When Do Puppies Start Drinking Water (& Eating Food)?

when do puppies start drinking water

Newborn puppies get all the nutrition and hydration they need from their mother’s milk. There will come a point in time though, when they no longer need milk and can start to drink water instead.

But what is the age when newborn puppies can start drinking water for the first time, and how do you introduce them to it? You can find below as I detail all you need to know in one handy and helpful guide.

When do puppies start drinking water? Newborn puppies start drinking water around the age of 3 to 4 weeks old. This is when they start to wean and gradually give up nursing from their mother. Puppies will also start eating food at this age too.

When do puppies start drinking water and eating food?

Despite what you might think, puppies do not start drinking water and eating food as soon as they are born. In fact, for the first few weeks of their lives, they rely solely on their mother’s milk. This milk provides them with all the necessary nutrients and antibodies that are important for their development and growth.

Whilst you could think that giving a newborn puppy water and food might help them, the opposite is in fact true… it is vitally important that puppies are not given water before this weaning period has passed. Newborn puppies will struggle to digest water as their digestive systems are still underdeveloped and won’t be used to it.

If you do introduce puppies to drinking water before the right age, it could even lead to dangerous complications so should be avoided at all costs.

And as already discussed, when to give puppies water for the first time is the 3 to 4-week mark; at least. By this point they can be weaned off the mother’s milk and will be able to start drinking water and eating soft and suitable foods. They will also want to leave the whelping box and start exploring themselves.

After the 4-week point, you can then introduce your puppy to water and other forms of nourishment without worry. However, being successful in this can sometimes take a bit of persistence, as described below.

Handy Hint: Here’s how long you can expect your newborn puppy to go without eating or drinking in the first 2 months of their life.

Can puppies drink water at 2 weeks?

Newborn puppies should not drink water at the age of 2 weeks. Not only does water not offer them any nutritional value at this young age, but 2 week old puppies might even get a little sick when drinking water.

how to get puppies to drink water
This is my puppy at 8 weeks old – by this age, drinking water is second nature to them.

How to get puppies to drink water for the first time?

Learning how to introduce puppies to drinking water should be relatively simple, although it might take a little perseverance at first, especially teaching a puppy to drink water from its bowl.

The majority of puppies will find being introduced to water in a bowl almost second nature. You do get the odd puppy who might take a hour or two to get their head around the new drinking skill needed!

Classic examples where it’s harder to introduce a puppy to water will be where they might be frightened by the sight of their reflection for the first time. This then makes them reluctant to go near their bowl again without some encouragement.

To help stop this from happening you can use an non-reflective bowl; the smaller the bowl, the better, as well as having anti-gulp design – here’s one on Amazon.

Once your puppy is comfortable drinking from this bowl, you can try moving them back on to the metal bowl. After a bit of persistence, this type of fearful reaction in your pup should begin to disappear entirely.

Likewise, if you are introducing a group of puppies to water there is always the chance that one may become dominant over the water bowl, snapping at his brothers or sisters when they get too close.

If this does happen, introduce each puppy to the drinking water bowl individually, or remove the offending pup for a while until the others have had their chance to drink from the bowl.

Finally, you may find your puppy is reluctant to drink water because it has been used to drinking its mother’s milk. To make water more enticing, you can try adding small pieces of food to the water.

If this does not work, you can try mixing the water with one or two tablespoons of low sodium chicken broth. This should persuade the puppy to drink, and after they have become comfortable with this method, you can begin to lower the volume of the broth each time.

After a while, they should begin to get used to drinking just pure water.

How often should a puppy drink water?

Once you have successfully introduced your puppy to water, the next step is knowing how often puppies should drink water. Balance is required to stop them from drinking too little, or too much in one day. As they grow older, you can leave water out all day for them.

Overall, young puppies of 3 to 4 weeks old should be given around one half a cup of water every couple of hours to keep them hydrated whilst they explore their new world.

Any more than this can lead to frequent peeing around the house. Or in some cases, even vomiting or diarrhea.

Handy Hint: Read this guide if you have a dog or puppy who won’t stop peeing on the furniture in your house.

Do you leave water out all the time for a puppy?

