Nesting is a strong instinct in the animal kingdom. Just as birds build nests and women prepare nurseries, dogs work to prepare for the birth of their litter as well. Though it varies from dog to dog, soon-to-be moms begin getting ready one to two days before labour begins. Propelled by the hormone progesterone, the pregnant female’s desire to nest is a powerful instinct she will be determined to carry out. All in all, nesting is a valuable tool nature uses to adequately prepare a mother for her offspring.
What Should I Look for?
You know a female dog will soon begin labour when she becomes restless and appears to be preparing an area for where she would like to deliver her pups. She may gather cloth, papers or whatever she can find and place them in one spot as if preparing a bed. She may begin digging or scratching in this area as well in an effort to get the bed just right.
You may notice your dog’s appetite begin to decline, and as delivery approaches she will begin panting and salivating. Her body temperature will drop a few degrees, she will begin to pace on and off, and begin to lick herself as labour begins to set in.
What Is a Whelping Box?
The area you provide for you dog to deliver her pups is called a whelping box. It is a designated spot especially for her and serves two very important purposes. First, it provides the pregnant dog with the feeling she and her pups are safe. If a separate room cannot be provided, walling off a corner of the room with boards she can easily step over will do. She will be very protective during the time her pups are young, so it’s imperative to provide her with a safe and quiet environment.
Another value the whelping box offers is protection for your home. Failure to provide a box, including flooring such as plywood or plastic, is a sure way to invite household damage. A nesting dog will indiscriminately choose whatever suits her at the time, which may include things like your bed, couch, pillows or blankets. Since the pregnant mom has no idea what is most valuable to you, providing her with the supplies she needs is in everyone’s best interest.
What Supplies Do I Need?
Basic supplies for a mother approaching delivery, beyond the whelping box, are old towels, washcloths, sheets, pillowcases and newspapers. Once the pups are on their way, and particularly once they have arrived, you will need a good supply of all these items. Be especially prepared to stock up on newspapers. As long as the pups are under your roof, you’ll find you can never have too much paper.
Addition items you may want to have on hand are a pair of scissors, a nasal suction bulb for newborn puppies, a warming light (the clamp style works great), and a space heater to maintain proper room temperature.
What If There’s an Emergency?
About two weeks before you think your dog is going to deliver, check with your veterinarian. Ask if he/she will be available should you have questions or problems at the time of delivery. Should the doctor not be available, ask whom you could call in case of an emergency. Once you have an emergency contact, tape that phone number near the whelping area for easy access.