Weaning Jack Russell Terrier Puppies [Tips for how & when to do it successfully]

Jack Russell puppies start drinking milk from their mother soon after birth.

Jack Russell Terrier puppies are considered weaned when they are independent of their mother and no longer nursing. The transition of a puppy from drinking its mother’s milk to consuming a solid food diet is a gradual process that needs to be managed properly.

Setting up a separate bed for the mother next to the whelping box will allow her to have a restful spot where she can stay nearby and keep an eye on her litter. It is important owners remember that this is a natural maternal instinct that encourages them to become independent.

Weaning puppies doesn’t need to be hard or stressful. There are some important things to know and easy techniques you can use to make weaning a smooth process.

When to Start Weaning Jack Russell Terrier Puppies

Weaning typically begins around three weeks of age, however, if the litter is unusually large, weaning can begin a little earlier to prevent the mother from becoming overly fatigued.

Around the three-week mark Jack Russell Terrier puppies start to develop teeth. Puppy teeth are sharp and tend to irritate and hurt the mother when she feeds her puppies. The mother initiates the weaning process and begins moving away from her puppies, leaving them for longer and longer periods of time.

Jack Russell Terrier puppies that are hand raised can begin the weaning process sooner and can be offered soft foods from the moment their eyes are open.

How Should I Start Weaning My Jack Russell Terrier Puppies?

Begin the weaning process by introducing puppy milk-replacement formula to your Jack Russell Terrier puppies. After a few days, a puppy mush can be slowly introduced as their first semi-solid food.

Puppy milk-replacement formula

A puppy milk-replacement formula should be introduced when your Jack Russell Terrier puppies are around three-weeks old. Start with a flat saucer (one with a heavy base will stop the milk getting tipped over), filled with a puppy milk-replacement formula and place it in the puppy’s enclosure. A good way to introduce puppy milk to your Jack Russell Terrier pups is to dip your finger in the formula and wet the puppies’ noses and mouths.

This process should be repeated two or three times a day until the pups begin to drink the milk replacer on their own. It typically takes one to four days. Avoid using goat milk or cow milk as these can upset their tummies.

Puppy Mush

After successfully introducing a puppy milk-replacement formula, a puppy mush can be offered to your Jack Russell Terrier puppies. Puppy mush is made from dry puppy food or canned puppy food that has been mixed with water or puppy milk.

Dry puppy food needs to be crumbled and soaked for about 30 minutes to soften it before being given to the puppies. You are aiming for a porridge-like consistency so that puppies can easily lap up the mixture. If the puppies have trouble lapping up the mush, experiment with the amount of liquid to achieve the desired consistency.

Puppies prefer their food at body temperature, so if possible, it is best to have the puppy mush at a lukewarm temperature. It is also a good idea to feed the puppies away from their mother and other animals and also away from their sleeping area. An area inside where they can be contained would be a good place to feed them.

As the puppies get older, slowly decrease the amount of milk replacer or water until they are eating the puppy mush with little, or no moisture added. This process should be completed by four to six weeks of age at which time they can transition onto canned or dry puppy food.

Prepare For Mess!

Feeding puppies is messy business! Puppies, like babies, will play with their food as they learn about their new world!

They will most likely step or fall in their food, slop and walk it everywhere, including on each other, and knock over any container that is not sturdy enough. Make sure the area you plan on feeding them can handle the mess! For instance, a tiled area would be much more appropriate than a carpeted one.

When they are done, let their mother back in and she will lick them clean. Puppies love being licked, and mom will like the puppy mush, so it’s a win-win.

How Often Should I Feed My Jack Russell Terrier Puppies?

The trick when weaning Jack Russell Terrier puppies is to feed them little amounts often. You should be aiming for four to six meals per day.

Four to six meals are only a guide, and it is important to use common sense – if the puppies are squealing at bedtime, it would be advisable to give them an extra feed to get them through the night.

Puppies have very small stomachs so don’t be tempted to over-feed them as this can cause diarrhoea. Overfeeding Jack Russell Terrier puppies also increases their risk of orthopaedic conditions.

By the time your Jack Russell Terrier puppies are five weeks of age you can introduce a premium-grade free range chicken pet mince or moist canned puppy food. Remember to implement diet changes slowly.

Around eight weeks of age your Jack Russell Terrier puppies should be completely weaned from their mother and need to be fed about four meals a day. At twelve weeks of age, you can reduce this to three meals per day and increase the quantity of food at each meal.

Individual or Group Feeding?

This depends on how many puppies are in the litter and if there are any concerns that some pups are excessively greedy, and others are not getting enough food.

Feeding two to three puppies at once can be more accurately monitor the growth of each puppy. It also minimizes mess, and you can stop the puppies walking all through their dinner.

Avoid Extra Vitamin or Mineral Supplements

When Jack Russell Terrier puppies are receiving a good quality, balanced diet, they do not need any additional vitamins or nutritional supplements. A good quality puppy milk and puppy food will ensure they will be receiving everything they need for optimal growth and balanced nutrition.

The additional of vitamins and mineral supplements without veterinarian supervision can interfere with the puppy’s calcium to phosphorous ratio and result in skeletal problems and other serious health issues.

Should My Jack Russell Terrier Puppies Have Water?

It is a good idea to introduce a water bowl when your Jack Russell Terrier puppies are around four weeks old – roughly the same time you offer them the puppy mush. Ensure it is shallow so the puppies can’t fall in and sturdy and that it can’t be over-turned.

Problems Weaning Jack Russell Terrier Puppies

Some Jack Russell Terrier litters are harder to wean than others and some puppies may need more time with their mother. During the weaning process be sure to monitor all the puppies and if you notice one or two not doing so well, allow them to remain feeding from their mother for another week.

Get to know each puppy so you can monitor their progress. This can be done by recording each puppy’s weight weekly to ensure they are putting on weight and so that you can quickly identity any problems should they arise.

Should any problems with weaning persist and puppies are not thriving, contact your veterinarian for further advice and assistance.

What Happens When We Separate a Puppy From its Mother Too Soon?

When a Jack Russell Terrier is between the age of three and twelve weeks, it is the most impressionable and vulnerable learning period. During this time, they learn the skills and limits and if separated from their mother during this time, especially during the early stages, it can be a very traumatic experience. Jack Russell Terrier puppies that are separated from their mother too early can be physically and psychologically impacted.

Physical problems puppies are likely to suffer from include decreased appetite, poor immune system response, weight loss and increased risk of disease. When weaned too early, the puppies will not receive the hormones, enzymes, antibodies, and other important physical benefits needed for optimal development from their mother’s milk.

Psychological problems of separating puppies from their mother too soon may cause behavior problems that develop later in life like aggression, possessiveness, distrust of strangers, difficult behavior with other dogs, and destructiveness. Puppies learn about biting from their mother and siblings, and when they miss this vital learning, they can have a tendency towards biting. It is possible to train a Jack Russell Terrier to stop biting, but it will be very difficult if they have not learned it from the beginning. Professional and expert help may be needed in these cases.

There are other factors that can lead Jack Russell Terriers to develop behavior problems but avoiding separating them from their mother and siblings during the sensitive will certainly reduce the detrimental effect on their physical and psychological development.

Final Thoughts

Once your Jack Russell Terrier puppies are eating solid food and not feeding from their mother, they may be placed in their new homes. For their social development, the puppies should remain with their mother and siblings for the first eight to ten weeks, with ten weeks being considered ideal.


Breeding For Dog Owners Caring From Birth To Weaning | VCA Animal Hospitals (vcahospitals.com)


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