Different breeders have their own timetable for weaning GSD puppies. A well thought out weaning plan will definitely help this process produce healthy and food independent puppies.
As a general guideline, most German Shepherd breeders wean their puppies gradually onto solid foods over a period of about 3 weeks, beginning when the German Shepherd puppies are around 3 1/2 - 4 weeks of age.
However, if the litter is unusually large, you may wish to start weaning puppies a little earlier than normal in order to ensure that the bitch is not overly fatigued from feeding all her puppies.
You want to begin weaning GSD puppies at the appropriate time but don't start too early. Easy indicators to watch for are when the pups begin showing an avid interest in the mother's food and when the mother starts showing an aversion to feeding the German Shepherd puppies, or stops feeding them for as long or as often as she did in the beginning. Usually this happens naturally at around 3-4 weeks of age (those puppy teeth are sharp - I don't blame her).
If your bitch shows no interest in starting to wean her puppies on her own (especially if she is a first time mom or an overly protective mom), help her begin the weaning process around this time.
Weaning GSD puppies
is a natural process that is necessary for both the mom and the puppies in future development. The process I will outline below assumes that you are not hand feeding an orphaned puppy (as this is an entirely different undertaking in itself) and that you are weaning a healthy litter of German Shepherd puppies, or another larger breed puppy - 1 or more in a litter.
Weaning puppy food formulas vary from breeder to breeder but I will offer you here the formula I use whenever weaning my own German Shepherd puppies - a formula that has worked well for me and my puppies for several years now and has resulted in many healthy, happy German Shepherds puppies, and then later, GSD adults.
It works in stages as I don't feed my babies the same thing the entire weaning process. Weaning Alsatian puppies occurs over a series of a few weeks from mothers milk to a porridge like food, and eventually to a solid, and dry food in my weaning plan.
Stage 1. When the puppies are about 3 1/2 - 4 weeks old I introduce them to their first "non-mother" meal.
Here I use a mixture of vanilla or unflavored plain yogurt, warmed lightly (puppies will not eat cold food at this time), with just a little bit of good quality puppy food thrown in. This must be mixed up well and mashed up enough so that all the solid puppy food is mixed in well.
Remember, there should be no lumps in the mixture to make this as easy as possible for the puppies to lap up - make the consistency as close to a thin milk shake as you can. Remember also to keep it luke warm, but not too hot. Warm water may need to be added to achieve just the right consistency for lapping up by the puppies.
A flat dish such as a pie pan or one of the "flying saucer" shaped puppy dishes is a good choice to place the food in so that all the puppies have an equal chance to get at the food. Since the puppies are used to suckling warm milk from their mother you may need to encourage each puppy individually to take this new food by placing some on the end of your finger and then allowing them to lick or suck it off.
If the puppies resist this new food, and many may, just keep on trying. You may have to do this several times before the puppy gets the idea that this is food. Soon they will associate the smell of the food with eating and eat it with no help from you. Start cutting back on the mom's food just a bit as well during this time to help her milk start drying up.
By the way, expect a mess. Once the weaning German Shepherd puppies are established on the porridge mixture, and are eating it readily, you can gradually swap them over to Step 2. Step Two. Here I start adding Bil-Jac® Frozen Dog Food to the mix. This food is simply fantastic (and I also use it with my adults GSD's - especially in training). They simply love it. You can find it at Kroger, Publix, Petsmart and Petco.
Reduce the overall amount of vanilla/plain yogurt, add a larger amount of dry puppy food (maybe a 1/4 of a cup or so to start) and add in a small amount of the frozen Bil-Jac to the mix - about a handful or so to start . Mix this well and keep the mixture as creamy and slightly lumpy as possible in the beginning.
As the puppies mature you can increase the amount of lumps in the food a bit with each 2nd step meal as long as the weaning GSD puppies can eat it easily and have no problems swallowing the new food. At this point you will also be able to start cutting back on the amount of moisture (yogurt & water) in the meals while you add in more puppy food and more of the Bil-Jac. Remember you are working the weaning GSD puppies toward eating a meal of solid foods. This stage lasts about a week.
Step three. Now you begin adding more puppy food to the mix (this should be well over 2/3's of the total meal) and gradually phase out the yogurt from the mix.
I still give Bil-Jac for a while as well to give the weaning GSD puppies the best start possible however I eventually phase that out as well and work towards feeding the puppies a commercially available dry food only. This is my final goal in weaning GSD puppies - to get those German Shepherd puppies to happily eat dry puppy food only on a daily basis.
As the German Shepherd puppies consume more and more solid foods, and as long as they are healthy, you should gradually increase the periods that your bitch spends away from her pups, so that by the time they are about 6 - 7 weeks of age she may be moved away from them completely.
Remember that, during this weaning period, your bitch's intake of food should have been gradually reduced while the weaning GSD puppies new food intake has been increased to help her milk supply dry up gradually over time.
Once your bitch is completely away from her GSD puppies, adding some chopped fresh parsley to your bitch's food may help to reduce the risk of mastitis if she is still producing milk.
However if her milk production is excessive, and her mammary glands become red, hot or inflamed, do not hesitate to seek immediate veterinary treatment, as mastitis can build up very quickly and should be taken care of immediately and is considered a medical emergency.
Please use the suggested feeding quantities on the bagged foods as a guideline only. The required amounts will vary with the age of the weaning GSD puppies, the individual breed and level of activity of each puppy.
Also, ensure that a plentiful supply of fresh, clean water is available at all times to your weaning puppies and adult dogs as well. You want this transition from mothers milk to solid foods to be as stress free as possible for both the mother and puppies and a well thought out weaning plan will definitely help this process produce healthy and food independent German Shepherd Dog puppies.
"[Watching a baby being born] is a little like watching a wet St. Bernard coming in through the cat door." -- Jeff Foxworthy
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