To feed dry food, mix one part kibble to three parts water to make a gruel. Warm the food to room temperature and feed in a low-rimmed saucer or pie pan. Start by dipping your fingers into the mixture and letting the puppies lick it off. Offer this gruel three or four times a day. Do not leave a pan of gruel down for free-choice feeding. Offer the gruel for 20 minutes and remove what is not eaten. You need to supervise to be sure all the pups are getting a chance to eat.
Initially, puppies may play in the gruel more than eat it. Be prepared to clean all the puppies thoroughly after each feeding to prevent skin problems.
When the puppies are eating the gruel well, gradually reduce the water content over a few weeks until they are eating the mixture dry. This usually is accomplished by 5 to 7 weeks of age.
At this time there is less demand on the dam’s milk supply. Decrease her food intake if you have not already begun to do so. This initiates the process of drying up her milk.
Puppies who eat too much gruel are apt to get diarrhea. Temporarily reduce the number of feedings and continue with nursing.
To feed canned food, begin by mixing two parts canned food with one part water. When the puppies are eating this mixture well, reduce the water content and follow the same general procedures described for feeding dry food.
Puppies need a lot of water and dehydrate quickly if they don’t get enough fluids. Remember that before weaning, the pups’ water requirements were being supplied entirely by the dam’s milk. Accordingly, as milk feedings are reduced, it is vital to keep a bowl of clean fresh water available at all times. You can purchase or make waterers that won’t tip or find bowls that don’t flip easily. You don’t want wet, chilled puppies.
To promote socialization and avoid behavior problems, feed puppies together until they are at least 6 weeks old. Allow the puppies to eat as much as they want in 20 minutes and then pick up the dish. Puppies should be fed at least three times a day from weaning to 6 months of age.
If it becomes necessary to dry up the dam’s milk, withhold all food and water from her for 24 hours. The next day, feed her one-quarter of the normal amount. The third day, feed one-half the normal amount, and the fourth day feed three-quarters of the normal amount. Thereafter, feed a regular adult maintenance food.