Whelping Box: Ideas, Plans and How to Build | All Things Dogs (2023)

Whelping Box: Ideas, Plans and How to Build | All Things Dogs (1)


  1. What is a Whelping Box?
  2. Whelping Box Plans and Ideas
  3. Whelping Box Plans and Ideas
  4. How to Build a Whelping Box (DIY Guide)
  5. Testing and Using a Whelping Box
  6. Summary

What is a Whelping Box?

So your dog is around 7 weeks into pregnancy; she is in her diestrus phase of her heat cycle. We need to start thinking about the whelping room and whelping boxes. Let’s have a look at what a whelping room is and what should be in it.


Pregnancy in dogs lasts between 58 and 63 days; around 2 months until puppies are born.

A whelping room is where your pregnant dog will give birth to her puppies. It should be calm and quiet – ideally away from busy routes through the house. A dining room is usually perfect. Mom needs to feel safe; that no-one is going to disturb or pose a threat to her puppies.

You should find a quiet corner for your box. A whelping box is where a dam will give birth; it is a small area, safe for her puppies.

You can buy a range of whelping boxes; cardboard, plastic or wood. They are generally around 4ft x 4ft in size with a height around 2 feet – high enough to prevent escapee puppies.

Puppies remain in the box usually until around 4 weeks of age; this is when they become more animated and therefore need more space to roam. This can sometimes vary depending on the breed of dog and how big the puppies are.

(Video) How to Build a Whelping Pen (Super Easy)

Whelping Box Plans and Ideas

Whelping Box: Ideas, Plans and How to Build | All Things Dogs (2)

Design of a Whelping Box

As we mentioned the box is usually around 4ft x 4ft with a height of around 2 feet – this is so puppies can’t escape.

There is usually an entrance/exit on one side – this can sometimes be a half door or a full door, depending on the size of the Mother. It should allow easy access for Mom to come back and forth from toilet breaks and accommodate for her low mammary glands.

If you have ever seen a whelping box you will notice a rail on the inside of the box; this is known as a pigrail. This rail prevents the Mother from crushing her puppies against the wall of the box. In wooden boxes it is usually a wooden rail, around 4 inches from the floor. In plastic boxes it is quite often plastic piping which has been laid on the floor (think plastic gutter piping).

If Mom rolls over during labor or nursing, she will hit the rail or the plastic piping, preventing any puppy getting stuck in the corner and crushed.

It is possible to use L-Shape plastic trim too – it just needs to be strong enough to not bend under the weight of Mom. Usually, touching the trim is enough for Mom to realize and readjust herself; keeping her puppies safe.

You can construct a whelping box from cardboard, plastic or wood.

Material: Advantages: Disadvantages:
CardboardCheap and DisposableWill easily absorb fluid and excrement. Difficult to keep clean unless plastic lined. Not as strong as other materials.
PlasticEasy to clean, Hygienic and SturdyCan be slightly more pricey
WoodSturdy and Better suited for large breedsWill absorb fluid and excrement unless waterproofed and Heavier to move.

Whelping Box Plans and Ideas

There are a range of designs for whelping boxes. However, the three fundamental design principles stay the same:

(Video) 15 Things You Need Ready Before Whelping

  1. Ensure it has a big enough area for the dam and her puppies (minimum 4 foot square of floor space).
  2. Ensure it has a rail system to prevent the mother from squashing her puppies (i.e. pigrail).
  3. Ensure it can be easily accessed by the Mother.


In one of the sides you would cater for an entrance/exit for the Mother (the size would vary based on the size of Mom – a smaller breed would need a lower entrance/exit).

Some boxes don’t have a base; this is usually if the whelping room has tiled flooring as it’s easy to clean. If you are placing it directly onto tiles, ensure you have plenty of newspaper and bedding down to insulate the puppies from the cold floor.

Let’s have a look how you would build your own whelping box.

