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How Puppies Should Be Weaned

How Puppies Should Be Weaned

Most dog breeders allow their puppies to eat directly from the mother's bowl as soon as they are able to do so. This enables them to learn, by observation, how to eat. However, continuing this practice for more than a few days after the puppies begin to eat has several objectionable features. First, the mother usually is not eating the same diet that her puppies should be eating. Second, the mother often resents her puppies eating from her bowl and will snarl and snap at them when they start to investigate or experiment with her food. Such behavior is hardly conducive to an atmosphere for teaching little puppies that the food pan is one of the best places to know. Finally, feeding containers for mothers are seldom fitting for tiny pups, and vice versa.

If the suckling puppy's diet has contained some solid food beginning three to four weeks after he was whelped, he will be weaned by six to seven weeks of age. If the pup has been orphaned and hand-fed, he will have to be trained by hand to eat solid foods. Similarly, if the pup is abruptly snatched from his mother at six or seven weeks of age and has had little or no solid food beforehand, he too will need to be taught to eat solid foods.

Teaching the young puppy to eat can be a very funny experience. To some dog owners, it may also seem like a time-wasting step in raising a dog. By individually hand-training each pup, however, you can ensure that no pup will fall behind nutritionally simply because he does not know how to eat food from a pan.

Infant puppies should get their first lesson in eating from a pan on an individual basis and without the distraction from littermates. Place the pup up to the pan of food and stick his muzzle in. Try not to get his nose in, if that's possible. Some puppies tend to splatter and fuss when milk hits them in the face for the first time! Repeat the dunking several times. Once the puppy gets the idea, let him have his own way to explore and experiment with the pan full of food. Some puppies get the hang of pan-feeding almost instantly. One lick of their tongues and they are after the milk mixture as if it was their first meal in a week. Other pups may appear to miss the idea entirely, and would rather bathe in the pan than drink from it.

After a few minutes, or before your patience runs out, pick the puppy up and wipe off the excess milk with a damp cloth. Dry the dampened hair and put the pup back with his litter mates. Then try another, until every pup in the litter has had a turn. Once you have succeeded in training one or two pups to become proficient eaters, it may help to put a slow learned pup up to the bowl with one of the good eaters. Puppies learn by example, and since an empty stomach is one of the greatest motivating forces known to them, the "see and do" method often does the job.

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