If your dog is expecting, you are going to need an area for her to give birth. It is important for the mother and her puppies to feel safe and secure.
Your dog is going to need a warm and comfortable place for the duration. A whelping box is a perfect solution that suits her natural instincts to keep the pups safe.
The question now is do you Buy or DIY Your Whelping Box
Here are some points to consider when choosing a Whelping Box for Dogs.
- The Type Of Material used in the construction of the whelping box
- The appropriate size for your dog
- Is it sturdy enough to last for 2 months?
- Is it easy to keep clean?
- No Paint or Varnish
- The Cost
The Type Of Material used in the construction of the whelping box
Whether you DIY or buy a whelping box, you need to consider the material the box is constructed from.
As the puppies get older and their teeth come in, they will chew on anything in sight. The best types of material are softwood, hardwood and hard HDPE plastic.
Soft lumber is the most cost-effective option out of the three. Being a softer wood, the puppies are more likely to gnaw pieces off as they grow bigger and chew on things. This can result in them swallowing some chips or getting splinters in their mouths or stomachs.
Another choice is hardwood. It is more durable, longer-lasting and the puppies will find it more difficult to tear pieces off. It is more expensive than softwood but may be cheaper than hard plastic.
How to identify the type of lumber
The best way to test which type of lumber you are using is to press a fingernail into the wood. If your nail makes a dent easily, it is softwood. If it doesn’t, then it is hardwood.
Your local hardware store can help you identify one from the other.
Hard HDPE Plastic
Although the most expensive of the three options, hard plastic is easy to keep clean and there is no danger of a puppy chewing pieces off.
The puppies will be in the whelping box for 8 weeks, so choosing the correct material is important.
The Appropriate Size Whelping Box for your dog
The size of the box will depend on the size of your dog.
She needs to be able to lie down to whelp and nurse the newborns. And later on, move around with room to spare, but not so large the puppies can wander off and get cold.
As the puppies get older and start walking, they will use a fair amount of space themselves. They will need to be able to spread out while still being contained.
A good way to find out what size box she needs is by measuring her. Ensure she is fully stretched out on her side and then measure from nose to tail.
Add about a foot to that measurement. She will be moving around a lot over the next 2 months and you don’t want her or the puppies cramped.
If you are adding pig rails (recommended, as this will prevent her from squashing them) then add extra inches so the inside measurement stays the same size.
Once the puppies are old enough, they will venture out into the puppy exercise pen to explore. They will return to the whelping box frequently for nursing from their mother and sleeping at night.
Refer to the manufacturer’s specifications for the correct size if buying one, or the dimensions in the DIY section below if you are making one.
No Paint Or Varnish
Refrain from painting, varnishing or staining the box inside or out.
It may look pretty, but you don’t want chemicals poisoning your puppy.
The puppies will lick or chew on the box, ingesting chemicals that may make them sick. It is best to be safe and use only raw materials.
Is it sturdy enough to last for 2 months?
Whichever material you use, your whelping box will need to be built well.
The mother and babies will use this area for 8 weeks or longer and puppies can be rough.
If it isn’t made well, it may collapse. Not only would this make it a waste of money having to buy or make another one, but one of the puppies or the mother may get hurt.
Easy To Keep Clean
Birthing is a messy business and it is important to keep the box as clean as possible. The easiest way is to choose a material that is simple to clean. This will prevent any bacteria build-up leading to germs and sometimes illness.
Not only will the whelping box become smelly over time, but if it isn’t sanitary, it will also attract flies.
Frequently changing the bedding will help, but having a hard surface you can wipe clean makes the process much faster and easier in the long run.
Hard HDPE plastic is simple to clean and durable. Softwood is cost-effective to buy but less hardy and may splinter or swell from moisture.
Buy A Whelping Box
Depending on your situation, it might be easier or more appropriate to buy a ready-made whelping box.
Many breeders opt for the hard plastic whelping boxes. With sturdy construction and easy assembly, it saves time and frustration.
Removable pig rails can be added to the whelping box. They are perfect for the first few weeks after the pups are born.
Once the pups are bigger, the box design allows the breeder to remove the pig rails, increasing the area in size. This gives the mother and babies more room to stretch out, feed and play.
Once finished with the litter, it can be resold to recoup costs or folds flat ready to be used again.
Made of hard plastic, they come in a range of sizes to suit every dog and you don’t need any tools to assemble.
A great example of this is the Lakeside Plaza MagnaBox Whelping Box.
Made of FDA approved plastic, it is easy to clean and keep clean.
With no pre-made floor, you can choose your own type of flooring or liner.
The handy 2-panel door opening is easily adjustable to suit your puppy’s height as they grow in size.
Easy To Assemble
No Tools Required
Comes in a range of sizes to suit your dog’s needs
Can re-sell when you are finished to recoup some of the costs
Easily flat-packs for storage if you are having another litter in the future
Saves time as opposed to making your own
Optional heating lamp, pads, and liners
Easy Shipping due to flat-pack construction
More expensive than DIY
Have to disassemble the box to remove the pig rails once the puppies are old enough not to need them anymore
DIY Whelping Pen
If you have decided to try your hand at DIY here is a quick guide on the construction.
Supplies you will need:
- Plans for the Whelping box
- PVC Pipe
- Pipe Cutter
- Wood Glue
Wood Discs or letters to support the door
Generally speaking, a small-sized dog should need a whelping box that is 22 to 33 inches long and 22 to 33 inches wide.
A medium-sized dog should need a whelping box that is 29 to 35 inches long and 29 to 35 inches wide.
A large-sized dog should need a whelping box that is 42 to 49 inches long and 42 to 49 inches wide.
Extra-large or giant breeds should need a whelping box that is 50 to 59 inches long and 50 to 59 inches wide.
The height of the whelping box will depend on the size of your dog. Your female will need to be able to jump over the side to escape the puppies without her stomach or teats scraping.
The puppies will be suckling on her constantly and she will need to have somewhere away from them to have a break.
Alternatively, you can have a door with an adjustable height. As the little ones get bigger, add another section to stop them from escaping but not so high the mother can’t jump out.
I found an elevated dog bed alongside the whelping box worked well. She could jump out and have a rest, but still be close enough to watch over her litter.
Choosing the right material for your situation can be difficult.
Price range, ease of cleaning and even whether to buy or make a whelping box will all come into play.
Preplanning will help you to make the best decision for you, the mother and your puppies.
Knowing ahead of time where you will be raising the litter will decide which type of box will be the most suitable.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the bars for in a whelping box?
The bars in a whelping box are called pig rails. They are designed to prevent the mother from squashing a newborn puppy against the wall of the Whelping box.
Are whelping box for dogs necessary ?
A whelping box is a good idea as it makes her feel safe giving birth to her litter. It also helps to keep the puppies contained so they don’t escape.
When should I put my dog in a whelping box?
It is a good idea to show your dog the whelping box a week before the birth. Coax her to lie in it several times over the week. She will feel comfortable in it if her scent is already there when the big day arrives.
How long do the puppies need to stay in the whelping box?
Puppies can use the whelping box until they leave for their new homes. Once they begin exploring (around 3-4 weeks of age) remove the door and add a puppy exercise pen. They can then leave the box to explore and come back to it at night to sleep.