Many authorities give a definite age at which puppies should be weaned, but in my estimation this is not possible. It may sometimes be necessary to start this change in feeding as early as three weeks. On the other hand, it may frequently be left until the puppies are five or six weeks old.
There are various causes which necessitate early removal of the puppies from their dam. If a large litter or sickness makes her milk supply fail, the only way out of the difficulty is to aid her by taking at least part of the load from her. It is a good plan to start teaching the puppies to lap as soon as they are able to stand alone. This is usually when they are about three weeks old. Any of the prepared puppy formulas are satisfactory, or condensed milk may be used. The table on page 103 showing the component parts of bitch's and cow's milk indicates that cow's milk is much weaker than that of the bitch and thus does not form a suitable substance on which to wean young puppies.
A frying pan kept specially for the purpose makes a very good feeding dish. In it is placed a small quantity of either slightly diluted condensed milk or one of the prepared formulas, mixed according to directions. When the pan is first placed before the puppies, curiosity will usually draw them about it. But they will not know what it is for until their noses are gently pushed into the liquid. When they lick off their lips, they will find that they like the taste, and from then on it is easy.
By starting this feeding about the third week, some of the load is taken from the dam. Should her milk supply fail, the puppies are partially trained to carry on for themselves. Early weaning is also an advantage for a show bitch, as it prevents her body from becoming so badly depleted that she would have to go through a long period of preparation before again being shown in anything like good condition.