Can I use a dog crate for whelping?

A dog crate *can* be used as a whelping box, but there are some important considerations to keep in mind and perhaps some adjustments. Usually, dog crates are selected to be as small as possible for the dog you have, so using their normal crate will be out of the question.

What is a whelping box?

A whelping box is a special enclosure for a pregnant dog to give birth and care for her puppies.

A well-designed whelping box should have several special features to ensure the safety, comfort, and health of the mother dog and her puppies. Here are some important features and why they are necessary:

  1. Low Entry: The whelping box should have a low entrance or a hinged door to make it easy for the mother to enter and exit. This is important for her to attend to her needs while keeping the puppies contained.
  2. Rails or Sides: The sides of the whelping box should be high enough to contain the puppies but low enough to allow the mother to see and access her litter easily. Rails or ledges around the top can help prevent the mother from accidentally crushing or smothering her puppies.
  3. Easy-to-Clean Surface: The flooring of the whelping box should be easy to clean and disinfect, as puppies can be messy. Smooth, non-porous materials like marine-grade plywood or a waterproof plastic liner are often used
  4. Privacy and Security: The whelping box should offer a sense of security and privacy for the mother. Some designs include a cover or shade to create a more enclosed space.
  5. No Sharp Edges: Ensure that there are no sharp edges or materials that could harm the mother or puppies.
  6. Stability: The whelping box should be sturdy and stable, so it doesn’t tip over or become unstable with the mother or puppies inside.

These features are important because they help create a safe and comfortable environment for the mother and her puppies, allowing them to grow and develop without unnecessary stress or risks. Proper design and maintenance of the whelping box contribute to the overall well-being of the mother and her litter during the critical early stages of their lives.

Using Dog Crates For Whelping

Size: The crate should be large enough to comfortably accommodate the mother dog and her puppies. Make sure there is ample space for the mother to move around and for the puppies to nurse and sleep.

Accessibility: The crate should have a low, easily accessible entrance for the mother dog to come and go. It should also allow her to enter and exit without risk to the puppies.

Safety: Ensure the crate is well-ventilated and free of any potential hazards that could harm the puppies. Make sure there are no sharp edges or materials that the puppies could chew on or get stuck in.

Comfort: Provide soft bedding for the mother and puppies to lie on. You can use washable blankets, vet bedding or towels that are easy to clean in case of messes.

Privacy: A whelping box should provide a sense of security and privacy for the mother. If the crate has a wire frame, consider covering it with a blanket or towel to create a more enclosed and private space.

Hygiene: Keep the whelping area clean and dry. Puppies can be messy, so be prepared to change bedding frequently and clean up after them.

Temperature control: Maintain a comfortable temperature for the puppies. Newborn puppies cannot regulate their body temperature, so ensure the room is warm, and consider using a heat lamp or heating pad (with caution) to provide additional warmth if needed.

Remember that using a dog crate for whelping is just one option, and there are purpose-built whelping boxes available that are designed specifically for this task. Whether using a crate or a whelping box, the safety and well-being of the mother and her puppies should be the top priority. Consulting with a veterinarian or an experienced breeder for guidance on whelping is always a good idea.

How to prepare a dog crate for whelping

Preparing a dog crate for whelping involves creating a clean, safe, and comfortable environment for the pregnant dog and her puppies. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to prepare a dog crate for whelping:

  1. Clean the Crate: Start by thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the crate. This ensures a sanitary environment for the mother and puppies. Make sure the crate is free of any debris, dust, or potential hazards.
  2. Add Bedding: Line the bottom of the crate with clean, soft bedding. Washable blankets or towels work well. Make sure the bedding is comfortable for the mother and puppies.
  3. Set Up Heating: If necessary, provide a heat source to maintain a warm environment, especially for the first few days when puppies can’t regulate their body temperature. You can use a heating pad designed for pets (set to low) or a heat lamp, ensuring that it’s secure and cannot fall into the crate.
  4. Monitor Temperature: Use a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature inside the crate. The ideal temperature for newborn puppies is around 85-90°F (29-32°C). Adjust the heating source as needed to maintain this temperature.
  5. Prepare a Whelping Kit: If you’re experienced or have consulted with a veterinarian, have a whelping kit on hand for emergencies or assistance. This may include items for cutting umbilical cords, removing membranes from puppies, and other supplies.
  6. Place the Crate in a Quiet Location: Set up the crate in a quiet, low-traffic area of your home. The mother dog will appreciate a peaceful and secure space for whelping.
  7. Prepare for Weighing and Record-Keeping: Have a scale ready for weighing the puppies, and keep a pen and paper handy for recording birth times, weights, and other important details.
  8. Provide Easy Access: Ensure that the crate’s entrance is easy for the mother to access. Some crates have removable doors, which can be useful for easy entry and exit.
  9. Ensure Ventilation: Make sure the crate has adequate ventilation without drafts. This helps maintain fresh air and minimizes the risk of respiratory issues.
  10. Set Up a Whelping Pad or Liner (Optional): If desired, you can place a whelping pad or liner under the bedding to make cleanup easier. These products are designed to be absorbent and can help keep the environment clean.
  11. Install Safety Rails (Optional): Some whelping crates or boxes have built-in safety rails, also known as pig rails, to prevent the mother from accidentally lying on or smothering her puppies. If your crate doesn’t have them, you can add low barriers to achieve a similar effect.
  12. Test Equipment: If you’re using a heat source like a heating pad or lamp, make sure it’s functioning correctly before the mother dog goes into labor.

