Anyone who has ever wanted to breed a dog has probably heard of the term whelping box and understood the importance of them. If you haven’t, you are in luck because I’m going to go through not only what a whelping box is but also how to design one for your large or giant breed.
However, before we start getting into creating your own, you should be aware that everyone chooses a different material for their whelping box designs. In fact, there are dozens of different ways that you can do for a whelping box and we have narrowed it down to our main design as well as listed a few alternatives.
With that being said, let’s get started and delve into the world of whelping boxes.
What is a Whelping Box?
A whelping box is exactly what it sounds like: a box where your dam will whelp (deliver) her puppies. It can be known as a whelping box, whelping pen and even a nesting box and there is no difference between those names.
In essence, the whelping box is a den for your mom dog. She will feel safe in the area and it is a quiet place to deliver her puppies. In addition to being that safe den or nest, it provides a number of benefits for your dam and her litter, including:
- Keeping the puppies safe and contained
- Keeping them warm and protected from cold and drafts
- Keeps them from being suffocated or crushed by their mom
A whelping box is made from various materials and every breeder has their preferred choice. However, you do want to have pig rails installed in the whelping box. If you are not sure what pig rails, also known as puppy rails, are, they are boards that are installed a few inches from the floor of the whelping box on the inside.
These boards are designed to provide puppies with an area they can slide under if mom presses against them. This keeps them from being crushed by your large breed mom when she lays down inside of them.
Do you Need a Different Whelping Box for Large Breeds?
The answer is no. Simply put, you are going to use a similar whelping box for a toy breed up to a giant breed.
The main difference between a whelping box for a toy breed and a whelping box for a large breed is that it will be larger in overall floor space and you’ll need higher sides, especially if you’re keeping your puppies in the whelping box for the entire 8 weeks, which I recommend you upgrade them to a play area that is easier to keep clean when they begin weaning.
Every whelping box will need:
- Secure sides
- An opening for the dog to get in and out easily
- Easy to clean flooring
- Pig Rails
Essential Considerations for a Whelping Box
Before you sit down and building your whelping box for your large breed bitch, there are a few considerations that are essential. These include.
#1 Make it with Durable Materials
When you are building your whelping box, make it with durable materials. If you are planning on having more than one litter, you really want to make sure that you can reuse it for several years. This will make it affordable and will also make sure that you always have one there when you need it.
#2 Choose Easy to Clean Materials
Whelping is messy, as is raising a litter. For that reason alone, you want to choose materials that are easy to keep clean and won’t absorb the mess. Trust me, if you don’t focus on this when you build, you will be left with a very dirty, and smelly, whelping box. You’ll have no choice but to replace it sooner than you planned.
#3 Build it in a Location that is Safe and Quiet
If you have the option, choose an area that is big enough for your whelping box and is a favorite place for your dam to lay. You want to choose an area where she can really relax and will be happy to stay in.
Make sure that you have an area that is not only big enough for the whelping box, but also big enough for you to move around it as needed. This is in the event that you have to assist mom if she needs help during delivery.
Finally, make sure you are building the whelping box in an area that has little traffic. Your mom will become stressed if there is too much happening in a whelping area, which could lead to complications.
#4 Build it Early
While you don’t need to build it right as soon as you breed your dogs, you do want to build it about 2 to 3 weeks before your litter is due. This gives mom the time to adjust to her new den and you won’t be racing to get it finished in time for puppies.
#5 Get in and Enjoy
Finally, once you are finished building it, spend some time in the whelping box yourself. With my very first dam, I slept in the whelping box for a good week before she was due. It became our quiet area and she was happy to stay in it when I wasn’t there once it was closer to the time.
Make it comfortable for her with heating pads, blankets and soft toys she enjoys. However, when it is time to whelp, you are going to pull all these items out, but, while she is acclimating to the whelping box, these things will help.
Materials To Build a Whelping Box
Now that we know the essentials of a whelping box, let’s get down to building. And first thing you need to do is go shopping.
Supplies you will need to build a whelping box are:
- Plywood or MDF Board
- 2 x 4 Lumber:
- 2 inch screws
- 1 1/2 inch screws
- Three-Sided Corner Brace with bolts (you will need 4 to 8)
- Door Hinges
- Door Hook
- Vinyl Flooring/Linoleum
- Sanding Paper
Notes on Materials:
- I really like MDF board for my plywood as it is easier to clean. Regardless of what you get, make sure it is at least 1/2 inch thickness. Depending on size, you will need 2 or 3 sheets.
- Usually 2 is enough, but, again, you will need more depending on size of the whelping box.
- If you are purchasing vinyl flooring/linoleum, use cheap end of the roll. Some people will recommend putting a bottom on your whelping box with the plywood but it is much easier to clean when you use the vinyl flooring/linoleum.
