When puppies are born, a process called whelping, the mother dog produces enough milk to meet her pups' nursing needs. As the puppies begin to mature, the mother will naturally start the weaning process. You can help by regulating the amount of food both the mother and pups receive during this time to ensure the weaning process progresses, allowing the mother to reduce her milk production at appropriate intervals.
Weaning the Puppies
The mother dog will begin weaning her pups at approximately 5 to 6 weeks of age. This is when you should introduce solid foods to the pups. The more solid food puppies eat, the less nursing they will require, and the decreased demand will help the mother's milk supply began to slow accordingly.
Reduce Mother’s Food Intake
In the early stages of nursing, a mother dog will require increased levels of food to help support her milk production. As she begins to wean her puppies, decrease the volume of food you're providing her with. This will help slow the flow of her milk production and aid in the weaning process.
Remove the Puppies
With weaning comes the early stages of socialization for puppies. Removing the puppies from the mother during the day allows them to start gaining independence and learning important behavioral lessons from their siblings. Physically removing the pups for a few hours during the day also decreases the potential for nursing on demand, and will help the mother gradually decrease milk production.
If a mother dog’s milk production does not decline in accordance with her puppies’ nursing needs, she could have a hormonal imbalance or a mammary duct inflammation. Use cool compresses on engorged teats to help ease discomfort and slow the lactation process. If the mother continues to produce milk once puppies are fully weaned, consult your vet, as she may require medical attention to help stop her milk production.
Whelping and weaning circumstances can vary greatly from one dog to another, and different issues related to breed, age of the mother and litter size can all have an impact on the process. Stay in touch with your vet for input related to the nutritional and weaning needs of your dog and her pups to ensure everything progresses smoothly. If you have concerns about the mother’s health, ask rather than try to self-diagnose.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.