The right time to wean depends upon several factors, including the size of the litter, the condition of the dam, the quantity of mother’s milk, and the inclinations of the breeder. If a dam with a small litter is left to her own devices, she might continue to nurse her puppies for 10 weeks or longer.
Weaning should be a gradual process. For larger breeds, begin at about 3 weeks of age. For toy breeds, begin at about 4 weeks. Weaning should not be completed before 6 to 8 weeks of age, unless it is necessary for medical reasons. Early weaning and separation from the mother and littermates may result in adjustment problems later in life. Some breeders, especially those with toy breeds, elect to keep the litter with the dam until 10 weeks of age.
To stimulate the pups’ appetites for solid food, remove the dam from the whelping room two hours before each feeding. After the meal of solid food, let her return to nurse. She should remain with the litter at night.
Choose a commercial food formulated to meet the needs of growing puppies. A number of good products are available. Read the label to be sure the product is recommended for puppies 3 to 4 weeks of age and older. Many people prefer to use dry kibble, but canned products are equally satisfactory. Vitamin-mineral supplements are not necessary or desirable when you are feeding a nutritionally balanced puppy growth food.