How to Build a Whelping Box (DIY Guide)

Whelping Box: Ideas, Plans and How to Build | All Things Dogs (3)

The following guide works well for a cardboard, plastic or wooded whelping box. However, we decided to build a disposable whelping box for the following three reasons:

  1. Eliminate any chance of cross litter contamination
  2. Easy recycling/disposal after use
  3. Our dam was a small breed

Use the pros and cons, which we discussed above, to help you decided which material suits you best. For larger breeds, wood would be stronger and more sturdy. Here we are using a model, so keep in mind it’s not to scale.

Material Checklist

  • 1 x 4ft x 4ft base
  • 4 x sides measuring 4ft x 2ft
  • 4 x trims or piping/guttering for the rail

If you are building a plastic whelping box you will need:

  • 4 x 2x4ft – Sheets of plastic (sturdy and do not bend, twin wall is ideal)
  • 1 x 4x4ft – Sheets of plastic (sturdy and do not bend, twin wall is ideal)
  • 1 x Good quality plastic glue
  • 4 x 2ft lengths – Plastic trim (90° L-Shape)
  • 4 x 4ft lengths lengths – Plastic trim (90° L-Shape)
  • 3 x 4ft lengths – Rail either use plastic piping/guttering or L-Shape trim

If you are building a wooden whelping box you will need:

(Video) (American Bully) The best Whelping Box

  • 1 x 4x4ft of Plywood
  • 4 x 2x4ft of Plywood
  • Hammer and Nails
  • Wood glue
  • Wooden railing (3 x 4ft lengths)

Four Steps to Building a Whelping Box

Step 1
Measure and cut all the lengths that you need. On one of the sides, cut out an entrance/exit – the size of this will depend on the breed of the Mother (how big is she and how low does it need to be for her to easily get in and out).

Step 2
If using plastic, use the 90° L-Shape trim to glue the sides together. Glue along the inside of the trim and attach one side to each length of the trim (If using wood, nail the sides together).

Step 3
Attach the base – again using the trim if using plastic – you could glue the trim on the inside or the outside of the box to suit you. Nail the sides to base if using wood.

Step 4
Attach the rail – if using plastic, glue one side of the plastic trim to the side of the whelping box around 4 inches from the base. If using wood, glue the wooden railing to the sides of the box around 4 inches from the base. Don’t worry about attaching the rail to the side where you have the entrance/exit.

You can also watch this video guide.

Testing and Using a Whelping Box

Once you have built your box, the first step to using a whelping box is to get your dam comfortable when using it; she must feel safe and comfortable.

This starts with your whelping room. Remember to use our guidance above for a whelping room:

  1. Private and Low Traffic Room
  2. Placed in a Neutral Environment

Private and Low Traffic Room
The whelping box must be placed in a private and low traffic room in your house (i.e. calm and quiet with no kids, animals, or excitement).

(Video) Tutorial - Whelping Box for Large Breeds

Placed in a Neutral Environment
It should be placed somewhere in a neutral environment (i.e. no drafts, bright sunlight exposure and no direct heat source).


Once you have placed the whelping box in the whelping room, do not move it.

Getting Her Accustomed

Before your dam gives birth, she should have used (i.e. rested or slept) the whelping box and feel safe being there.

You should try and encourage her to sleep in the box during the last couple of weeks before birth. If she is reluctant to use the box, remember back to your socialization days. Use positive reinforcement and create a positive association for her to using the box. This can take the form of treats or praise.


As we have mentioned, the design of whelping boxes varies, so don’t worry too much. The important thing is that it is big enough for Mom and puppies, and you have remembered to attach a pigrail to prevent Mum from crushing her pups.

In short, choose the material which suits your budget and DIY skills, ensure it has 4 sides, a base, a way in and out and lastly a rail to keep pups safe.

If you choose plastic and cut it at any point, ensure there are smooth edges; you could attach a trim or tape.

(Video) Whelping Box On A Budget! How To Make A Dog Whelping Box -DIY

Have you built a whelping box before and do you have some advice to share with our readers? Feel free to comment below.


What does a dog need in a whelping box? ›

A whelping box. An absorbent material for the whelping box, such as newspapers (but these may become sodden quickly and often stay wet and cold), puppy pads, incontinence pads or vetbeds. Clean towels or paper towels to help clean up during labour. Towels for drying and cleaning up the puppies.

