For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a whelping box is the place where a pregnant dog will be delivering her litter. If you are new to this you will find this information very important, as it is essential for you to set up a place where the litter will be delivered safely. The process of your dog going into labor is called whelping, hence, the name given to the box.
First, the whelping box is not just a delivery room. The new litter will be living there for about the first six weeks of their lives so it must be more than just a box laid out on the floor. It needs to have four sides, with each side having a height between 12 and 18 inches. At the front of the whelping box there needs to be a place for the mother to get in and out, so create an opening with the best size that makes it easy for her.
On the inside there should be an inner rail that sits between four and six inches of the bottom of the box. It should be secured around all four sides of the box. The purpose of the rail is to prevent the mother from smother a puppy, an event that happens when the mother unintentionally pins it against one of the walls.
As for the overall size of the box, the measurements should allow for the litter to stretch out and lie down in virtually every type of position. The simplest way to determine the size regardless of the size of your dog is to take the size of its carrying crate. A rule of thumb is to add 12 to 18 inches to the dimensions of the crate to arrive at the final size of the whelping box.
But safety is not the only consideration for the whelping box. The box must also be warm, not only for the mother but for the litter as well. It is important not to overheat either because they will very uncomfortable and result in unexpected problems. The recommendation is to heat the environment of the box to 85 degrees for the first few days, then lower it to between 75 and 80 degrees. One of the key signs to look for is how the mother is responding to being in the box. If you see her panting and/or starts moving away from the puppies, it is likely it is too warm of an environment.
There are whelping boxes that you can buy at a pet store or other store that sells pet supplies, or you can make your own. The commercially sold types can be made of plastic and have liners that can be changed like diapers when the fluid buildup in the box requires the liner to be changed. Prices can range from $100 to as much as $400 or more, so shop around to see if you can get a better deal.
If this is the only time you believe you will be needing a whelping box you may consider building your own. We are saying “may” because you will likely need to build more than one in case fluids leak on the box and it has to be discarded. Professionals warn that this is not the best choice and should only be used if you are financially strapped and can’t afford a commercially constructed one. The best case scenario for building your own box is if your dog is off the small breed type.
For the liner you can consider using the liner from a small swimming pool. Plus, you need to line the box with newspapers and towels because the mother will need nesting material for the inside of the whelping box. One feature of the box that is missing from the homemade version is the inside rail. You can construct one based on the sturdiness of the cardboard, but be sure to also check in on everyone as a safety precaution.
So you should have a good sense of the reasons and design for the whelping box. Some dog owners are caught by surprise when discovering their bitch has become pregnant, and it happens more often than you think. This is why there is a constant call to have your pets spayed or neutered. Should you find yourself in this position, it is best you find enough money to get the commercial type of whelping box to make things easier on everyone. You can always sell it after you are done with it in six weeks.