Puppies are a joy to have in your household. However, ensuring the safety and comfort of a new litter can take a bit of work. A properly constructed whelping box is an essential part of assuring that your new mother and puppies are as safe and comfortable as possible.
Decide on what you want. The type of whelping box you choose is entirely dependent on your budget and preferences. One of the best low cost, easy to clean whelping devices is a child’s plastic blow up style pool. They are easy to use, easy to sanitise, and much cheaper than other pre-made products. The size of your whelping box depends on the size and breed of your dog. You want to allow for enough room for the mother dog to lie down on her side, with room for the pups to move around. Anything too big will be difficult to keep warm and, anything smaller, could result in the female lying on her pups.
Choose a location. If you prefer to use the child’s pool for your whelping box, choose a spot that is quiet and free of drafts. Inflate the pool, and place it in your designated quiet spot. Most whelping boxes need to be heat regulated to ensure that the newborn puppies stay warm enough, so a heating pad made specifically for whelping, or a heat lamp, will ensure that the pups stay warm enough. Bedding is another item that will help keep the pups, and the mother, comfortable and secure. Adequate whelping box temperature is around 35 degrees C, which needs to be maintained for a minimum of two weeks, to be sure the pups are warm enough. Old blankets, which have been washed in hot water and dried to ensure disinfecting, or new blankets specifically purchased for the pups, will be fine. You’ll need to change the bedding quite often, as the pups will begin to potty on it soon after birth.
Build a box. If you decide that a more permanent whelping box is needed, you can construct your own. You’ll need to determine what size and shape whelping box you need, and base your plans off of the size of dog you have. Most medium-sized breeds are fine in a 4 foot by 4 foot box, with larger breeds going up in size from there. Cut your plywood in half lengthwise, so you have two 8 foot long, 2 foot high sections, and cut those in half, so you end up with four 4 foot long, 2 foot high sections. In one of these sections, cut a 1 foot by 1 foot section out, which will allow for a door of sorts for the female to get in and out. These will be for the walls of your box, which you can secure together with the corner brackets. Cut your 2 x 4 x 8 foot boards each in half, which will leave you sections that will fit in your whelping box. These will be used for what’s known as “pig rails”, which are rails which will keep the mother from lying on any of the puppies, should they happen to get wedged up against the corner of the box. Screw your first two rails onto the inside of the whelping box, approximately 4 inches off of the floor. You will need to trim the ends of the boards for the opposite sides of the box to fit around the existing rails, and screw them in place as well. You can then stain or finish your whelping box as you prefer, although use of a waterproof stain is helpful for cleaning and disinfecting.
Keep it clean. A vital part of your whelping box, regardless of it’s type or design, is disinfecting and cleaning. Viruses and illnesses are something that can be easily transmitted to the vulnerable newborn pups and great care should be taken to assure that the mother and puppies are not exposed to other dogs. Other outside sources, even humans and clothing, can carry diseases, and everything should be well washed and sanitised before coming into contact with your puppies. As the puppies grow and develop, they will begin to make messes, wetting and soiling on the box and bed. You can remove the mother and pups once a week for a few minutes to disinfect your whelping area. Place the mother and pups in a large cardboard box or other secure area while you wash your whelping box with your disinfectant solution and allow it to dry. Replace with clean bedding and put the mother and pups back in the box.
When constructing your box, make sure all of the hardware faces outward. That way, none of the sharp ends or metal pieces come in contact with your puppies or the mother. You can place newspapers, or other absorbent material, in the whelping box as the puppies grow, to help absorb moisture and wetness. Just be sure to change them frequently.
Never let strange dogs or people handle your puppies, or come into your whelping area. It can be very dangerous for both the mother and the pups. Keep a close eye on the temperature of your whelping area. A well-controlled temperature and contained environment will keep your puppies healthy and stable.