How do you set up a whelping box for a dog? ›

Tips for setting up a safe place for your dam:

Put the whelping box in a room that is isolated from other dogs. Many breeders set it up in their own bedrooms for the first three weeks. A door and/or gate should be used to keep other dogs away. An ex-pen around the whelping box provides an extra layer of safety.

What are the best materials for a whelping box? ›

Plywood or particle board can be used, however, to help keep cleaning easy, it should be painted with a latex, glossy paint so urine or fecal material isn't absorbed by the wood. Ideally all whelping boxes should have a puppy protective ledge around the inside to prevent crushing of the puppies by the mother.

How to make a cheap whelping box for dogs? ›

To make a whelping box out of a kiddie pool, find a pool size where your dog can lay out comfortably with some extra room for the puppies. You can line it with a round whelping pad, old towels, newspaper, or even covers made specifically for kiddie pools used for whelping.

What do you put on the floor of a whelping box? ›

Line the bottom with vinyl flooring.

If you have built your own whelping box, you may have used wood or cardboard for the bottom. These materials are not easy to keep clean. As such, it is a good idea to line the bottom of your box with vinyl flooring.

What items do you need for a dog in labor? ›

Some of the things that you should have on hand include towels, un-waxed dental floss, a heating pad, extra bedding, and newspaper. Place all of these items in a bag so that you can grab them as soon as your dog goes into labor. Consider this your go bag just as you would when you have your own baby.

Should whelping box be dark? ›

Whelping Area:

Place the box in a dark, quiet area of the house. This can be a basement, a closet, or a spare bedroom with the shades drawn. Allow the mother to freely come and go from her whelping area. Keep other dogs away from her whelping area so that she knows it is her place to deliver.

Where is the best place for a dog to give birth? ›

An ideal nest for dogs giving birth is a large cardboard box lined with puppy pads (in case of accidents), and filled with clean blankets, sheets or towels. Make sure the box is big enough for both mum and the litter to fit comfortably inside, and allow mum room for their own space if your dog wants it.

How long do dogs stay in whelping box? ›

They should be trying to climb out of their nest or whelping box by three weeks. By four weeks, the puppies should be able to walk, run, and play.

What is the best way to heat a whelping box? ›

Heat lamps can work for this purpose or choose a heating pad with an adjustable thermostat that's safe for pets. Be sure to talk with your vet for the recommended temperature setting that's right for your pups. When the puppies are born, begin by heating the whelping box to about 85°F to 90°F.

Can I use a dog crate as a whelping box? ›

Many owners ask if they can use a dog crate as a whelping box - the answer is yes, if your dog is already crate trained. This way, they may find security in using this as their whelping box too. Make sure your box or crate is in a quiet space, that's warm and large enough for movement and lots of little puppies!

How often do you change your whelping box? ›

Sanitation and Housebreaking

The whelping box needs to be changed at least once a day at this stage, and 2-3 times a day as the puppies begin eating solids and the mother is not cleaning up after them.

Does a whelping box need a floor? ›

The bottom of the box may or may not have a floor and may be lined with specially designed "whelping pads," or layers of newspaper (or fabric) to provide insulation from cold floors and to absorb fluids. Fabric covers or partial covers are often used on top to provide a "den-like" environment for the mother.

Can you use carpet in a whelping box? ›

Indoor/outdoor carpeting for the first few weeks in the whelping box can be used with success. It does need to be cut to size to fit the box. It requires a thorough washing to remove all chemical residue and to soften the nap. At least 2 pieces would be needed, one to use while the other is cleaned.

Can you use a plastic kiddie pool for a whelping box? ›

Choose a plastic kiddie pool that is round rather than scalloped like a sea shell. A pool that is 3′ in diameter will work well for a mini sized dog. The 3′ pool will also suffice for a dog who is on the smaller end of the medium size range as well.

Why do you need pipes in a whelping box? ›

The Whelping Box …

Ron has fixed a 40mm Waste pipe all around the Inside of the Whelping Box at a Hight of 80mm this allows the new-born puppies don't get squashed against the sides by their mum.

