistake for everything I’ve done thus far has been by the book or vets advice. If someone could help me with his question I’d really appreciate it. Thanks

    • Congratulations on your beautiful litter. I’ve owned, show and bred the big guys (Newf’s, GSD, Collie) and always had Lhasa’s. I personally would recommend waiting till at least 4 weeks, and gradually wean. My litter is four weeks old today and in a few days I’ll introduce the pan of goatsmilk w/esbillac and puppy formula (kinda like baby rice cereal). Will do that once a day for 2-3 days, still allowing mommy to nurse 1-3 times daily. As puppies grow, their teeth will be sharper and mommy won’t want to be with them that often. After 8-10 days the puppy formula should be used up and I’d introduce the puppy food, dry with a little goatsmilk esbillac for the first day or two, eventually eliminating that and softening the dry kibble with only water.
      Hope this helps.