Your mother dog will need a quiet, private place for birthing her puppies. Choose a corner in a room away from the activity of the house for whelping, and prepare the area a week in advance of her due date. Otherwise, she will choose one herself and you may find her having puppies among the shoes in your closet. Many mother dogs want to be near their owners just before giving birth. Some like the security of being with you when they whelp. Choose a place that will be convenient for you to spend time with your mother dog and her litter.
Select the room where you want your mother dog to whelp well in advance of the birth. A week or so before her due date, you will notice your mother-to-be begins to seek out quiet places and dig there. She is nesting, or preparing her own place to give birth. Have her whelping area ready at least a week in advance to avoid the litter arriving in a place you don't want your mother dog to use, and begin to accustom her to being there before she is in labor. Once it's ready, take her into the room and show her the box. Put her inside and let her sniff it. Add a favorite toy or blanket so it feels familiar to her. Feed her meals in the box, and let her sleep there for a few days before she's due to deliver.
Decide what you'll use for a whelping box once you've chosen a room. Your mother and puppies will spend their first month in the whelping box. You will be cleaning it frequently, so it should be sturdy and convenient for you to make bedding changes. Consider placing a wire ex-pen or baby gate around the whelping box if you have other pets that might wander in and upset your mother dog while she's with her puppies.
Whelping Box Choices
Ready-made whelping boxes made of wood or plastic can be purchased. Most require assembly. You will need waterproof flooring for the whelping box. A plastic liner or piece of linoleum slightly larger than the box works well. A child's plastic swimming pool or the bottom half of a large, plastic dog crate can also serve as a whelping box. Choose a box according to the size of your mother and the litter expected. The box should be large enough for your mother dog to lie on her side with 1 to 2 feet of space around her for the pups to nurse. Avoid using a box that is too large. It can allow the puppies to wiggle away from Mama and become chilled.
In the Box
If possible, install a ledge, called pig rails, inside your box 1 to 6 inches off the floor, depending on the size of your breed. The rails should go all around the interior of the box and be set so they will be above the puppies until they're 2 to 3 weeks old. They prevent the mother dog from accidentally laying on a puppy against the side of the box. Line your box with soft bedding that won't bunch. Whelping pads or pieces of washable rug cut to a size slightly larger than the floor of your box can be used.
If your mother dog goes into labor on your couch during the night in spite of your preparations, don't panic. Don't move her until all of the puppies are born. Cover as much of the area as possible with a towel or old blanket to absorb fluid. Make your mother dog as comfortable as possible. Stay calm. Keep other people and animals out of the room to avoid stressing her. Once the puppies have all been whelped, carry them gently to the box you've prepared. Your mother dog will probably follow you and appear nervous. Reassure her in a quiet voice. Once her litter is all together in their box, she should settle in to nurse.
- American Kennel Club: A Guide to Breeding Your Dog
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Breeding for Pet Owners - Whelping in Dogs
- Canine Reproduction and Whelping: A Dog Breeder's Guide; Myra Savant-Harris, R.N.
- The Whelping and Rearing of Puppies; Muriel P. Lee