The process of weaning, wherein puppies graduate from nursing to eating on their own, is considered the first step towards a healthy future.
While some dog breeders are in favor of weaning at 4 weeks, others feel it's better done at 6 weeks. If the puppies are weaned too early, it may have a negative impact on their health as their digestive system is not developed enough to handle solid food.
If they don't get the required amount of nutrients from their mother's milk, it will make them vulnerable to infections, like the canine parvovirus (CPV) infection.
How to Wean Puppies?
Once you know the right age, you need to understand the process. To start with, you will have to keep them away from their mother for about an hour before their scheduled feeding time. This will make them hungry, and they will eat anything that you place in front of them. You should start with semi-solid food as it will be easier for them to swallow it.
More importantly, it won't come hard on their digestive system. Place some food in a shallow dish and put it in front of them. You will find most of them gobbling it up hungrily.
If any of the puppies are still apprehensive or averse to eating, then try to encourage them to eat. Place a bit of the food near their noses or on the tip of the tongue. Soon, they too will catch up with their siblings.
Once the puppies are done, you can take them to their mother. The transition may take some time as the puppies are in their learning phase. So, you'll have to be very patient all along.
Gradually, begin to decrease the amount of water in the food. So, by the end of 6 weeks, your puppies will be happily munching upon solid kibbles. Do not try to hasten the process, or you will end up with puppies with upset tummies.
The right way of weaning the puppies is to gradually decrease the amount of food given to the mother and increase the amount of food given to the puppies. As a result of this, the mother will produce less milk and the puppies will eat more solid food.
But obviously, the puppies will make a mess while eating. They will try to suckle the food just like they did during the nursing period. They are too small to understand the concept of eating, and will take time to get it right. You should place old newspapers on the floor which will save you the trouble of cleaning the mess created by the 'litter'.