When a dog is about to have puppies, one of the most important things to get ready is a special box for her to give birth in, called a whelping box. This box provides a safe, cozy place for the mother dog to have her babies and take care of them in those first few weeks after they're born. Picking out the right whelping box takes some thought to make sure it meets what both the mom and her new puppies will need. You have to make sure it's the right size, made out of the best materials, and has the proper design features. There are quite a few things to consider to help make the whole birthing process go as smoothly and stress-free as possible for the mother dog.

Labrador mother and three newborn puppies

How Big Should the Whelping Box Be?

Getting the Right Size

The size of the whelping box is super important to get right. It needs to be roomy enough for the mother dog to move around comfortably, but not so big that the newborn puppies could get lost in the corners away from mom. As a general rule, the box should be about 4 times the length of the mother when she's lying down on her side.

What About Bigger Dogs and Litters?

For larger breed dogs that will be having more puppies, you'll want to go up in size. A good guideline is to add 1 extra square foot of floor space for each puppy expected in the litter. So a medium-sized dog having 6 puppies would need around 6 extra square feet beyond just the space for the mother.

Enough Room to Get Around

While roomy is good, the box also can't be too huge. The mother should be able to easily reach any puppy from her nesting area. And the walls need to be tall enough that even as the puppies grow, they can't climb or jump out on their own. About 12-18 inches tall usually works for most breeds.

Getting that size just right is one of the biggest factors, so take the time to get it calculated properly for your dog and her expected litter size. That'll help a lot in keeping the whole whelping area safe and comfy.

What Materials Work Best for Whelping Boxes?

Wooden Boxes - The Sturdy Option

Wooden whelping boxes are a popular and durable choice. They can be made from solid wood or manufactured woods like plywood. Look for boxes with smooth interior surfaces and no protruding nails or screws that could injure puppies.


●Very sturdy and long-lasting
●Easy to clean with proper sealants
●Provides good insulation


●Heavier and less portable
●Can be chewed if not properly sealed
●More expensive than some other options

Plastic Tubs - Easy Cleaning

Large, high-sided plastic tubs or containers make excellent whelping boxes as they are easy to clean and sanitize. They come in different sizes to fit most breeds.


●Very easy to wipe clean and disinfect
●Can't be chewed or destroyed
●Relatively inexpensive


●May be slippery inside
●Can get scratched over time
●Provides little insulation

Cardboard Boxes - The Budget Pick

For a single-use, disposable option, cardboard boxes can work in a pinch. Choose heavy-duty boxes with high sides.


●Very inexpensive
●Can be easily disposed of after use
●Provides some insulation


●Not very durable, may get soaked through
●Sharp edges if not assembled properly
●No way to thoroughly disinfect

The decision comes down to budget, how long you need the box, breed size, ease of cleaning, insulation needs, and personal preference. Consider all the pros and cons before choosing.

Three newborn puppies in a wooden litter box with cushions

Key Features for the Best Whelping Box

Tall Enough Walls

The walls on the whelping box should be tall enough to keep the puppies inside as they get bigger, but not so tall that the mom dog has a hard time getting in and out. Shoot for walls around 12-18 inches high, depending on how big or small your dog's breed is.

An Easy Entry for Mom

Include a door, gate, or lower entry point that allows the mother to easily step in and out while keeping the puppies contained inside. A gate you can adjust or remove as the puppies grow is really handy.

Stress-Free In and Out

Put the entry point in a corner so the mom doesn't have to step over the walls to get in and out. This helps prevent her from potentially stepping on a puppy or injuring herself.

A Floor That's Easy to Clean

Having a removable, washable tray or insert for the floor makes cleaning up all the messes way easier throughout the whole process. A solid bottom without any seams works best.

A Stable, Non-Slip Base

The box should have a sturdy, non-slip bottom so the mother doesn't lose her traction if she needs to quickly stand up or move around inside. This prevents injuries.

With smart design features focused on safety, comfort and convenience, a quality whelping box creates the perfect space for both mama and puppies. Look for these key things when picking one out.

How to Keep Mom and Pups Safe and Comfy

A Non-Slip Floor is a Must

The floor of the whelping box should have a good non-slip surface texture. This gives the mother dog secure footing to move around without slipping, and prevents the brand new puppies from sliding all over. Some good options are:

Stay away from slick surfaces like plastic sheeting which could be really dangerous.

No Sharp Edges Allowed

All the inside surfaces should have smooth, rounded edges and corners. Any sharp edges or things sticking out could cut the puppies or catch on the mother's fur when she's moving around.

The Right Comfy Temperature

Puppies can't regulate their own body temperature at first, so you'll want to keep the air temperature around 85°F for the first week after birth. A safely enclosed heat source like a heated pet mat or lamp can help with this.

As the puppies grow, you can slowly lower it to around 80°F. But avoid going below 75°F until they're several weeks old.

Keep It Super Clean

Keep the whole whelping box extremely clean and dry. Damp bedding allows bacteria and fungi to grow which could make the puppies sick. Have multiple sets of clean bedding ready to swap out frequently.

Three newborn puppies shui'j in the whelping box

Where Should You Set Up the Whelping Box?

A Quiet, Low-Traffic Area

The whelping box should be situated in a calm, quiet space away from loud noises and high foot traffic areas of your home. The mother dog needs a low-stress, secluded environment to give birth and care for her newborns.

Easy Access for Monitoring

At the same time, you'll need to be able to easily access and monitor the whelping area. Choose a spot you can regularly check on without excessive disturbance. A separate bathroom, laundry room, or corner of a seldom-used room works well.

Prepare the Space in Advance

Set up the fully-assembled and cleaned whelping box at least 1-2 weeks prior to the mother's due date. This allows her to acclimatize and make it her nesting area. Having familiar scents and smells can reduce her stress.

Stock Up on Supplies Nearby

Keep all the supplies you may need for mother and puppies within easy reach of the whelping area. This includes:

By thoughtfully preparing the whelping location ahead of time, you can provide the most optimal, safe environment for the critical birthing process to unfold naturally.

Accessories to Make the Whelping Box Complete

Absorbent Bedding is Essential

You'll want to line the bottom of the whelping box with thick, absorbent bedding. This helps contain messes and protect the puppies from moisture. Good options include:

Avoid materials like cedar or pine shavings which can cause respiratory issues. Change out soiled bedding frequently.

Heating Pads Provide Warmth

Newborn puppies cannot regulate their body temperature initially. Providing a safe, reliable heating source is crucial. Consider:

Any heating should cover only part of the box to allow puppies to move toward/away from warmth as needed.

Toys and Accessories for Development

As the puppies grow more active, provide age-appropriate puppy toys and accessories like:

Introducing controlled stimuli helps facilitate their physical and mental development after those first few critical weeks.

Three newborn puppies are lying next to the litter box looking outside

Get Ready for Puppy Arrivals the Right Way

Proper preparation with the ideal whelping box setup is key for both mom and newborn puppies. Choose a right-sized box with easy-clean materials and safe design like non-slip floors and smooth edges. Set it up in a quiet, accessible spot stocked with bedding, heating sources, and puppy essentials. With some smart planning for their ideal whelping environment, you'll have a comfortable, healthy space ready for the new litter to thrive from day one.

May 25, 2024 — Feiou Meowant

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