Mom dog licking puppy

Ultimate Whelping Box Guide for Fosters, Breeders and Pet Owners

November 10, 2021

by Diane Zahorodny

Whelping or to whelp means to give birth and a whelping box is a space designed for dogs to give birth and raise their puppies until their eyes and ears open around 2-3 weeks old. There’s a wide range of whelping box options from cheap and disposable to stylish and reusable.

Included In This Article

  • What Features Should a Whelping Box Have?

  • Where Should You Put a Whelping Box?

  • How to Interact with Mom and Puppies in the Whelping Box

  • What Do We Use for Our Whelping Box?

  • DIY Whelping Box Ideas

  • DIY Whelping Box Idea Videos

  • Whelping Boxes You Can Buy

  • Whelping Box Accessories

Want My Worry Free Whelping Guide?

Learn what to expect and how to help so you can relax and enjoy your puppies being born with this free 17 page download

Cover for whelping guide

What Features Should a Whelping Box Have?

  • Large enough that mom can fully stretch out and move around without stepping on puppies

  • Waterproof and easy to disinfect or disposable

  • Solid sides that prevent drafts and puppies from escaping

  • An easy way for mom to get in and out

  • Bumper rails around inside of box to prevent mom from smashing and injuring puppies against the side (may not be

    necessary with small breeds)

  • Bedding that lays flat, offers good traction and can be washed on high heat or bleached

  • If your puppies are stressed, have thin coats or the room does not stay above ~75 degrees, your puppies may need a supplemental heat source (lamp or heating pad). NOTE: too hot is just a dangerous as too cold. Be sure the heat source is carefully secured in place, there are no accessible wires and that mom and puppies can easily move away.

Bonus Features

  • Designed to expand into a weaning pen to create play area and bathroom. Once the puppies’ eyes and ears are open, they will need more space

  • Built in seats/shelves

  • Heat lamp/scale attachment

Where Should You Put a Whelping Box?

A whelping box should be in a room that is fairly quiet, climate controlled and has a door that can be closed. Animals should be kept away unless mom shows no signs of stress by their presence and they are past their two week quarantine and are are healthy. Keep in mind that whelping is a messy business, some of the stains are permanent and it is not unusual for mom to get diarrhea before and/or after birth. To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, you will need to be able to sanitize the floors and, possibly, the walls with either high heat or chemicals. A room with carpeting may not be a good option.

How to Interact with Mom and Puppies in the Whelping Box

For the first few days after the puppies are born, keep things pretty calm and only familiar people should visit. Shoes should be removed before entering the room. I use a pair of Crocs as my puppy-safe shoes because they slip on easily and can be disinfected with bleach. Once the puppies are 3-5 days old and showing no signs of illness, strangers from all walks of life should be invited to handle the puppies (Read about Neonatal Handling). It’s a good habit to wash your hands.

What Do We Use for Our Whelping Box?

dog in shower

We’ve used several different whelping boxes over the years. Our first litter, Punkin and her 8 puppies, were born in our shower (although this isn’t ideal since there are no bumper rails) but it worked pretty well and was very easy to clean.

dog nursing puppies

Then we switched to a Dura-Whelp whelping box for Mae and her 6 puppies. Dura-Whelp is made of corrugated plastic which makes it light, fairly inexpensive and easy to fold up and store. They sell a weaning pen extension but it’s not very big so this setup would only work for a smaller breed or a small number of larger breed puppies until they out grow of it (around 4 weeks old). Plus, if you need to contain a medium to large breed mom, you would still have to add a wire pen around the box. Although Dura-Whelp is less expensive than some of the others, it is still a bit of an investment for something that is only useful for a few weeks.

whelping box

Next we tried to build our own. I wanted something modular that could easily grow with the puppies and also contain mom. For most breeders, containing mom isn’t a huge priority since she’s usually a member of the household, but for foster moms, it’s a different story. I also needed a way to keep the puppies from pushing the pen all over the place. I used horse fence rails attached by metal brackets around the pen (and also as the bumper rail) and I tried EPDM pond liner for the durable, waterproof flooring. Overall, this design worked pretty well except that the frame was a bit heavy and the pond liner flooring did not work because poop stuck to it like cement.

Bridge for mom dog

Plus, the 6 inch tall bumper rail was not high enough to contain the puppies for more than 13 days (not sure their eyes were even open when they started escaping!). But this can be fixed by adding a 2’ tall wire pen wall between the whelping box and Mom’s puppy free zone and adding a Mom Bridge made from two shower chairs so she can move between the two. This is the greatest gift you can give to your mamas : )

whelping box

Next, I tried something a little simpler. I made a bumper rail with PVC pipe which I zip tied to the wire pen. Then I used linoleum for the floor which I clipped to the pen with A-clamps. I thought that by attaching the linoleum to the pen with clamps that it would hold the pen in place so that when the puppies were older they couldn’t push the pen around and it would contain liquids.

But I discovered a few problems with this design. First, my most obvious mistake was that, under the bumper rail, there was just the wire pen (no barrier) and newborn puppies are small enough to easily fit through the spaces in the bars. Duh. So I had to clip a fitted sheet to create a barrier around/behind the bumper rail so the puppies couldn’t squeeze through the bars. This worked really well.

Another problem is that when Mom leaned against the PVC bumper rail, the pieces would come apart. If you’re going to use this type of bumper rail, you will need to use bolts to attach the PVC pipes and elbow joints so they won’t come apart.

DIY Whelping Box Ideas

Cardboard whelping box

Cardboard whelping boxes can either be made with a large box and some dowel rods or PVC pipe or purchased commercially. Unless you are careful to keep it clean during the whelping process, you will probably need a second, clean box for the 2-3 weeks the puppies will live there.

baby pool whelping box

Baby pools are handy, relatively cheap options. It is important to add the bumper rails to prevent mom from accidentally suffocating or injuring her puppies.

baby pool whelping box

This is another style of bumper rail for a baby pool whelping box. NOTE: If pieces of the foam noodle come loose, they could be a choking hazard. For this size dog, this pool might be a little small but it seems to work.

baby pool whelping box

One problem with baby pools is trying to keep blankets in place so this is a clever homemade solution. I’ve seen these for sale in places like Etsy. You’ll need at least two b/c you will need to wash them at least once per day.

wooden whelping box

This is a very simple, down and dirty design. You’ll need a waterproof floor (piece of vinyl flooring) underneath this one

wooden whelping box

Simple design but this one would need to have a waterproof (lacquer finish) so that it can be sanitized

Wood whelping box

These corner pieces are nice b/c they provide a place to put things down and maybe a seat. With an opening that low, it won’t keep puppies in for very long.

MDF whelping box

This box appears to be painted wood. What is clever about this one is that it looks like the corner brackets are removable making this easy to assemble and disassemble.

MDF whelping box

This one has a hinged door and some fun stenciled art. Looks like it is made from MDF?

Large wood whelping box

This is a clever design that is useful beyond the first 2-3 weeks when the puppies will need a larger enclosure

Wood whelping box with platform

This one has a great way for mom to escape but stay close as well as nice bedroom and playroom areas

Large wooden whelping box

This style is great if you plan to leave it assembled most of the time

DIY Whelping Box Videos

Whelping Box Accessories

heat lamp

Prima Heat Lamp

whelping heating pad

Heated Whelping Nest

Reusable hospital pads

Reusable Hospital Pads

Want My Worry Free Whelping Guide?

Learn what to expect and how to help so you can relax and enjoy your puppies being born with this free 17 page download

Cover of whelping guide


Covers for pdf downloads