When Can Puppies Eat Dry Food Without Water?

By John Martin - March 13, 2023

Pug puppy eating dry food

Puppies take time to get used to new stimulants. This extends to the food they eat and the texture, taste, consistency, and content of this food.

For a few weeks after weaning, puppies typically need soft food or dry food mixed with water, after which you can move on to supplying dry food without water. Keep reading to learn more.

Why Puppies Need Water with Their Food

Puppies, especially those aged 3-9 weeks, need water with their food so that they have an easier time chewing what they consume. This is around the time that their teeth are still weak and in the developing stage, thus making it easier for them to take in food that has been softened using water.

This kind of moistened food further makes it easier for the puppies to easily move on from one kind of diet to another, which typically involves the following steps.

  • Relying on the mother’s milk for the initial three weeks after birth
  • Moving to formula and milk after the first three weeks are up, gradually leading to weaning
  • Eating dry food mixed with water with the formula and after you stop feeding the formula
  • Eating drier and drier food until puppies can manage to eat dry food without water

Adding water to the food also helps spread the smell and flavor of the food, making puppies more willing to try eating what is in front of them.

Essentially, dry food with water is needed for a smooth transition from the mother’s milk to regular milk or formula to food. It also makes for easier swallowing and digestion without issues.

When Can Puppies Eat Dry Food without Water?

At some point after feeding dry food with water, it is essential to stop mixing the food with the water. It is best to do this when your puppies are around 10-12 weeks old, although you can start mixing small quantities of dry food even when they are eight weeks or so.

There are several factors or criteria that help explain why 8-10 weeks is the optimal time to feed dry food without water to puppies. These factors will further explain why variations are possible, with some puppies being able to consume dry food earlier and some taking a long time to get used to it.


When puppies are still a few weeks old, it is easy for them to feel fearful and scared of new things in their environment. In fact, in the first couple of weeks, they only sleep and feed on the milk provided by their mother, with the next few weeks allowing them time to get used to their sense of vision, touch, smell and taste.

This makes it necessary for puppies to have a certain level or standard of established traits and habits before they can take in dry food. Their stomachs are also quite sensitive around this time, needing initial settlement in the form of wet food before they can digest dry food.


Breed-specific differences might also arise when it comes to figuring out when to feed your puppies dry food without water. Typically, breeds of smaller sizes might need a longer duration of feeding on soft food as compared to those that have a quick rate of growth and are bigger in size.

The amount of food you provide also differs for small and big puppies, which means that you will then need to adjust the amount of water in the dry food accordingly before you can shift to completely dry food.


Teething is a painful and long process for puppies that goes on until they are six months old. However, most of their temporary teeth should be in place by the time they are six weeks old.

Until this point and for a few weeks after it, they need to rely on soft food so that they can easily swallow the food as painlessly as possible.

Once the puppies get used to their new set of teeth at around eight weeks, it will become slightly easier for them to start chewing dry food, although some water will still be necessary.

Also Read: When Can Puppies Go In The Backyard?


Puppies take time to become familiar with new tastes. This applies even to the formula and wet food that you provide to them in the first few weeks of their life after weaning and also extends to the dry food you feed them.

Wet food retains a similar texture and consistency as liquids while also diluting the taste to a certain extent. Dry foods have a stronger taste and flavor, which is something that takes time for puppies to be able to take in.


Quite simply, puppies might not feel comfortable immediately eating dry food without water. The taste, hardness, fear to try a new thing out and inability to chew all contribute to this sense of discomfort.

It is vital for puppies to first feel comfortable putting dry food in their mouth. Give them some time to sniff out the food and feel it in their mouth so that they know better what to expect the next time around.

Eating Habits

It is necessary to inculcate eating and behavioral habits in puppies and dogs so that they learn what to expect and how to proceed the next few times.

If you keep feeding milk, formula and wet food for them beyond the first ten weeks, it is possible for them to develop a habit and expectation of this food, making it harder and harder to get used to dry food.

Forming a habit is easier at a younger age, so starting at 8 weeks is the best course of action.

Is It Essential to Stop Providing Water with Dry Food?

Technically speaking, you can keep providing dry food mixed with water to your puppies for a long time, even for their entire lives. In some cases, such as teeth conditions and diseases, it might even be necessary to keep the food soft enough for your puppies and dogs to ingest and digest properly.

However, as far as possible, introducing dry food without water to your puppies is a better idea so that they get used to it and are more comfortable with eating different kinds of food.

Relying only on softened food will result in them expecting that kind of food everywhere they go, the provision of which might not always be possible.

Additionally, too much soaking can also lead to bacteria and the spread of infections, something which is less likely to occur in dry food without water.

Making the Shift

Your puppies will not immediately be able to eat dry food without water given that it might be a new stimulation for them. Being used to only eating dry food with water, it is important to allow your puppies some time to get used to the sensation, texture and consistency.

Here is how you can make the shift to make things easier for the puppies as well as yourself.

Reduce Water Amounts Gradually

Make sure you gradually make the shift from dry food with water to dry food without water. During the first couple of weeks, it is a good idea to keep reducing the quantity of water that you add to the food.

Give your puppies 2-5 days to get used to each reduced water amount stage until they manage to eat completely dry food without any assistance or softening. This might take anywhere between two weeks and a month to carry out but will certainly make the transition and shift easier to achieve.

Provide Rewards

There might be certain kinds of treats that your puppies are able to eat and enjoy when they are still a few weeks old or some toys that they love playing with.

Providing these to your puppies each time they eat dry food without water during the first week or so will make it more likely for them to repeat their behavior, thus reinforcing it and establishing it as a common practice.

This kind of positive reinforcement instead of a reliance on negative reinforcement or punishment will have more long-lasting effects and will also make your puppy feel more comfortable.

Maintain Patience

Patience is key when it comes to introducing your puppy to dry food without water. Never scold or punish your puppies if they cannot eat dry food without water. Give the process some time and account for the breed-specific differences as well as potential teething troubles.

In case your puppies are still not used to eating dry food without water, consider taking them to the vet to determine the problem or asking a professional trainer to help you out.

Also Read: How Often Do Puppies Poop?

Summing Up

Puppies can eat dry food without water once they are around 8-10 weeks old. This is the best period for them due to their relatively established set of teeth and a gradual level of comfort in eating dry food without water.

Make sure you take it slow while trying to get your puppies to eat dry food without water while also relying on rewards and treats to encourage and establish this habit.