If your dog is going to have puppies and is showing signs of going into labor, you will need to provide her with a whelping box so she has a safe place to deliver them. A dog in labor is called a "dog in whelp" or "whelping."
Description of a Whelping Box
A whelping box, or nesting box as it is sometimes called, is essentially the place where your dog will deliver her puppies and raise them for approximately the first six weeks of their lives.
Every whelping box should have a bottom and four sides. The sides should be approximately 12 to 18 inches high, with a lower opening at the front that makes it easy for the bitch to get in and out of the box. Ideally, the box will have an inner rail, called the pig rail, that runs around all four walls and is set approximately four to six inches above the bottom of the box. This rail prevents the bitch from accidentally pinning a newborn puppy against a wall and smothering it.
Whelping Box Size
The whelping box needs to be large enough for the mother and her puppies in all sorts of positions. It should be large enough for the mom to lie down and stretch out comfortably with room for the puppies. You can use your dog's crate size as a guide. A dog that can lay down and spread out in a 36" or 42" long crate would need a whelping box about 48" on each side. If she uses a larger crate, go for a 60" square whelping box. In general there should be about 12 inches added on to the crate size she uses and this can work for smaller dogs. Consult a dog breed whelping chart for the best size.
Whelping Box Temperature
It's important for the mom and her pups to stay warm, but also not overheat them which can make her very uncomfortable. You may want to keep the box at around 85" the first two to three days and then adjust to keep the temperature around 75 to 80 degrees. You should also adjust for your area's temperature. A location that has a warmer climate will not need as much temperature help as one in colder climates and in winter. Keep an eye on the mom to be sure. If she looks uncomfortable, is panting and is moving away from the pups, this means she's likely getting too warm.
Commercial Whelping Boxes
These boxes cost a considerable amount of money, but they are a good investment if you plan to be a professional breeder because they can be used over and over again.
- Jonart - Made from PVC and heavy duty plastic, this nesting box is non-porous so fluids won't soak in and the box can easily be disinfected. It's available in four sizes from small through extra-large, and prices range from approximately $400.00 to $800.00. Additional vinyl liners are also available.
- Dura-Whelp - Another top-of-the-line nesting box, the Dura-Whelp is made from strong, corrugated plastic with reinforced corner brackets to make the frame extra sturdy. The box has an inner rail and half-door in the front for easy access. It comes in four sizes, and prices range from $150.00 for a small box to $220.00 for an extra-large box. You can also purchase additional liners, pads and other accessories.
- EZWhelp - This company makes two types of whelping boxes. The Classic Value box is the economy model made of plastic and is best for small or medium size breeds. The FAB System Box is made from steel with fabric liners and reinforced construction made for larger size dogs or breeders who want a high-end model. Both boxes come in three sizes and can be expanded. The Classic Value box runs from $110 to $209 and the FAB sells for $299 to $449.
- MagnaBox - This durable box comes in several sizes from extra-small to extra-large and can be purchased from $390 to $800. The boxes are made of heavy-duty plastic and can be easily put together without tools. A whelping pad is required as the box has no bottom. The boxes are easy to clean and disinfect and can be stored flat when not in use.
Discounted Whelping Boxes
In addition to buying a new box, you do have the option of looking for a used box for sale. Some options you can explore are:
- Check out box manufacturers for discounts, such as EZWhelp which sometimes has boxes sold at a reduced price due to a customer return or minor damage during shipping.
- Search on local for sale websites such as Craigs List, Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp.
- Contact your local AKC or UKC Kennel Club. There may be breeders who have whelping boxes they would be happy to sell.
Make Your Own Nesting Box
Although not ideal, you can make your own whelping box if you can't afford to buy a professional model. Here are a few simple options to explore.
Quick and Easy Nesting Box Solutions
- A cardboard box may be adequate for a small breed dog. The box must be large enough to accommodate the bitch when she lies on her side, and ideally large enough for the average size litter for her breed. If you choose to use cardboard, you'll need several backups to replace the original when it becomes soaked with fluid.
- A Vari-Kennel can also make a decent whelping box unless you have a large breed dog. Simply unscrew the top and bottom and remove the door. You can then use the bottom portion for your whelping box.
- A plastic child's swimming pool can also be a good, inexpensive nesting box since it is waterproof and easily cleaned.
Keep in mind that none of these homemade alternatives include the inner rim to protect the pups from being laid on by their mother. You will also need to line them with plenty of newspapers and towels for the bitch to use as nesting material.
Printable Whelping Box Plans
If you happen to be a do-it-yourself type and you are interested in learning how to build a whelping box for your dog, use these detailed printable plans for a nesting box. The plans are printable and provide a comprehensive supply list and easy step-by-step instructions.
Additional Plans for Nesting Boxes
For additional whelping box ideas, see:
- McEmn.com - Free plan for whelping box using lumber and designed for Great Danes although you can adjust for your size dog.
- K-Nine Dobermans - Free plan for a wood 35-1/2" x 42" box made for large breed dogs such as Doberman Pinschers.
These models can be broken down for storage.
In addition to the nesting box, there are other accessories you can add in order to make mom and pups more comfortable as well as make cleanup easier.
- Heat lamp - This lamp can raise the ambient temperature in the box, but care should be taken that it is not close enough to the pups to burn them. The light should also be offset so the animals have room to move out from beneath it if they become too warm.
- Whelping pad - This is a fleece-covered vinyl heating pad designed to keep the pups warm until they can regulate their own body heat.
- Heated whelping nest - This is similar to a heating pad, but it is recessed in the bottom of the box and is especially useful for newborns.
- Liners - These provide water-proof protection that is especially important for wooden boxes. They also make cleanup easier.
Get Ready for Your Dog to Deliver
Now you have plenty of options for housing your dog and her litter. If you have further questions about nesting boxes and dog pregnancy in general, feel free to leave them in the comments box below.