Posted on December 29, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Why is a fully weaned puppy an important consideration when buying a new puppy? No matter how many comforts an owner has provided for their "new arrival," there is going to be an inevitable amount of stress on the puppy the first few days in their new home. Weaning a puppy is not a stress the new owner, or the puppy for that matter, should be expected to endure. Prospective puppy buyers will have far less heart ache and vet costs if they purchase from a reputable breeder that does not release puppies until they are at least 8 weeks old. If you see a Miniature Schnauzer puppy available for its new home at 6 weeks old, look elsewhere --don't walk away, run--fast.
Puppy buyers and breeders alike; read on, if you are interested in a gentle and carefully planned approach to weaning that puts the dam and her puppies first.
There are different factors to consider when making the decision that the time is right to wean a litter of Miniature Schnauzer puppies. Primary considerations would be litter size and the size of the puppies. What is the dam (mama) telling you? Is she producing less milk? Does she seem less interested in cleaning/nursing her pups?
What are the puppies telling you? Is there one puppy that is smaller than the others? Surprisingly, I've found it's often the smaller puppy that is the most eager and ready to start on puppy gruel. Why is this the case? It appears to me the smaller puppy has been getting pushed aside by the bigger ones and when the opportunity arises at weaning for that puppy to have his own place with a big plate of gruel, that puppy will often set the example for the other puppies.
Conversely, a small puppy may need more time with mama. You may be able to start the smaller puppy with puppy gruel, but you may also have to give some additional one on one time with mama and the little one. If this is the case, just bring the mama up on the couch with you (I usually put a fleece blanket down first) and place the puppy with the mama for some independent nursing time. Of course, you are sitting on the couch with them so the puppy doesn't accidentally take a tumble.
What is the best age to wean a Miniature Schnauzer puppy? I wean my puppies between the age of 4-5 weeks. Date of weaning can vary from litter to litter. Watch the dam. Watch the puppies. Don't watch the calendar. If you are attune to the dam and her pups you will know. 4-5 weeks is an average time, but circumstances may present that require you to wean a few days earlier or later. When in doubt, check with your vet!
What is your weaning process? My process is gradual and I would like to think gentle for both the puppies and the dam. My process usually takes about 5-7 days. The first day of weaning usually begins a few hours after mama has finished her morning feeding. I will take mom away and offer the puppies a soupy mixture of gruel on a plastic Solo brand plate. I put 3 plates together for sturdiness--see photo below. (Specifics about my gruel mixture will be addressed later in this post). Usually 1 or 2 puppies will take right to the gruel. For the pups that are more hesitant to feed, I put a little gruel on my finger and let them lick it as if they are nursing. Generally, all it takes is 1 or 2 puppies to show the rest of the puppies that gruel is good!
After the pups have had their first experience with puppy gruel, I put mama back in with them and give them the opportunity to nurse, just in case they haven't gotten their fill. After nursing, I remove mama again & wait about 3-4 hours. I do want the puppies to be a wee bit hungry, but don't want to wait so long as to worry about low blood sugar--especially with the smaller pups. I continue this feeding protocol for the first couple days and always leave mama in with the puppies throughout the night.
Gradually, I add less water to the gruel. In a few more days, I no longer make "gruel," but advance the puppies to pre-moistened puppy kibble. The intervals between allowing the pups to nurse and kibble feeding are increased. The goal is to have the puppies eating dry puppy kibble before they go to their new homes at 8 weeks old. The hard, dry puppy kibble will help the baby teeth break through the gums.
My puppy gruel:
Place your dry puppy food (kibble) in the blender and blend to the consistency of course coffee grounds. I store this in a sealed plastic container and use as needed. In a separate plastic container I mix the ground puppy kibble. I add a small amount of canned puppy food--about 75% ground kibble to 25% canned food; a small amount of honey (pasteurized, not comb in); milk replacer (I use a powder called Puppy Gold); a very small amount of 100% natural, all pumpkin pie filling and water.
As the puppies adjust to their food, I decrease the water. Eventually I am feeding puppy food straight from the bag moistened with water and a bit of canned puppy food. I begin to eliminate the milk replacer as I find it tends to make their stools loose. At the time of weaning puppy's system is going through a big adjustment. Issues of constipation and/or loose stools may present. Adding a small amount of 100% pure, natural pumpkin will help with the initial digestive concerns. Although, I eliminate the pumpkin as soon as puppies stool is normal. Please be very conservative with the amount of pumpkin you add to the gruel.
Because the puppies are going through a huge change in their diet during weaning, you will want to check their bottoms (rectum) a few times a day. This is a good time for you to give a sanitary clip around the rectal area. If you notice redness around the rectum or loose and/or hanging stools, bathe the puppies back end under a warm water facet. Towel dry and apply Neosporin or other over-the-counter antibiotic ointment such as; Triple Antibiotic Ointment + Pain Relief (generic). This is a recommendation and not intended as veterinarian advice. If in doubt, always consult your vet before using any over-the-counter product.
Every breeder has their own method for weaning. The process I've described in this post works for me. I hope all or some of this information is useful to both breeders and prospective puppy buyers. Please use my information in addition to a consultation with your veterinarian.
FYI: The title to this post is a rather lose reference to Eric Clapton's song, "Rambling On My Mind." Below is a link to a great video of Clapton performing this song.