A whelping box gives your momma dog and new puppies a safe haven for the first few weeks of the pups' lives. The box is essential to keep the puppies warm and contained and to give momma a safe place to rest and nurse. Proper construction is key to ensuring your whelping box is safe, warm, comfortable and that momma will actually use it.
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Choose an option based on your budget and preferences. One of the best low-cost, easy to clean whelping box options is a children's plastic wading pool. They are easy to use, easy to sanitize and much cheaper than other pre-made products. The size of your whelping box depends on the size and breed of your dog. You must allow for enough room for the mother to lie down and completely stretch out on her side. There must also be room for the pups to move around as they grow. The sides must be tall enough to contain the pups, but short enough for momma to easily see what they're up to. Too big and it will be difficult to keep warm, too small and she could lay on and suffocate her pups.
Choose a location that is quiet and free of drafts. Inflate or assemble the pool and place it in your designated quiet spot. Alternately, assemble your materials and tools and begin box construction.
Determine what size and shape whelping box you need based on the size of your dog. These directions make a medium-sized breed, 4 foot by 4 foot box. Scale them up for larger dogs.
Cut your plywood in half lengthwise to make two 8 foot long, 2 foot high sections. Cut these in half again to make four 4 foot long, 2 foot high sections. Cut a 1 foot by 1 foot section out of one side to make a door for your momma dog. Secure the walls of your box together with the corner brackets. Secure the 4 x 4 foot floor to the walls of the box with wood screws.
Cut each 2 x 4 x 8 foot board in half to make sections that will fit inside your whelping box. These are the "pig rails," which will keep the mother from lying on any of her puppies if they get wedged against corners of the box.
Screw your first two rails onto the inside of the whelping box, approximately 4 inches off of the floor. Trim the ends of the boards for the opposite sides of the box to fit around the existing rails. Screw the second two rails in place.
Apply several layers of polyurethane finish to the box or prime and paint it as desired. Allow to dry thoroughly until no odor remains.
Install a heating pad made specifically for whelping or an animal heat lamp according to package instructions. Apply stick-on thermometers to various locations inside the box to monitor temperature. Adequate whelping box temperature is around 95 degrees and must be maintained for a minimum of two weeks. Make sure there is also space for pups to escape the heat and that there is no way for them to come into direct contact with the heating element.
Layer bedding in the box. Basic bedding is clean newspaper and old blankets that have been washed in hot water and dried or new blankets specifically purchased for the pups. Bedding must be changed several times per day, as the pups will begin to potty on it soon after birth. Avoid any fabric that can trap a pup's claws, such as worn terry cloth towels.
Keep it clean. Illness can be easily transmitted to vulnerable newborn pups. Take great care to assure that the mother and puppies are not exposed to other dogs. Even humans and clothing can carry diseases. Wash and sanitize anything that will come into contact with new puppies. Remove the mother and pups once a week for a few minutes and disinfect the whelping area. Place mother and pups into a large cardboard box or other secure area while you wash the box with parvoviricide or other disinfectant solution and allow it to dry. Replace the bedding and put the mother and pups back in the box.