A whelping box, sometimes called nesting box or birthing box, is where your pregnant bitch will feel comfortable enough to safely contain her puppies during their first days and weeks after birth.
A very good whelping box is designed to protect the litter from the cold and the dangers they could face if they were able to roam free. On the bitch’s side, each whelping box usually comes with a lower rail called piggy rail to protect the puppies from being crushed or stifled by the mother.
There is no good product available internationally so we have listed three categories: the best whelping box available in the United States, the best one available in the United Kingdom and, for the Do It Yourself lovers, the best homebuilt whelping box. Not to miss as well is our amazing article on how to make your very own dog whelping kit, it won’t cost you much and it is much better than buying it already made.
What is a Whelping Box?
A whelping box is an enclosed area designed for the privacy and comfort of your bitch and her puppies. It can be introduced while your dog is pregnant as a safe place for privacy and “nesting“. She can and most likely will give birth in the whelping box as she will feel safe to do so there. Hence why it is so important to give and encourage her into the whelping box during pregnancy. The birth will most likely strengthen the female’s perception that this is a secure area for her to keep her pups. Furthermore, the puppies can be kept hereafter birth, are enclosed, safe and warm
Whelping boxes are somewhat confused with dog beds. They are enclosed spaces, usually with rails or walls to prevent the puppies from wandering off and to make the female feel secured. This area should be specifically hers and no other dogs should be allowed into the area. The main benefit of a whelping box is the comfort that is given to your female, the puppies and that the litter is physically enclosed from harm. If young puppies were to wander, they could easily become lost, get trapped somewhere or even meet other dogs in your home which could be very risky.
Benefits of Whelping Boxes
There are so many benefits to a whelping box, here are just a few summarised.
New-born do not move a lot and have not yet opened their eyes. But very soon they will be starting to move around and can cause trouble. A whelping box will allow them to move in the area of the box, the sides are too tall for them to climb and this prevents them from escaping and causing mischief.
Dog's Personal Space
With increased hormones and emotional responses, pregnant dogs can feel more aggression and anxiety. Giving them a secured and railed off area that is their own will bring them comfort and relax them. Making things safer for them and for you as they will feel safe and calm in the box and not feel to act defensive towards you due to them having space.
Having your dog and her puppies in one area allows you to easily monitor their behaviors and health. You will be able to see if your mother dog is displaying any concerning health signs such as excess bleeding or behavioral symptoms of postpartum depression. Furthermore, you can easily adjust the heating and clean any messes from the puppies because it is all contained in one area.
If the puppies are roaming around a large area along with the mother, maintaining healthy temperatures may be difficult, especially as puppies cannot regulate their temperatures initially. In the whelping box, you can initially add more blankets, have them close to a window or heater/heat lamp and monitor the bitch’s behavior to know when to adjust.
Early Puppy Training
Once your puppies begin to move, you should want to begin training them. Having them in large areas to do this can be rather chaotic! Having them all in one area means you can begin to teach stay and sit to a collective group or, if they are of age, easily remove one puppy to train.
How to Choose the Right Whelping Box for Dogs
There is not a “perfect whelping box”, therefore, you have to find the box most suited to your dog and for you.
You should consider the size of your dog and their breed’s average litter size before choosing the size of your whelping box. You want to make sure your dog can comfortably stretch and still have a lot of room for their puppies to move in.
A rough estimate is four of your dog’s breed should be able to lie down in the box snuggly. Their average breed size should also be considered as the more puppies produced, the more room you will need for the whelping box. Breeds such as the Labrador Retriever and Dalmatian are known to have large litter sizes, so you can prepare for this with a large dog whelping box.
Dog whelping boxes can go through quite a lot in their lives! From puppies urinating, defecating and chewing them, they need to quite hardy. Furthermore, the bigger and more boisterous your puppies get, the more they will be running and falling into the sides of the whelping box.
