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Welcoming a new furry pal into your family can be an exciting and rewarding moment that comes with a fair share of responsibilities.
As a new puppy parent, you may have asked yourself, ‘When can a puppy leave its mom?’
It’s important to mention right away that puppies should not be taken away from their mothers before a certain age.
The first few weeks of your newborn puppy’s life are very important for their physical growth and development.
During this critical period, newborn puppies rely on their mothers for milk, to get valuable social skills, and to develop emotional bonds with their littermates.
Taking away a puppy from its mother too early might have more negative consequences on their physical and emotional well-being.
In this article, we will explore this topic in detail by highlighting the best age for weaning a puppy off its mother and providing some helpful tips on how to wean a separated puppy.
Watch out for our section about the risks associated with early separation to understand the impact of neglecting the puppy-mother bond.
When Can a Puppy Leave Its Mom?
Most breeders and veterinarians agree that a puppy should be at least eight weeks old before being separated from their mother and littermates.
At this age, most puppies have already learned social skills from their mommy and they’ve formed emotional bonds with other pets and humans.
Most puppies would have ideally switched to solid food on their own at eight weeks after birth, making it easier for pet parents to feed them.
Toy breed dogs can be kept with their mothers for an additional two or four weeks because they are still small and fragile at two months.
This gives the puppies some extra time to add some pounds and form social connections with their littermates before heading to their new homes.
Why Do Puppies Need Time with Their Mother?
Importance of the mother’s care during the first few weeks
The puppy’s mommy would naturally provide maternal care to their young ones to ensure they’re well-fed, groomed, and cared for during the first eight weeks.
The following are some of the reasons why puppies need time with their mothers:
1. Nurturing and grooming
Right from birth, a puppy’s life is largely dependent on its mother, whose provision of physical care and nurturing is matchless to any other.
Puppies would struggle to keep up with a day without constant care from their adorable mommies.
The canine mummy will keep her little furry bundles warm by covering them and licking them to stimulate urination and bowel movements.
It’s also the mother’s role to groom the young canines at this stage, which helps to keep them clean, and free from dirt or food messes.
2. Nursing and nutrition: The benefits of mother’s milk
Milk from the canine mother is the perfect food for puppies during their first few months before transitioning into solid foods.
The milk is packed with all the necessary nutrients a newborn puppy needs to develop their body and stay healthy.
The other crucial component of the mother’s milk is that it contains maternal antibodies, which help the puppy build passive immunity against diseases during the first vulnerable weeks.
3. Socialization and behavior lessons learned from the mother
The puppy’s mother is their first teacher! Puppies can learn important life lessons through socializing with their mum and littermates during playtime.
Some of the valuable lessons picked by most pups during early socialization include; communication cues, social behavior, and bite inhibition during play.
Early socialization is crucial for the puppy’s life since it sets the tone for their engagement with other pets, and humans during their adulthood.
4. Emotional bonding
This is perhaps the most irreplaceable bit about the puppy-mother relationship.
The heartwarming connection between adult dogs and their young ones goes beyond the physical support and care given.
Newborn puppies can gain confidence through the sense of security provided by the presence of their nurturing mother.
Puppies who grow with a strong emotional connection with their adult parents will certainly have better psychological development and they can form the best home pets.
5. They help with weaning off
As the puppies grow to become more independent and active, their mothers play a significant role to wean them off milk and transition them into solid foods.
A canine mother’s role also changes from that of offering support and direction, to that of encouraging self-reliance from the puppy’s side.
Dog owners will find it easier to transition a puppy into adulthood with the help of the canine mother.
Early Weaning Situations
Sometimes unfortunate circumstances may arise where you need to wean the puppy early depending on the specific situation.
In such cases, you need to know the best way of nurturing your infant puppy without its mummy. The following are some of the situations that you may have to deal with:
Orphaned Puppies: How to Handle Puppies Without a Mother
Puppies may become orphaned when they lose their mothers early in life due to abandonment or loss of life.
In such regrettable cases, it is crucial to step in and provide them with the necessary care and nurturing they would have received from their mother.
Here’s what you can do for a start:
1. Seek professional advice
We recommend making a visit to your vet or breeder for professional advice on how to handle vulnerable puppies.
Professionals who’ve bred puppies for quite a while will offer guidance on how to care for your orphaned puppy and their littermates.
2. Keeping them warm
Newborn puppies cannot regulate their body temperature; therefore, you need to offer them warmth or cooling depending on the weather conditions.
