During those first few weeks a good mother wakes her young by cleaning them, licking them and stimulating them to feed. Good mothers find suckling activity both relaxing and comforting. But suckling is for bonding with mother too not just for filling the stomach. Finding and defending the most productive teat is also the behaviour of the most dominant in the litter. A knowledgeable dog breeder recognises subtle puppy activities such as their behaviour at the feeding trough and can advise you about personality differences within a litter.
Young that need hand feeding either because the mother is ill, doesn’t have enough milk or has rejected her litter, are more likely to be delayed in developing their social skills with others than those that have suckled normally. Kittens suckle for six weeks for nourishment and for another six weeks for emotional development. Those denied that final six weeks may become ‘wool suckers’ or ‘people suckers’ as adults, kneeding our jumpers and sucking on them (or on us).
By two weeks of age pups start actively approaching their mother for a feed; but as their pin-sharp teeth develop and suckling becomes uncomfortable for their mother, she starts to reduce the frequency or length of time of her feeds. Left to the pups they would want to suckle forever but their mother has other views. Producing milk is hugely energy demanding and physically drains her. Good mothers always lose weight. Her evolutionary desire is to wean them on to solid food as soon as possible.