A whelping box is almost a requirement for breeding dogs. “Whelping,” or the giving birth by a female dog, is a stressful process. The puppies must stay warm and near their mother, or they will be unable to nurse.
Whelping boxes should have firm sides, be just the right size, and have an absorbent liner. Today, we’ll talk briefly about what, exactly, a whelping box should be, and some of my favorite boxes.
What Is a Whelping Box?
Whelping boxes are, at their very core, a small box suited to keeping newborn puppies. They provide enough room for the mother to stretch out and turn around, but aren’t big enough that the puppies get lost. Measure your average girl lying flat-out, and add 8 inches if she’s a small breed, and at least 12 if she’s a large breed.
All whelping boxes should have “pig rails.” The most common accidental cause of newborn deaths, being squished by the mother, is prevented in many cases. This is a small railing, 4 to 6 inches from the bottom of the box, that the puppies can fall under in case the mother squishes them up against the wall. Align pig rails by measuring the height of your bitch’s spine when she’s laying down, and place the pig rail about an inch below that level.
Finally, consider how long the puppies will be kept in the whelping box. They grow quickly, and by 5 weeks old most puppies are too big to stay in the whelping box full-time. Higher sides, or an exercise pen, keep the puppies in the box longer.
The Best Whelping Boxes
The best whelping box is the one that suits your family, dogs, and breeding setup best. If you’re only having one “oops” litter, or taking care of a rescue, you don’t want or need as high quality whelping box as someone who plans on breeding five litters this year. You’ll find three categories below: Traditional Whelping Boxes, Re-Purposed Whelping Boxes, and Whelping Box Accessories. Don’t forget to check out the accessories for important gear.
Note: Click on the picture or link for purchasing options.
Traditional Whelping Boxes
Traditional whelping boxes are manufactured for the specific purpose of whelping puppies. These come with pig rails (some require you to purchase specifically made ones separately) and have an easy-in-easy-out for the bitch.
The MagnaBlocks Whelping Box
The MagnaBlock Whelping Box is a modular box designed in five sizes. These easy-to-assemble boxes are built from grime resistant plastic, and include a pig rail. They don’t have a bottom, so can be placed on your choice of absorbent material. The entry door has two pieces, so you can make it easier for Mom to get in and out.
This box is the perfect option for someone who anticipates having several litters and wants a whelping box that will stand up to heavy use. It’s also great for keeping litters in longer, because the double-door provides a higher barrier as the little stinkers get big enough to climb.
Re-Purposed Whelping Boxes
When you use an object intended for another purpose as a whelping box, you have a re-purposed box. These are great for people who need a box for only one litter, because you can use them for something else later. Generally, they aren’t as durable as a purpose manufactured box, but usually cost less as well.
Garden boxes provide perfect whelping boxes for the first time breeder. They don’t have a bottom, but are easy to place on top of a durable whelping surface.
Downside? They aren’t very deep, and don’t come with pig rails. As soon as the puppies start walking, they can escape, or Mom can walk away. If you don’t also have an exercise pen, you’ll need one to go with the whelping box.
Small swimming pools make awesome whelping boxes. They have the waterproof factor going on, and are usually inexpensive. On the definite downside, they don’t take to pigrails well. If you intend on having more than one litter, a more durable (and square) whelping box is probably best.
Whelping Box Accessories
Whelping Box Liners
Every whelping box needs a liner. Some breeders use towels or sheets, but it’s easy for pups to get caught underneath and suffocate. A proper whelping box liner is machine washable, and properly sized for the box. Buy at least five or six, so it’s easier to keep your puppies clean.
Heating Mats or Heat Pads
Temperature is super important to keep your puppies alive. While they do gain body heat from their mother, they also need a constant source of warmth in the whelping box. The whelping box should have both warm and cool zones, so they can regulate their own temperature. Some breeders use heat lamps, but these can burn the mother and provide uneven heating. I recommend this particular mat because it’s intended to be outdoors and can handle more wear and tear.
Yep, you definitely need an exercise pen. As the puppies become more mobile (and larger) Mom will want to spend a little bit of time on her own. An exercise pen around the whelping box gives her more space, without being able to carry the puppies somewhere more “suitable.”
Other Whelping Supplies
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the supplies you’ll need to whelp a litter, but it will help you set up a safe and simple area for your bitch to give birth.
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- How to Keep a Newborn Puppy Alive
- Breeding Back to Back: Is It Truly Better?
- Petlosopher’s Breeder Services