If you have a large litter, the puppies will snuggle up together which helps to create their own heat, meaning they won’t rely on external heat as much as a single puppy.
During the first week after the puppy’s birth, they should be kept in a serene environment with temperatures of between 85- and 90 degrees Fahrenheit with gradual reduction as they age.
A four weeks old puppy can get the right heat in a room with temperatures of between 70 -75 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can use heat pads or heat lamps to generate the right temperatures for your young canines.
Make sure not to overheat the puppies, since newborns may not easily move away from heat on their own.
3. Bottle Feeding and hand-rearing
Puppies can benefit a lot from proper feeding with a balance of all the necessary nutrients for growth and development.
At this tender age, we recommend feeding your orphaned puppy a veterinary-approved milk replacer using a soft bottle feeder.
Your vet will advise you on the exact amount to feed your puppy and the intervals to maintain throughout the day.
4. Stimulation for elimination
Canine mothers usually lick on their puppy’s rear end to encourage them to urinate or poop within the first few days after birth.
If your orphaned puppy had not learned this skill before losing its mother, you need to stimulate them for elimination by gently massaging their genital area using a warm damp washcloth.
This action will stimulate the bladder as well as the bowel movements, and your puppy should use the toilets within two weeks or so.
5. Providing ‘maternal’ care
An orphaned puppy will fully depend on you for their maternal care, which is crucial for their emotional and social development.
You can do this by gently rubbing the puppy using a soft washcloth and covering them with a soft towel to provide them with a massaging effect.
Health Concerns and Precautions for Motherless Puppies
Orphaned puppies are more prone to certain health concerns due to the absence of their nurturing mothers during this vulnerable period.
Some of the most common issues to worry about are hypothermia, hyperthermia, hypoglycemia, and dehydration.
It’s on your part as the pet parent to ensure your young canine gets the right nutrition and conditions to keep them healthy.
One way of monitoring your puppy’s health is by monitoring their weight to ensure they’re gradually gaining weight with the passing weeks.
You should clean your puppy’s room and keep the area sanitized to reduce the chances of bacterial infections.
Make sure to wash your hands always before touching the puppy, especially after interacting with other pets, or coming from an outdoor setting.
When coming from an animal shelter many veterinarians would also recommend that you change your clothing and shoes before entering your puppy’s room.
Puppies have a weak immune system, meaning you should wait until they’re fully vaccinated before taking them outside.
Risks of Separating a Puppy Too Early
Separating a puppy from its mom too early can have detrimental effects on their physical and emotional well-being.
Puppies who are taken away from their mother too soon may suffer from a weak immune system due to a lack of proper nutrition enjoyed from nursing the mothers’ milk.
Premature separation from the mother can lead to various adverse effects such as; emotional distress and difficulty in learning.
Impact on behavior and social skills
The first eight weeks a puppy spends with their mother and littermates is crucial for them to form good social behavior.
Separating a puppy ahead of time from its mummy may lead to negative behavioral developments that impact their social skills.
Poor socialization can cause the young canine to struggle with fear-related behavior and aggression toward other pets and humans.
It’s also worth noting that a motherless puppy may lack the confidence and courage needed to adapt to new environments as they grow up.
Puppies may have a harder time learning bite inhibition without the guidance of their mother, which is essential for preventing them from causing harm during play or when interacting with humans.
In addition, they may struggle with house training and other basic obedience training when growing up.
Potential health issues associated with premature separation.
Separating a puppy from its mother too early can lead to a host of health issues including; bacterial infections, emaciation, allergies, and loss of puppy fur.
The Weaning Process of Puppies
Understanding The Weaning Process and Its Stages
Weaning is the transition period when a puppy starts eating solid foods and moves away from its mother’s milk.
For the most part, weaning should begin when the young furry pal develops their first set of teeth, which is usually three or four weeks after birth.
During the weaning stage, the canine mother is gradually irritated or gets hurt as the puppy lactates milk.
A pup mother may then wean her little canines by spitting up her food for them to eat. Some pet parents may be concerned about this action but it is a natural maternal function in dogs.
You can help wean your little furry pals by introducing puppy milk replacers by placing them in a flat bowl and mixing it with equal parts of water.
Most veterinarians do not recommend using goat milk or cow’s milk since they do not provide the right nutrition for dogs and may end up causing digestive problems.
You can encourage your puppy to drink from the bowl by wetting their mouth using a clean face cloth dipped in the replacer milk.
