Those cute furballs are learning faster than you can blink. They are walking, playing with each other and getting ready to eat solid food. It's time to start introducing their first real food while they are still enjoying their mother's milk.
The Awareness Puppy Stage
Puppies from 3 to 4 weeks of age are using all their senses. They can get around, potty without their mother's help and interact with their litter mates, and they are learning at an unbelievable pace. Their baby teeth start coming in at about 3 weeks of age, so they are getting ready to use their teeth for eating solid food, not just suckling mother's milk. When they reach 4 weeks of age, it's time to introduce a quality puppy kibble and give mom a break.
Selecting a Quality Kibble
Not all puppy kibble is equal. Some contain grains such as corn, which can irritate puppies' digestive tracts. Some contain meat byproducts such as beaks, feathers, ground bone and blood. Puppies’ first food should be a puppy kibble that has 25 to 35 grams of protein in one serving. The first ingredient should be meat, not a meat byproduct. Protein, calcium and calories are important to meet the energy requirements and growing needs of rambunctious puppies.
Introducing the Food
Tossing hard kibble in a food dish is not the way to introduce 4-week-old puppies to solid food. They need to be introduced to the food gradually. The kibble should be soaked in hot water until it is soft and can be mashed. Then milk replacer is added. Milk replacer is a milk supplement that is available at pet stores. Enough milk replacer is added to make gruel for the puppies. To get the puppies to try the gruel, some breeders spread it on a hard surface so the puppies walk in it and automatically lick their paws. It doesn't take long before they want more. It can also be introduced by dipping your fingers in the gruel and letting the puppy lick them.
Puppies' Eating Behavior
Puppies will still nurse but also eat the gruel. Some puppies become aggressive about their solid food and may growl when it's taken away. Those puppies need some one-on-one training sessions where the food is taken away when they growl and held back for a few minutes before returning it. Eventually, they should stop growling. Puppies at 4 weeks of age need to feed three to four times a day and have plenty of water as they transition from their mother's milk to solid food.
By Pauline Gill
About the Author
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.