How to use a whelping box for your pregnant dog
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How to use a whelping box for your pregnant dog

Dogs
Health & Safety

Whelping boxes are often preferred by experts and professional dog breeders to provide a safe, enclosed space to allow a pregnant dog to deliver her litter comfortably while feeling secure. They can be useful for both the dog and its owners, as they are generally designed with sides high enough to keep the puppies from crawling out and wandering off, while still allowing the dam to come and go as she pleases.

They can either be bought ready-made or made at home if you have the skills and equipment to do so! Even an appropriately large high-sided cardboard box can essentially make up a whelping box, although it is not likely to last very long, given the amount of movement that will take place in it, and the fact that cardboard and fluids don’t mix very well!

If you are considering buying or making a whelping box for your dam, this article will cover some of the ways in which this can be helpful for the delivery and beyond, and the factors to bear in mind when choosing and setting it up. Read on to learn more.

Picking the right whelping box

Unlike regular dog beds, whelping boxes have reasonably high sides, and do not have a lower side or open entrance like most beds. This is in order to keep the pups confined whilst allowing the dam to come and go, so your first consideration should be assessing your dog’s leg length and height to pick a box that she will be able to get in and out of comfortably, but that will confine the puppies.

The size of the whelping box itself is something that you should think about carefully-it should be large enough to allow the dam to lie flat out without having to cramp her legs or back, and also to provide room to hold all of the puppies, and let them and the dam move around a little without being squashed.

However, whelping boxes are not really a case of the bigger the better-taking into account the caveats mentioned in the above paragraph, the box should not be huge, as it should create a feeling of safety and security in the dam, allowing her to see and have contact with all of her pups at the same time.

Ready-made whelping boxes that are designed for the purpose also often have cushioning or a lip around the sides, in order to provide a small shelf that will prevent the dam from accidentally rolling over onto a puppy.

Often, there will be vents or air holes in the floor of the box too, to ensure that the bedding used in the box will drain liquids and so, not remain soaking wet in between cleaning out. However, this does mean that you will need to put something underneath the box, to avoid ruining the floor!

A whelping box should ideally have a layer of something like polystyrene underneath the bottom anyway, in order to provide insulation from the floor, which may be cold-and some boxes have small feet underneath too to raise them up from the floor and allow for airflow.

What are the benefits of using a whelping box?

Using a whelping box can help to make your dam feel safe and secure, which are both very important to her when she is close to delivering her puppies. If the space assigned for this does not appeal to your dam, she will likely pick somewhere else, and so picking the right whelping box and where it is located is important!

Also, it will ensure that when the puppies are very little, they will be confined and you will not have to worry about one of them wandering off, or getting into hot water! Whelping boxes also help to contain the mess made by the litter, which makes cleaning up and cleaning out the box easier too.

Laying some puppy pads or newspaper in the bottom of the box can make this easier too, and of course, the bedding should be changed regularly so that the litter are never left lying in muck!

Getting your dam to use the box

The whelping box should be set up and presented to your dam as far before the birth as possible, so that she starts using it and getting comfortable with it, making her much more likely to actually use it when it counts!

If your dam is reluctant to use the box, first of all consider if there is something about the place where it is located that she dislikes-such as the temperature, or a lot of people or other pets coming and going.

A quiet, enclosed space is the best place for the box, in a quiet area of the house without a lot of foot traffic.

If your dam is a touch too short to climb in and out of the box with ease-particularly when she is pregnant-this is also apt to put her off, so make sure you make the right decision at the purchase or build stage, and do not make the box too high!

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