By following these steps, you can create a welcoming and safe space for the mother dog to give birth and care for her puppies. Remember that whelping is a natural process, but being prepared and providing a comfortable and clean environment can help ensure a successful and stress-free experience.

Traditional Whelping Boxes

Traditional whelping boxes were typically made from wood, often plywood or solid wood boards. These wooden boxes served their purpose and provided a safe and secure environment for the mother and her puppies. However, modern whelping boxes have evolved to offer several advantages and improvements over their traditional counterparts. Here’s a comparison of traditional and modern whelping boxes and why modern options are considered better in many cases:

Traditional Whelping Boxes:

  1. Wood Construction: Traditional whelping boxes were primarily made from wood, which can be durable and sturdy but may require maintenance and can be less resistant to moisture and stains.
  2. Basic Design: They had a simple, rectangular design with high sides to contain the puppies and a low entrance for the mother to enter and exit.
  3. Limited Features: Traditional whelping boxes often lacked features like integrated heating options, easy-to-clean surfaces, or built-in ventilation.
  4. Customization: They were often custom-built, which could be a time-consuming and costly process, and the quality of construction could vary.

Modern Whelping Boxes:

  1. Material Variety: Modern whelping boxes are constructed from various materials, including high-density polyethylene, PVC, and other plastics, which are durable, lightweight, easy to clean, and resistant to moisture.
  2. Innovative Designs: Modern whelping boxes come in a range of innovative designs with features like pig rails, heat pads, built-in thermostats, and easy-to-open hinged doors.
  3. Hygiene and Maintenance: Many modern boxes have smooth, non-porous surfaces that are easy to clean and disinfect, reducing the risk of bacterial contamination and odors.
  4. Ventilation: They often feature integrated ventilation systems, ensuring a well-ventilated environment without drafts.
  5. Portability: Some modern whelping boxes are designed to be portable, allowing for easy transportation and reconfiguration as needed.
  6. Pre-Fabricated Options: Ready-made, pre-fabricated modern whelping boxes are readily available, saving time and effort compared to custom-built wooden ones.
  7. Customization: While modern whelping boxes can be purchased off the shelf, many also offer the option for customization and add-ons such as puppy rails, doors, and additional heat sources.
  8. Safety Features: Some modern boxes come with added safety features like escape-proof latches, making it harder for the mother dog to accidentally escape and leave her puppies unattended.

Overall, modern whelping boxes are considered better for a few key reasons:

  1. Hygiene: The easy-to-clean, non-porous materials used in modern boxes help maintain a more sanitary environment, reducing the risk of infection.
  2. Durability: Materials like high-density polyethylene and PVC are more durable and resistant to moisture, ensuring a longer lifespan for the box.
  3. Temperature Control: Many modern boxes offer integrated heating options to help maintain a stable and comfortable temperature for the puppies.
  4. Convenience: They are often designed with features that simplify the whelping process, making it easier for breeders to care for the mother and puppies.
  5. Accessibility: Modern boxes often feature doors or hinged sides that allow for easier access without disturbing the mother or puppies.
  6. Safety: Safety features, such as puppy rails and escape-proof latches, reduce the risk of accidents or harm to the puppies.

In summary, modern whelping boxes offer more advanced, convenient, and hygienic solutions for breeders and their dogs. They are designed to meet the specific needs of whelping and have advantages in terms of functionality, cleanliness, and overall safety compared to traditional wooden whelping boxes.

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All articles on are written by qualified behaviorist and dog trainer, Cheryl Walker.


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