Puppies generally must nurse until about four to six weeks of age. After this time, they can be weaned from mother's milk to solid food. Cocker spaniel puppies are no exception to this rule. Weaning your litter of Cocker spaniel puppies will take time, but if you follow the correct procedures and approach the process with patience, they soon will be eating independently.
Slowly reduce the mother's food intake to decrease her milk production and aid in forcing the puppies to look for food elsewhere. Since you doubled her food rations to provide her with more nourishment for nursing, as she starts to wean her litter, back off on the portions. Begin when the puppies are about three weeks old.
Start independent feedings with milk especially made for puppies. Most pet stores sell puppy milk replacement formula, which contains all the nutrients a growing puppy needs. Pour into a small bowl where the puppies can see it; monitor as they drink. Give the puppies the formula several times a day, leaving it for about 30 minutes each time, until they begin drinking more replacement formula than mother's milk.
Incorporate solid puppy food into daily meals about two weeks after the puppies begin drinking formula from a bowl. Choose a soft canned food for puppies and make sure that it does not include preservatives, dyes or colours. Place a small amount of soft food into a bowl and mix the replacement formula into it until the consistency is milky and smooth. Add more food and less milk to the mixture daily until the puppies are eating more solid food than liquid.
Monitor the mother's nursing habits. The puppies still will nurse even though you are feeding them formula and solids, but they should be getting the bulk of their nutrition from the food. Once the puppies no longer nurse, increase their feeding to three to four times daily.
Experts have varying opinions on when weaning should start. Some say around three weeks, while others suggest five weeks. This may vary according to breed, so check with a veterinarian for confirmation. Always remember to gradually introduce solid foods. If you change their diets too quickly, puppies can develop indigestion and diarrhoea.