Taking Care of a Puppy Without Its Mother

Puppies should stay with their mother and litter for 8 to 10 weeks.
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Taking care of an orphaned pup or even a pup who is too young to comfortably be away from his mother comes with both challenges and rewards. Up until he's 6 to 8 weeks old, you will have to take on the many duties of a mother dog.

Feeding Very Young Puppies

Very young puppies -- ages 1 to 3 weeks -- require much more hands-on attention and care than older puppies. Before their eyes are open, puppies depend on their instincts and mother to help them stay warm, learn and eat. During the first week, feed the puppies every two to four hours with an eyedropper full of canine milk replacement. During the second and third weeks, increase the amount of formula in the dropper and spread the feedings to every four to six hours. After meals, rub a warm, wet cotton ball on the puppy's lower abdomen and near his rectum to stimulate elimination and then gently wipe away the waste. A momma dog will lick this area to get her baby to eliminate.


Place a hot water bottle under towels or blankets in the puppy's nesting area to keep him warm, as chilling is a leading cause of orphaned puppy death. You can also choose a heating lamp or heating pad as long as the heat source isn't too hot and the puppy has the opportunity to get away from it if needed. At around 4 weeks you can remove the heating source as long as the puppy is in a warm environment, such as your home. Leave blankets or towels in the nesting area for the pup to warm up in.


Weaning is a fun, messy and exciting time of life for puppies who are about 3 1/2 to 4 weeks old. This process involves getting the puppies off formula and onto a high-quality puppy food. Mix dry, high-quality puppy food with canine milk replacement formula and warm milk and let it soften. Mix with a fork until the formula is gruel-like, or similar to runny oatmeal. Place the mixture on a flat saucer on a tiled floor or other easily cleaned surface. Dip your finger into the mixture and let the pup smell it and find the plate, then prepare for a heartwarming, funny and messy experience. The puppy will try to step in the mixture, get it all over his belly and feet and excitedly eat the formula once he's figured out that it's food. Gradually decrease the water and milk replacement over the next one to two weeks until he's eating dry puppy kibble.

Life Lessons

A momma dog and the rest of the litter teach a puppy valuable life lessons, such as hierarchy, eating and playing. Without the rest of the litter and his mother, you will have to supplement a few of these lessons. A puppy will naturally take on most of these without much intervention. Washing the puppy after meals will help teach him to clean himself, while playing with him grants socialization. If he bites your hand too hard, yelp and stop playing momentarily to mimic how a mother dog teaches bite inhibition. At around 6 to 8 weeks old, enrolling him in a puppy class with other dogs his own age will help him socialize as well.