Repeat this process until your puppy starts feeding from the food bowl by themselves.
Once the puppy is comfortable with the replacer milk, you can try offering them canned puppy foods mixed with the replacer.
As your puppy ingests the canned food with the replacer, gradually decrease the amount of milk replacer each day and slowly introduce more of the canned foods.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Introducing Solid Puppy Food
At about eight to ten weeks after birth, your puppy should be completely weaned off their mother. By this time, you can start introducing high-quality solid puppy foods.
A three months old puppy can handle three well-portioned meals per day, as they slowly progress to a diet of two meals per day.
However, it is common for some pet parents to make mistakes while weaning their little furry pals.
What to do
1. Start the weaning process gradually
You should always begin the weaning process gradually when the puppy is around four to six weeks old. This allows the puppies’ digestive systems to adjust slowly to the new foods.
2. Use puppy-specific foods
It’s essential to choose high-quality and nutritious puppy food that is specifically formulated for their nutritional needs and digestive capabilities.
Puppy-specific food is also delicious for puppies and this helps them transition from the mother’s milk without resisting.
3. Use softer food during the transition
During the first period of weaning, you should mix canned puppy foods with warm water or milk replacers to create a softer meal that is easy to digest.
This will help your young canine to transition smoothly from relying solely on wet foods to solid diets.
It’s also a good idea to offer the puppies small amounts of mixed food several times a day rather than one large meal to prevent overeating and promote healthy eating habits.
What not to do
1. Introducing solid foods too early
Puppies should not be weaned before four weeks of age as their digestive systems are not developed yet.
Introducing solid foods to the puppy before the correct time may lead to digestive issues such as bloating and diarrhea.
Some pet parents may end up forcing the puppy to eat more than they should consume in a bid to increase their nutritional update.
3. Using human foods
Giving human food to a young puppy may not be the best thing to do at this stage.
It’s important to note that certain human foods are classified as toxic to dogs and they should never form part of your puppy’s diet.
Monitoring the puppy’s progress during weaning
As you wean your dog into solid food, it’s important to monitor their response and look out for negative reactions or allergies.
Some puppies may adjust without any issues while others may react negatively to some canned foods or milk replacers.
Check on the dog’s weight changes and compare their interest to various puppy-specific diets to determine which one appeals the most.
Caring for a Newly Separated Puppy
1. Proper feeding schedules and nutrition requirements
After your puppy is successfully introduced to solid foods, you can create a proper feeding schedule that meets their nutritional requirements.
You can work with a vet nutritionist to find out the best meal plans that work for your dog, based on their needs and health concerns.
The four key nutrients for most growing puppies are 22-32% protein, 0.7-1.7% calcium, 20% digestible carbohydrates, and 10-25% healthy fats.
It is recommended to limit the puppy’s treat intake to about 10% of their daily diet or less. No additional dietary supplements should be given at this stage unless with approval from the vet.
After selecting the meals, make sure to create a practical feeding schedule throughout the day with a consistent routine.
Remember to provide the puppy with plenty of clean drinking water in bowls stationed at different corners of the house.
2. Early training and socialization techniques.
You should start training your puppy right from when they’re weaned into solid foods and socialize them to different environments and settings.
You can socialize the dog by exposing them to all family members and allowing them to interact with other pets before taking them out for walks at the park.
If you find the training a bit overwhelming, you can enroll your puppy in a reputable class for further training from professionals.
Make sure your chosen puppy class requires all pet parents to show proof of vaccination before enrollment to safeguard your puppy against communicable diseases.
3. Establishing a routine for the puppy
Dogs thrive in homes where they know what is expected of them and when they’re expected to do it. We recommend creating a clear routine for your growing puppy right from a young age.
Have a specific time for waking them up, petting, feeding schedule, potty breaks, training, socialization, and going back to bed.
Conclusion – When can a puppy leave its mom?
Knowing the best age to wean a puppy from its mother is crucial for their growth and emotional development.
It is recommended to wait until the puppy is at least eight weeks old before separating them from their adorable mom.
The first few weeks after a puppy’s birth are the most critical in their lives. This is when they are nursed and taught social skills together with the other littermates.
Premature separation can lead to malnutrition, weakening of the immune system, and poor social behavior.
In case of the unfortunate event where the puppy gets orphaned, you need to step in and care for the vulnerable little pups by providing the necessary care and nutritional needs.
Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.