Do you need to heat a whelping box? ›

The whelping box must also be warm to prevent illness. Depending on the breed, the temperature of the whelping box will need to remain at a consistent temperature around 80 degrees, making it important to have a pad that is adjustable.

How do I make my whelping box comfortable? ›

To help your dog feel comfortable, place the whelping box in a private area. This room should be quiet, warm, dry, not too bright, and away from the usual traffic and excitement of your house. This will help your dog feel safe and secure after she gives birth.

How do you prepare a female dog for labor? ›

Whelping box
  1. Warm and comfortable.
  2. In a quiet, secluded room that's kept at around 22°C.
  3. Lined with a clean, washable, absorbent bedding (towels are perfect).
  4. Big enough for your dog to stretch out and turn around in.
  5. High enough to stop newborn puppies escaping, but low enough for your dog to step over.

What do female dogs need after giving birth? ›

After giving birth, she must resume intake of highly palatable, good-quality food as soon as possible. The inexperienced or overattentive mother may be reluctant to leave the pups. Bring food and water to her if necessary. Some females are anorexic for a few days after whelping.

What do puppies need after birth? ›

The pups should be kept warm, free from drafts, away from other dogs, and the neighbors and their children. Healthy well-nourished pups should be quiet, eat and sleep (with some jerking during REM) 90% of the time, gain weight daily after the first 2 days, and show increasing strength and body tone.

How much time should a mother dog spend with her puppies? ›

At what age can puppies be separated from their mother? The minimum time a puppy must be with its mother is 6 weeks, a period of time after which the puppy begins to wean. However, this is the bare minimum. The ideal minimum time that the puppy should be able to separate from its mother is 8 weeks.

Should I have blankets in a whelping box? ›

You can use towels, sheets, and blankets for bedding your puppies when they start moving here and there. Make sure that the bedding material should possess body-heat retention level. The bedding should be such that it can absorb body fluids and urine properly. It is essential to keep the bedding dry.

Should you touch puppies after they are born? ›

Start handling the puppies.

By about three weeks of age, you can—and should! —begin gently handling the puppies1 for short periods for reasons other than basic health care. Once the puppies have their eyes open, you can try carefully picking them up, holding them for a bit, and placing them back in the box.

What is the most common day for a dog to give birth? ›

The skeletons have hardened and therefore the pups could be born at any time from now on, day 63 is the most common day for birthing. My litter of pups were born on day 60 and had no problems whatsoever. Towards the end of this week, she will start to produce colostrum.

Should I cut the umbilical cord of a puppy? ›

Once the puppy has been born, clear the membranes and then cut the umbilical cord. If the afterbirth is still inside the mother, do not worry.

What is the most critical time for newborn puppies? ›

“The neonatal period from birth to 3 days of age is a critical stage for puppies,” cautions Dr. Smith. “Intervention in the first 72 hours should be used judiciously. Experience can help tell you when to intervene.

Can a whelping box be too big? ›

Many considerations go into setting up the ideal whelping box for your breed of dog. Importantly, the size should be appropriate — large enough for a dam to stretch out with some room to spare — as a box that is too large can cause her great distress.

What temperature is too hot for newborn puppies? ›

During the first four days of a puppy's life, the orphaned dog should be maintained in an environmental temperature of 85° to 90F (29.4° to 32.2°C). The temperature may gradually be decreased to 80°F (26.7°C) by the seventh to tenth day and to 72°F (22.2°C) by the end of the fourth week.

Is a heat lamp or heat pad better for puppies? ›

The uniform heating, reduced risk of dehydration, and the temperature-adjustment ability are just a few of the reasons that a heating pad is a better option for your puppies and the winner of the 'pad vs. lamp' debate.

Can a mom dog keep her puppies warm? ›

Under normal circumstances, neonatal puppies depend on their mom to maintain their body temperature. But your situation is far from normal. Without external heat, it doesn't take long for a puppy to become chilled (hypothermic).

What temperature is too cold for puppies? ›

Puppies and small dogs don't have the body mass to generate as much heat, so bundle them up anytime the temperature drops below 45 degrees.

