First things first. What is whelping? The word whelp means puppy in the womb. Just like humans have a fetus, dogs have whelps. So giving birth is whelping and a whelping box is a box designed to keep your dog and puppies safe during birth. A whelping box can be anything from cardboard boxes to plastic tubs.
What To Look For In a Whelping Box
Most whelping boxes are made from cardboard, plywood, or plastic. There are certain features you want to look for in a good whelping box.
- Easy to clean and keep sanitary
- Portability if you need to move it around
- Durability if you plan on multiple breeding
- Easy set up and take down.
You want to have the sides of the box high enough to contain your puppies but low enough for the mama to be able to enter and leave comfortably. You need to consider her mammary glands which will be full of milk and hanging down. Often people like to have doorways with adjustable heights to be able to accommodate differing height needs. There is no one standard height because dogs are different sizes the the height needs to be based on your dogs height needs.
The bottom of the box should be lined with newspaper or whelping pads to provide insulation from the cold and to absorb fluids. These pads need to be changed daily if not 2-3 times a day. Covering part of the box with fabric to create a “den” is nice for the mother. It provides a level of privacy and a sense of safety. In the wild dogs would not have their puppies out in the open, they would find a place with cover to keep them safe from predators. Even though you don’t have predators in your house, this instinct is still there. A full covering can also help prevent the puppies from escaping.
Most whelping boxes will include a low railing (pig rail or roll bar) that is attached to the inside of the box and goes around the entire box. This protects the puppies from being crushed or smothered by the mom if she rolls over during birth or when she is sleeping.
What material is best for a whelping box?
Plastic is the best material for a whelping box that will be reused because it can be easy to clean and keep sterile. Wooden boxes can be cleaned as long as the wood has been properly sealed and line the bottom with vinyl. Cardboard is good for a one time use and then thrown away. You can make your own or you can buy pre-made whelping boxes, There are lots of great tutorials online that will show you how to make your own,. There are some great pop up whelping boxes that are not very expensive that you can buy and quickly assemble. Ultimately you just want to set up a safe and comfortable space for your mama dog and make sure that it is not in a high traffic area. You want your whelping box to be in a quiet location.