Imagine pouring puppy food into a bowl and hearing the skittering of little puppy paws and nails on your floor as your puppy runs into the kitchen to eat his dinner. Imagine taking your puppy on vacation with you and being able to bring just him and not his mom, who he used to depend on for milk. Imagine sitting at your table or on your couch during the times of day that you used to spend bottle feeding your little pup, while he eats his dinner on his own out of a bowl or hollow chew toy on the floor.
Eating is a vital part of every creature's life, including your puppy's, and when your pup depends on milk or special soft mixtures it can be quite time-consuming and inconvenient as he gets older. Whether your pup has been bottle fed, nursed, or is already eating very soft food, there comes a time in every puppy's life when he needs to transition to solid food for his own health and convenience, as well as for the sake of whoever is feeding him. With your help, your pup can make the transition smoothly though.
It is important for your pup to learn to eat solid food for a number of reasons. Dry puppy food is convenient, nutritionally balanced, better for your puppy's teeth, healthier than wet dog food typically, and provides the sustenance that your puppy needs when he gets to the age where his mother's milk cannot provide enough calories for him or her supply cannot be maintained. Not to mention that your pup cannot be bottle fed or nursed forever. Puppies turn into adults dogs, after all.
While teaching your pup to eat solid food, keep the training fun and low pressure. You want your puppy to discover the food and be able to explore it and have fun. Remember that the food is something new and that he does not know that it is food yet. Expect for it to take several tries with the food before he realizes that it can be eaten and before he learns to like it. Do not worry about the mess, that is part of the exploration. Allow him to get dirty and to lick the food off of himself, that will help him to learn. To minimize your clean up, introduce the food in an enclosed area, such as a kitchen, laundry room, or exercise pen. Place towels or newspaper on the floor for an easier cleanup.
Try to enjoy this experience with your puppy. Food preparation will be more time-consuming than you might be used to during the training so plan ahead, but remember that this training will be over before you know it, and it can be fun to watch your puppy discover food. Before long he will be eating dry puppy food and messy puppy mush will be a thing of the past.
If your puppy has not taken to the puppy food mush after several days, then try switching to another brand of puppy food or give him more time. If the brand that you are using is not of good quality or is not a flavor that your puppy likes then that could be the problem, and switching should help. If you switch foods though, you will need to start the entire process over again, to give your puppy's digestive system time to adjust and to work up to the new food, so that he does not have digestive upset.
Make sure that you use puppy food and not adult dog food for this, since the nutrition in each is different. Some brands will say All Life Stages. Some of those foods might be OK but check on the packaging or with your vet to be sure.
To get started you will need dry puppy food, hot water, and puppy milk replacement formula. You will also need an enclosed area to feed your puppy in, such as a kitchen, laundry room, or exercise pen. This area should preferably be easy to clean and not carpeted. If you are using 'The Wet Dog Food Method' then you will need the wet dog food that your puppy is used to eating now, a shallow dish, and a small dish. If you are using 'The Shallow Dish Method'" then you will also need a shallow dish, large enough for your puppy to walk into, such as a pan or a plastic plate. You might also need towels or newspaper to cover the floor with, to prevent messes when your puppy wanders off. If you are using 'The Hand Feeding Method' then you will also need a shallow dish, a willingness to get a bit dirty yourself, and a bit of goofiness. With all of the methods, you will need between three to six consecutive weeks to work on this, along with patience, gentleness, and a good sense of humor.