- If you are using plywood, also purchase high quality paint to cover the whelping box. This will help prevent any pee or other fluids from being absorbed by the wood surfaces.
Whelping Box Sizes
Okay, before you start building your whelping box, you are going to want to know how big to make it. Obviously, your breed is going to dictate how big your whelping box is going to be.
The general rule of thumb to get your measurement is to have your dog lay flat on her side and then measure her. Once you have measured her, add an additional foot to foot and a half to the whelping box. This will ensure that there is room for her, her puppies and the pig rails.
In general, what you are looking for in size are a minimum of:
- Large Breeds: 42 to 45 inches long by 34 to 40 inches wide. The ideal would be about 48 inches by 48 inches with a 1 foot height on the sides. The pig rails should be placed about 4 to 6 inches above the floor.
- Giant Breeds: 48 to 58 inches long by 40 to 48 inches wide. Again, the ideal would be about 60 by 60 inches with about 18 to 24 inches height on the sides. The pig rails should be placed about 6 inches above the floor.
How to Build a Whelping Box
Now that you have your whelping box materials, it is time to start building. First, many whelping box instructions say to use wood glue to keep it together. However, if you don’t have a designated spot for your whelping area, you will want to tear it down in between litters so you won’t want to glue it together.
- Cut the sides of your whelping box. You want to choose the length and height according to your breed.
- Cut the one end of your whelping box, keeping to the height and the width.
- If you are building a door, cut the bottom end of your whelping box. Cut a door into the center so you have three pieces.
- Sand the edges of the wood to prevent any slivers or sharp edges.
- Bolt the corner braces into the bottom of the whelping box, connecting the ends to the sides.
- Repeat and bolt the corner braces at the top to make the whelping box sturdier.
- Place the door between the two smaller pieces you cut into one end. Secure with hinges and latch.
- Measure the pig rails in the 2 x 4’s. Cut so they fit inside the whelping box.
- Place the cut boards into the whelping box 3 to 6 inches up the wall of the whelping box.
- Secure with screws.
- As needed, screw the sides so they are secure to each other.
- Place the whelping box onto the vinyl flooring/linoleum. You want the vinyl flooring/linoleum to overhang by about a foot outside of the whelping box to prevent any leakage
- Paint as needed
- Place in a quiet area for your large breed dam.
You can also place a blanket over the top of the whelping box to make sure mom finds it similar to a den.
Alternative Ideas for Whelping Boxes for Your Large Breed Dog
As I’ve mentioned several times, there are tons of different ways to build a whelping box and this means that you can come up with some pretty inventive ways. Many people prefer to purchase a whelping box that is easy to assemble, while others use tried and true DIY whelping boxes.
One thing that I should stress is that while you can use cardboard for smaller breeds, I would never recommend using cardboard for large or giant breeds. There is a lot of fluids during delivery and large breeds can have much larger litters, even up into the teens, which means the cardboard won’t hold up very well.
Instead, choose durable materials that aren’t going to create a mess for you to clean up.
#1: Plastic Kiddie Pool
This is often a whelping box that many breeders use, especially when they are first starting off. A kiddie pool is fairly inexpensive and are very easy to clean. You can get them in a variety of sizes to fit your dog and can even match them to a large or giant breed of dog.
If you are trying to create pig rails, you can attach pool noodles to the inside of the pool so your puppies will have that secure space. They do take up a lot of space and it is harder to tuck it into a corner but if you need something fast, easy to clean and inexpensive, then this is an excellent choice.
As mentioned above, you can purchase a whelping box and there are several companies out there who offer them. EZWhelp is a very popular company that has two different whelping box systems that breeders can choose from.
The boxes are easy to assemble, durable and they can be easy to clean. They are made with high quality materials and you can purchase add-ons to make sure that you have the space you need for your large breed litter.
One of the main cons with EZWhelp is that they can be quite expensive for large breeds.
EZWhelp whelping boxes come with pig rails that are usually very easy to install.
#3 Raised Garden Beds
The final, but definitely not the last if you are looking for other alternatives, is using raised garden beds. My personal preference is to use the plastic garden beds. They can be pieced together to any size, shape or height, which makes them a very versatile choice for a whelping box.
The plastic is easy to clean and you can open it up to create your puppy pen when they get a bit older. With the pig rails, all you need is PVC plumbing to create an excellent pig rail system that you can screw into place.
As you can see, while it is one of your most important pieces of equipment as a breeder, a whelping box doesn’t have to be a difficult thing to make. In fact, it can be an easy to make item. In addition, it can be torn down just as quickly after the litter goes to their new homes…and it will be ready for you to use it for the next litter. So when you make your whelping box, so keep longevity in mind and not just affordability.