Because of this, it’s important that you carefully monitor how much you give a puppy to drink if you want to avoid these sorts of mishaps from happening in your home.

Likewise, young puppies can easily get dehydrated if they are drinking less of their mother’s milk, and this can be extremely dangerous if not dealt with swiftly (we discuss this later in the article).

As they grow, puppies naturally begin to need less water.

Older pups who have completed the weaning process will, on average, need about ½ ounce to 1 ounce of water per 1 pound of their body weight in a single day.

And this trend continues all the way up until they are adult dogs. In addition, it is important to note that this can vary slightly, depending on how active the dog is.

Handy Hint: Whilst it’s nothing to worry about now, once the puppy gets to 6 months you will need to change from 3 meals a day down to 2.

How do you know if a puppy is dehydrated?

Dehydration in puppies should never be taken lightly as there is always the chance it could turn into a serious situation very quickly. This is true for all dogs; however, it is particularly relevant to puppies.

In addition, extreme cases of hydration can sometimes result in organ failure, and if left untreated can lead to death. Thus, it is important that you are aware that your puppy is drinking water throughout the day. If they show any signs of not drinking from their bowl, act quickly – here’s how.

Thankfully, there are warning signs to look out for which can tell you if your puppy is becoming dehydrated. Knowing these signs can help you to avoid anything serious from happening and can help you feel confident in the knowledge that you can spot this if happens to your pup.

After all, it isn’t always clear whether a pup has drunk enough water every time, especially if you are raising multiple puppies.

One of the most common symptoms of dehydration in dogs is skin elasticity. To test this, you can lightly lift or pull back the loose part of the skin located on the back of your puppy’s neck.

If they are dehydrated, the loose skin will not return back to its original place.

Likewise, a dry mouth or sticky gums, coupled with thick saliva can be another symptom of dehydration.

You can test this by lightly pressing your finger against your pup’s gums, and then removing it. A white patch will appear where you have pressed and will disappear rapidly if your puppy is hydrated.

Therefore, it is safe to deduce that your puppy is dehydrated if the patch takes longer than usual to disappear – or if it does not disappear at all.

Handy Hint: Once your puppy starts to drink water from a bowl, expect hiccups, a lot of hiccups

What should you do if your puppy drinks dirty water?

It can be exciting to take a puppy outside for the first time (here’s how long you need to wait); however, it is important to remember that the outdoors can also have its fair share of dangers for a curious or adventurous pup – one of these being standing or dirty water.

Many owners are probably unaware of the risks standing or dirty water can pose to their dogs – or do not take it seriously – even if they are aware.

In fact, most owners might not even notice when their puppy drinks water from outside, especially if they are distracted or otherwise occupied at the time.

Unfortunately, most outside water sources can pose a potential risk to a dog’s health, and because of this, the same is doubly true for puppies.

The reason for this is due to a disease named canine leptospirosis, which is caused by a bacterium called leptospira. This bacterium can be found all over the world, in any bodies of water, and is spread via the urine of animals infected with the disease.

Puppies that start drinking water from outside are most likely to pick it up from still or stagnant water. It can have disastrous effects on their health if they do. In some cases, it can even be lethal; here are the signs to look out for as described by avma.org.

“Signs of leptospirosis may include fever, shivering, muscle tenderness, reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in the frequency or amount of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes), or painful inflammation within the eyes.”

Therefore, it is always advisable that you monitor your puppy when it is outdoors.

Additionally, always keep your puppy on leash around any wet areas and make sure that your puppy does not start to drink water from any puddles or other sources of water.

Handy Hint: Here’s why dogs like to lap up and drink at rainwater so much, and what you should do if it becomes a habit with your puppy.

If your puppy does drink dirty water, try not to immediately panic. It is unlikely that they would have picked up the disease from their first drink.

However, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your puppy, and if they do show any symptoms of the disease as described earlier, you should take them to the vet immediately.


I hope I’ve put you’ve mind at rest about when puppies can start to drink water. There’s so much more to read on the Doggysaurus website, starting with some more suggestions below.

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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/puppy-new-born-dog-coton-tulear-3163956/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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