Making sure that the material is tough, and the connectors are reinforced can prevent you from needing to buy a second whelping box or repair tools. If the box is built with longer screws to connect the sides, this usually makes them stronger and more durable as opposed to sides that are glued together or have short screws used as connectors.
Different breeders may prefer different materials for whelping boxes as they all come with pros and cons. Plastic is very easy to clean as you can wipe the surfaces in a matter of moments, although it is not the strongest and can be broken from a lot of pressure.
Furthermore, this material can be quite sharp if it is broken so be aware if your pet is heavy or clumsy. Wood is also a common whelping box material. It can be a very strong depending on the wood type but can splinter if cheaper woods are used. Again, if the quality of the wood is cheap, it can be more difficult to clean but polished or higher qualities woods are easy to wipe down.
Cooling & Heating Features
Some boxes can come with added features such as cooling fans or heat mats to make sure your bitch and puppies are feeling happy and healthy. These features may be more expensive as they are luxury, but can be beneficial, especially if you live in extreme temperature areas such as Alaska or Florida.
You’ll want to check that the wiring can be easily tucked away and that the heat mat is not going to be a fire hazard. Thermostats with metal probes can control the temperature of heat mats and are sometimes provided.
Is the box easy to move? A simple question but one that is quite important if you live in a small house or may have a sudden need to move the box’s location.
For example, if your heating or air conditioning randomly breaks, would you have to move the box to a room that’s more insulated or is colder? Furthermore, when the puppies are old enough to leave, will you be able to easily remove the box. If you have a disability or are older in age, portability is a big concern.
Are there certain elements of the dog whelping box’s structure that you require or will not compromise on? Rounded corners, higher walls, and rails are all different elements that some breeders may want. Some whelping boxes have multiple sections so the mother can briefly sit away from the puppies if she needs to or so they can have room to explore when they are older. You have to decide what overall structure you want and what features would benefit your dog the most.
5 Best Whelping Boxes for Dogs
Here we have compared a number of whelping boxes and made a list of the current best four in our opinion.
1. Plaza MagnaBox Whelping Box
The amazing MagnaBox Whelping Box makes the perfect solution for professional dog breeders and careful occasional breeders. its textured surface, gray-colored, offers a pitiless resistance to damage and dirt and to top it up, it is chew-proof.
Created by Lakeside, the MagnaBox Whelping Box in large is made from FDA-approved HDPE plastic. This makes it easy to clean while still giving a wood-based appearance for aesthetics. Four inner rails surround the inside of the box, all made of the same easily wipeable material. The box has slip-fit connections for easy construction; therefore no tools are required. The door has two different height settings so you can adjust it for your breed. It also has no flooring so you can place it on any surface or material.
With an overall rating of 4+ stars on Amazon, the majority of buyers appear pleased with the purchase. User DonC gave the box five stars and commented on it ‘fits together quickly and easily’ and ‘the ledge rails are beyond fantastic’. This is contrasted by User Brown’s review who said that they had to ‘hammer’ the pieces together, which is not how it is advertised (so make sure you have a hammer at your disposal).
The setup and installation of this whelping box is extremely intuitive thanks to its slip-fit connections, you do not need a single tool to assemble it. You can imagine how easy it is to completely clean this whelping box: you can either wipe clean the walls or for a deeper clean, disassemble the box and sanitize it all before reassembling it. If you are not planning to use this MagnaBox Whelping Box for a while, it can quickly put flat for a very convenient storage, until your bitch’s next litter.
Perhaps the greatest bit of this whelping box is its entrance door featuring a one-third or two-thirds sliding doors to adjust the height depending on the size of your puppies. The MagnaBox Whelping Box comes in five sizes, adapted to any and every dog breed: extra small, small, medium, large and extra-large. Since this box comes bottomless, you can get whelping pads or use your dog’s favorite surface or bedding.
To assemble the box, simply align, insert and slide the unique hook and slot joins into position.
