When puppies are first born they rely on their mother for nutrients. The mother’s milk provides everything a puppy needs during the first few weeks of their life, which means they are not eating regular food or drinking water. However, it is important to know when—and how—to properly wean a puppy from its mother’s milk and transition them to water and solid puppy food.
When to Introduce Food and Water
The best time to introduce a puppy to water is when they are approximately three to four weeks old. This is the timeframe when the puppy will naturally begin to gain independence and wean itself from the mother’s milk.
Why Not Sooner?
When transitioning a puppy to water it is important to practice patience. A puppy relies on the mother’s milk for age-appropriate nutrients during the first few weeks of their life. The mother’s milk also provides antibodies that help a puppy grow healthily and properly. If you attempt to wean them from milk and introduce solid foods and water before three weeks of age, the puppy won’t get the required nutrients and their digestive system may still be too undeveloped to process solid foods. This will lead to dehydration and nutrient-deficiencies that can cause adverse health effects and stunt growth.
How to Introduce Them to Water
So, how do you start the process of introducing a puppy to water? Well, the first step is to begin separating the puppy from the mother for just a couple hours a day. Put the puppy in a secluded area and offer either puppy food soaked in water or soft puppy food in addition to water in a shallow pan. Allow the puppy to freely explore the food and water and encourage them to eat the food and drink the water.
After a few hours have passed, clean the puppy up and place it back with the mother. Over the next few weeks, gradually increase the amount of time you separate the puppy from its mother. By eight weeks the puppy should be entirely weaned from the mother’s milk and fully transitioned to water and solid puppy food.
Why is Water Important?
In order to understand why you need to transfer your puppy to water, you also need to understand why water is important to begin with. When you transfer your puppy from milk to solid foods, water has two benefits.
The first is that water hydrates the puppy and helps keep cells functioning properly. Without water, nutrients won’t circulate in and out of the puppy’s cells correctly. This means that the dog will not be able to absorb nutrients properly or regulate temperature accordingly.
In addition, the water helps to improve digestion for a puppy transitioning to solid foods. It is important to give at least 1 ounce of water per day for every pound of body weight. Use common sense on hotter than normal days or if your puppy is extremely active to keep them well hydrated.