A whelp is a term breeders use for newborn puppies, who are all blind and deaf at birth and must rely on their mother for food. A canine mother will protect her young from the dangerous world outside her space and keep her puppies warm and fed. Breeders and dog owners can use a few methods when building or choosing boxes for an expectant dog.
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You can build a safe, warm and effective pen for your mama dog and her pups using sheets of quality, durable plywood. Make the whelping box at least 4 feet by 4 feet, and up to 8 by 8 feet depending on the size of the dog and number of offspring. When you have created a topless pen, cut a 12-inch side out of one edge of the box so the mother can step over the ledge and walk in and out, while keeping puppies in. The puppies should never be able to climb, crawl, scrape or burrow their way out of the whelping box.
Some breeders use half of a large plastic crate or a baby pool, but neither is recommended because puppies can slide on the slippery surface and hurt themselves. Instead, use parts of objects around the house to create a box, such as spare wood used for a deck and locks and hinges from a gate. Keep in mind that bigger does not mean more luxurious when creating a whelping box. A mother has to tend to all of her pups, and a 20-foot-wide pen may make it difficult for her to keep track of all of them.
Consider what you would like as the bottom of the pen. If you use wood as the base of the box, the box can start to smell from all the droppings and urine, and you cannot disinfect wood. Instead, line the bottom with a sheet of linoleum or place the box on a linoleum floor in your home that you do not mind cleaning each day. On top of the flooring, lay either fleece blankets approved by a vet, newspapers or a waterproof mat.
Breeders like to add pig rails inside the box. Pig rails are 4- to 6-inch-high rails that line the perimeter of the box. Mother pigs rely on these rails in their pens because they tend to lose their footing and accidentally sit on their piglets. Mother dogs also sometimes lose their footing with so many furry creatures nudging their legs. These rails keep the mama dog from sitting on and squashing one of her pups that she does not see or hear behind her. The rails give the puppy room to squirm out from under her because the bar keeps the mother from resting her full weight on the side of the pen.
Consider purchasing the entire box instead. Obtain a high-quality, durable whelping box from a breeder or reputable dog supply company you know or have heard about through a friend or other breeder. When testing the box in the store, make sure the box does not rattle and that the wall panels are sturdy and do not bend when you lean on them with your weight. Store-bought whelping boxes generally use PVC or other kinds of plastic panelling. Check that the box is washable and will not allow bacteria build-up. Usually, plastics are simple to wipe clean and keep fresh for the next litter of pups. You may choose to purchase a disposable whelping box that you will toss out when the litter grows out of it.
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