Little canine babies need their mother's milk to provide them with the nutrition they need as they grow and develop. They can't nurse forever, though, and before long, they'll need to start eating solid foods, during which time they'll be weaned off their mother's milk. The weaning process starts when the pups turn around 4 weeks old. During weaning, you'll feed the little guys a mixture of solid food and milk to form a mush.
Mix up some puppy milk replacement formula according to the directions, as you would to nurse orphaned pups. Combine the formula with a bit of soft canned puppy food, at a ratio of about one part solid food to three parts formula. Stir the mixture until you obtain a soupy porridge or gruel-like texture. You can also use dry puppy food, but allow it to soak in the formula until it becomes soft. Mash the soft dry food into the formula and stir. Blending the mixture in a food processor makes for an even smoother, easier to digest mush for the first week of weaning. During the weaning process, which lasts about four weeks, you'll decrease how much formula you add, replacing it with the solid food at a ratio of about one part per week.
Spread the mushy food and formula mixture onto a pizza pan or baking sheet and place it in either a plastic storage tub or bathtub for easy cleanup. One by one, place the little pups into the tub with the dish and tempt them to try it by rubbing a bit of the mixture on their lips with your finger. Don't be surprised if it takes them a while to get the hang of what they're supposed to do -- namely eat the mush -- and things will probably get messy along the way as they walk through the food. Before long you should have some happy, though possibly food-covered pups, nibbling at this mushy mixture in delight. Don't forget to wipe the pups down with a damp washcloth before placing them back with mom or in a warm nest if she's not available.
Once your puppies reach around 4 weeks old, their mom naturally starts to push them away and nurse them less, especially as they cut their baby teeth. Nursing becomes uncomfortable for the mother with her pups' new sharp baby teeth. Keep in mind that while they are eating the mush-like weaning mixture, they'll still be nursing several times a day, although in decreasing amounts as the weaning process comes to a close. During the weaning process, start the little ones out on a mush-meal one to two times per day, working your way up to four meals each day after the first few days, recommends Dogster. Keep feeding the pups' mom puppy food during most of the weaning of her pups, but taper her slowly off of it and onto regular adult dog food. She'll need the extra calories from the puppy food to nurse the little ones, but won't after they're fully weaned.
While your pups may initially love their new food, some may not and need a little encouragement. Try feeding a picky pup with your finger dipped in the mush or add in a bit of human meat-based baby food, without additives or onions, to the mush. Warming the mixture slightly in the microwave for a few seconds may also increase the scent of it to the little guys, tempting them to try it out. Once one of the little ones starts to eat the mush, his brothers and sisters usually follow his lead, so encourage one of the boldest pups to try the mush first. After weaning is over, the little ones should be around 8 weeks old. At this point, the pups need four meals of canned or dry puppy food with a full dish of water, refreshed daily.
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images