For the first 4 weeks of their lives, puppies will feed exclusively on mother’s milk. There is nothing finer. It gives them not only the nutrients that they need for growth and laying down strong bones, it also gives them a degree of immunity. After this age, with a litter of growing puppies to support, it is necessary to start weaning the pups to give mum a chance to recover. They will still feed from mum from time to time but her visits will diminish as their sharp little teeth start to grow! To help maintain healthy development, a good quality complete puppy food is needed. We recommend Burns, but Eukanuba and James Wellbeloved also give puppies a good start in life.
This is mixed with warm (not hot) water and is mushed up to provide a near-liquid diet for around 6 meals a day, with mum topping them up after a feed and staying with them overnight The puppies will not be able to lap at this stage but will suck up their food and will need to learn that they no longer need to put their heads up to feed as they needed to do with mum. By six weeks old, the puppies will be feeding almost exclusively on a good complete puppy food, still mixed with warm water, but they should now be able to handle it less watery, and may start to try little crunchy bits. They will now be able to start lapping – I usually start them on a proprietory puppy milk eg Lactol, but not cows milk. By this time Mum will be actively avoiding feeding them – and who can blame her, she has done her best for the puppies, and they now need to feed independently and she needs to build up her condition again.
By 7 weeks, the puppies will be having alternate meals of moist and dry food 5 times a day, and be lapping water. By 8 weeks, they are ready to leave for their next great adventure – their new home! The same regime needs to be followed, with 4 to 5 meals a day and fresh drinking water always available. By 4 months, puppy will be on 3 larger meals a day and by 6 months, 2 meals a day. The adult version of a good complete food can also be introduced. Feeding dry food is cleaner (long ears can get messy in wet food) and the food can be put down again later at a future meal if not all is eaten, whereas with wet food, it would need to be refrigerated or thrown away after a meal.
Always aim for the dog to clear his plate at a meal and don’t be tempted to add chicken, fish or leftovers to a balanced diet either as a “treat” of to tempt him to eat more! – you will throw the balance of the food out and he will probably get too much protein which is not good for him.