When Can Puppies Leave Their Mom?

Deciding how long a puppy should stay with mom involves more than nursing—weaning a puppy too soon can be bad for the pup for many reasons.


A mother dog provides more than milk to her puppies, so be patient while waiting for your new family member. The decision on when to wean a puppy involves more than determining how long a puppy should nurse.

The ideal nutrition for very young puppies is mother’s milk. The longer they can nurse, the longer they get that perfect food. Some puppies will nurse up to 8 weeks or longer if mom allows it. If she can’t nurse for any reason, the breeder will use a puppy milk replacer to be sure the pups get a balanced diet.

When Do Puppies Stop Drinking Milk?

Puppies start to get teeth in at about 3 to 4 weeks of age. At that point, it can become uncomfortable for the pups to nurse. The dam starts to spend more time away from the pups, often cutting back their nursing time on her own.

Many breeders start to offer food as a slurry at this age to compensate if the bitch cuts back. With a big litter, this is especially important as the nutrient drain on the mother is high. Most pups will continue to nurse a bit along with taking semi solid food until 5 to 7 weeks of age. Puppies who are hand-raised often shift to “real food” right about 3 weeks old.

Remember to provide water as well. With the shift to solid food, puppies need liquid.

The Decision to Wean Puppies

The time with mother and siblings is incredibly important for puppy social development. Puppies should stay with their dam until 8 weeks of age, and many breeders will keep puppies until 10 weeks of age or older, if a toy breed. (One study equated puppy cuteness with weaning time.)

While the puppies may no longer need their mother for nutrition, behavior input is extremely important at this time. The dam will discipline interactions and model behavior with and toward people and other dogs. A good mother will play with her puppies and provide support in new situations. Don’t rush this important time in a puppy’s life.