When we look at the weaning process of puppies we see that this can be a very stressful time, both for the pup, but also for the mother dog.
Typically pups are removed from their mother anywhere from 5 to 10 weeks of age. Keep in mind that this would be the equivalent of totally removing a 1 to 2 year old human infant from its mother. In a natural dog society some youngsters would stay with their mother for several months, even a lifetime. The mother would wean them from drinking but she would not disown them. Weaning pups early is breaking the dogs natural cycle and we need to be sympathetic to that.
Most people wean early because they know that young pups are cute and sell quicker than older ones. This is particularly common in the pet store business where pups are frequently bred in puppy mills, and removed from their mothers at 5 weeks of age so the dog can be rebred quickly. The pups are sold through brokers to the stores who often lie about their age.
Some dog owners are in a hurry to get rid of pups so they can save on feeding and labor involved in keeping a litter of pups.
When to Wean a Puppy?
In many places laws are in place that pups cannot be sold before a certain age, although these laws are frequently broken. Puppies should never be rehomed before 6 weeks of age. Experts suggest leaving pups with their mom until 7 or 8 weeks of age unless she is showing signs of aggression towards them. Larger breed pups can be weaned earlier than smaller breed pups, and larger pups within a litter can be weaned before the smaller ones. Many people who breed small pups like to keep them with their mother until 10 weeks of age.
Early weaning is a problem for many reasons including stress, but also pups do not learn critical socialization skills when weaned early. These skills are normally learned between 5-8 weeks of age as taught to them by their mother and litter mates.
©Art by Author
How to Wean
Good dog breeders have a list of buyers before the litter is even produced. The buyers should not be allowed to view pups prior to 4 weeks of age and not at all if they have been around other dogs or areas where dogs frequent. This is to prevent the pups from getting any disease but especially Parvo. At this time have the interested buyers indicate which pup they are interested in.
At a few days before the pups are ready to go to their new homes they should be seen by a veterinarian to be checked, wormed, and vaccinated. Vaccinations are not effective immediately and take a couple of days to act. This is why pups should be vaccinated days BEFORE going to their new homes.
Additionally the veterinarian needs to check the pups for things like heart murmurs and general health conditions. The veterinarian will make record books for each pup showing when it needs to be given its booster shots.
These books go with the pups at the time of sale. You can write your contact information as the breeder in the book, and may want to indicate that female pups should be spayed at 6 months and males neutered at 8 months.
People should never pay for pups that have not been seen by veterinarians, and vaccinated. So having this done is your responsibility.
At this time you should reduce the mothers feeding, she should be switched back to adult food (she should have been fed puppy food while nursing). This will help dry her up and make weaning less painful physically.
Buyers who are interested in the larger pups should be contacted and informed of the dogs veterinarian check results and the expected day they will be ready to go. Tell them what food the pups are eating so they can buy the same. You might give small baggies of food if they are unable to find the same food right away, as sudden food changes are difficult for pups.
If the litter is large, as is often the case with larger dogs, you can have some pups go one day and others go a different day. This will make things easier on you, the pups mom, as well you can give the smaller pups an extra few days with her.
When the last puppy has gone monitor the mother to make sure she regains her health and does not experience problems. Monitor her to make sure her milk dries up, any swelling, discomfort, or heat, should be directed to the veterinarian. Also you may want to now think about getting her spayed. Especially if she is not a purebred dog going to shows to prove her worth as a breeding animal.
Other Doggy Links