How do I stop my mother dog from crushing puppies? ›

Not all have the instinct to nose the puppies to the center of the whelping box for safety. Smothering, crushing, and laying down on the puppies can be prevented by installing railings that help prevent the dog from accidentally lying on a puppy that may have slipped behind her.

Can I leave 3 week old puppies alone? ›

According to the American Kennel Club, puppies younger than 10 weeks cannot be left alone for more than an hour. From 3-6 months, they should not be left longer than their age in months (for example, 3-month-old puppies cannot be alone for longer than 3 hours).

Where do you keep puppies after whelping box? ›

From day 29 to 49 puppies will venture away from the whelp box sleeping area. They will not go far, but they will begin to explore. At this time we expand their area to add a play and eating area in the daytime. This is the time to move them out to the kitchen and family room area, where life is happening in the home.

How long do you need pig rails in a whelping box? ›

The whelping box has pig rails (to prevent pups from being suffocated by their mother) that are removed after two weeks and replaced with a small potty area. The pups begin housetraining as soon as they start to walk.

Why does my dog keep sitting on her puppies? ›

Once a dog gives birth to her puppies, two different hormones contribute to her motherly instincts. The first is oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone.” It's what drives a mother dog to nuzzle her puppies or wrap around them to keep them warm while nursing.

How tall should a dog whelping box be? ›

Necessary Height: Whelping Box need to provide protection to both mom and puppies. Whelping Box should be AT LEAST 22" high for sufficient protection to puppies up to 8 weeks old. Small breed mother dog also need at least 22" high to PREVENT them from easily jumping out.

What is the best thing to put in the bottom of a whelping box? ›

An absorbent material for the whelping box, such as newspapers (but these may become sodden quickly and often stay wet and cold), puppy pads, incontinence pads or vetbeds. Clean towels or paper towels to help clean up during labour.

What are whelping pads? ›

Also known as pee pads, piddle pads, potty pads, training pads, or even whelping pads, as well as a lot of other names, puppy pads are pads that are square or rectangular in form that are meant to absorb your dog's leaks.

How do I keep my puppy warm in a whelping box? ›

You can keep your puppy warm using:
  1. Heating pad. Manufacturers of heating pads made for people do not recommend them being used on animals. ...
  2. Hot water bottle. ...
  3. Heat lamps will warm him up, but they can be dehydrating and hard to regulate. ...
  4. In an emergency you can fill a heavy sock with ½ cup uncooked rice.

How long should puppies stay in whelping box? ›

They should be trying to climb out of their nest or whelping box by three weeks. By four weeks, the puppies should be able to walk, run, and play.

How long can you leave newborn puppies unattended? ›

How Long Can Puppies Be Alone? Remember, dogs and especially puppies need to urinate often. As a guideline, new puppies up to 10 weeks old typically can't hold their bladder for more than an hour. Dogs between 10 to 12 weeks old can usually hold it for around two hours.

How often should you change the bedding in a whelping box? ›

At 2.5 weeks, open the whelping box and add an area two times the size and cover with newspaper…. Change the bedding in the box several times per day, but do not change the paper often (keep it smelling like a toilet and keep the bed smelling like a fresh bed…)

When can mom dog sleep away from puppies? ›

Puppies should not leave their mom and littermates before eight weeks of age. The mother dog has so much to teach the new puppy; lessons that will affect him all his life, and his littermates teach important lessons as well. If the mother dog has passed away, the littermates need to remain together.

Can you use a dog crate for a whelping box? ›

Many owners ask if they can use a dog crate as a whelping box - the answer is yes, if your dog is already crate trained. This way, they may find security in using this as their whelping box too. Make sure your box or crate is in a quiet space, that's warm and large enough for movement and lots of little puppies!

How often should I check on newborn puppies? ›

It is recommended, particularly with a first-time mother, to check the puppies every few hours to make sure they are all suckling and are warm and content.

Should you keep one of your dog's puppies? ›

It's a very common misconception that a female dog should have one litter before being spayed (neutered). Not only is it an out-dated concept, with no evidence to support that breeding a litter is either physically or psychologically beneficial to a dog.


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