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I have a litter of 11 puppies who were born on June 15th, they will be three weeks old on Wednesday. They have been following mom to her food bowl and trying to eat her food and we have since moved her bowl to another location. Would it be too early to start weaning them?? I have read online that weaning should begin at 3-4 weeks of age, but we aren't at 3 weeks yet.
 

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I tend to wean later than many. Having the pups nibble at mom's food is fine as long as she is tolerant of it. I, personally, though, would wait until at least 4 weeks to start unless mom is looking really really skinny and isn't producing much milk. Early weaning offers no other benefits to the pups.
 

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I will let the dam wean the pups .
The longer they the dam allows them to nurse the better off the pups are for health and emotional stability.

Weaning will naturally take place around 5 weeks . After that the dam will give them her "ugly" face and keep out of reach. They have teeth !

Help the dam by taking her out of the pen and giving her free time , well fed, well rested, free of puppy-demands .
At first a brief time , as dam will be anxious to be back with the pups as much as the pups are wanting to see her.

She may accommodate them a good tug at the milk bar . BUT , while the dam was absent the pups would have been given access to food to start them into independent life . They won't be hungry , won't need nourishment.
Basically a feed is a social event -- comfort , feeling part of the family and feeling protected.

Gradually you increase the time the dam and pups are separated . Milk will diminish. On reunion the pups will be excited , try to nurse sitting upright , paw on her udders to stimulate milk , which isn't there , and mother will jump away .

They learn how to interact in a different frame of mind.

You are allowing a natural process of maturing .

I find that pups that have been allowed this looser schedule are more mentality secure and organized , better adaptation and coping skills.

This is one of the reasons I do not like to see threads where pups are taken home at 6 weeks.
Easy to predict problems stemming from a missing link in the socialization process during a critically important time.
 

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" They have been following mom to her food bowl and trying to eat her food and we have since moved her bowl to another location. Would it be too early to start weaning them?? I have read online that weaning should begin at 3-4 weeks of age, but we aren't at 3 weeks yet."

Another thing to think about is that the pups have an immature , incompetent digestive system .
They are still getting some great nourishment , exceptionally easy to digest and absorb.
Very importantly the young pups are getting a supply of beneficial bacteria . Put them together and you
have a stronger immune system.
Add the fact that both pysical and emotional / social needs are met , no distress , and you have a stronger
immune system.

Add to the fact that it is the DAM the MOTHER who is the disciplinarian who teaches the pups bite inhibition .
She gets irritated and those pups get dealt with summarily.

Most would think it is the littermates that instill bite inhibition . No. The mother. Even when there are puppy
scraps the mother gets in there and polices things. She comes into the picture and the pups submit and comply.

What a great start to week 8 or 9 when the pups go home.

Makes training easier !!!!!
 

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Not a breeder, but I agree with Carmspack. Nature has been doing this all on its own for a while now. The less we interfere, the better off the litter will be.
 

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I let my dams wean too. Unfortunately, they are really, REALLY tolerant, and here at 8 weeks tomorrow, the pups are still following her around and getting drinks. They also eat regular food, but all my girls allow the pups to nurse way longer than 5 weeks. I just let them go. When they go to their new homes, it seems to be just fine.
 

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11 puppies is a large litter. I know other breeders with large litters supplement the puppies with bottle feedings. Also have you dewormed mom post delivery, and the puppies for the first time at two weeks? Raw goats milk will take the edge off the puppies before mom goes in to nurse, you could start with that. There is a great facebook page, Canine Fertility, Reproduction and Neonatal issues. There are several files on the page that are quite helpful.
 
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