2. Hudson Screwless Whelping Nest
Rated 4.7 stars out of 5, the Hudson Screwless Whelping Nest is one of the most popular whelping box substitutes on our list. Made from high-quality vinyl, the box is stated to not rot or crack in your garden. Therefore, can be a perfect material to avoid damage from new puppy teeth and is easy to clean and wipe down. As it is baseless, it is easy to move, clean and you can add whatever base and you feel is appropriate.
Tal Erickson said it was ‘perfect’ for his large breed German Shepard and her eight puppies. His review gave five stars and stated they had ‘plenty of room’ and the box was ‘easy to put together’. Three reviews mentioned their disappointment at the size of the bed disclosing that the outside measurements were 48 by 48 inches, but the inside room was only 42 inches. However, both inside and outside dimensions are written in the product’s description.
3. Pet Nap Plastic Whelping Box
Designed from strong and durable plastic, the Pet Nap Reusable Plastic Whelping Box has three different sizes ranges from 24, 30 and 36 inches in dimensions. Three pieces of wooden dowling form the interior puppy rails. The rails are covered in an outer plastic coating, this means the box is easy to disinfect and wipe down, which is a huge bonus with messy puppies. The product has a lowered entrance wall for the mother, but it is still tall enough to prevent young puppies from climbing out.
This whelping box has a rating of 4 out of 5 stars of Amazon with a user named Polly saying their Cockapoo bitch was ‘happy’ and she and her seven pups had ‘plenty of room’. Ten of the thirteen reviews on Amazon were five stars and eleven of the thirteen reviews were positive. Miranda M gave one of two single star reviews and was most displeased with the quality of the box’s material. They said it was ‘thin and flimsy’ and ultimately ‘cheap’.
4. Lakeside MagnaBox Extension
Another product from Lakeside, the MagnaBox MagnaPen Extension is a three-sided extension to add to the original Lakeside whelping box. It has slated sides and gaps for better airflow and interaction with the puppies. The main benefit of this extension is providing room for your dog and allowing the puppies room to start developing leg strength through walking and play. It has a removable door with a height the mother can step over, but very young puppies could not for safety.
This is the only product where there were no available reviews on Amazon nor on the Lakeside website. We believe it is a suitable and high-class add-on for your whelping box due to its material, easy to clean, move and the benefits it can bring to your dog and her puppies. Giving them that added space can minimize the stress for all of the individuals, as the mother is able to stretch her legs away from the puppies for a small break.
5. Deluxe PVC Warwick Whelping Box
Warwick Whelping Boxes is an amazing company based in Sunderland, England and specialized in building high-quality professional whelping boxes. This is a great product for UK residents! Allow two to three weeks for delivery as every single order is manufactured individually to ensure a seamless product from the solid bottom base to the puppy rails.
Each whelping box is delivered cleaned and sterilized prior to packing — you understand that if the sterilization seal is broken the whelping box cannot be returned.
Heavy-duty materials have been used to build this durable and resistant whelping box. The bottom base is bound in one piece to minimize the potential harboring of germs. The entrance door at the front is so great that you can adjust its height thanks to the removable three sections provided. It lets you keep using the box even after the dogs grew up in size.
Like its American cousin, this Deluxe PVC Warwick Whelping Box requires no tool to be assembled, the rivets can easily be tightened by hand and the sides, front and door all fit onto the base. The step-by-step assembly instructions are obviously provided but you may well do it without.
No tools are needed, as the rivets are designed to be tightened by hand.
- Comes in different sizes (S, M, L, and XL)
- Entrance door’s height is adjustable
- Very resistant and durable PVC
- No tools required to assemble
- Delivered sterilized
- Delivery time (built to order)
Small, 30″ x 24″ x 12.5″ • Medium, 30″ x 30″ x 12.5″ • Large, 36″ x 36″ x 12.5″ • X-Large, 40″ x 40″ x 12.5″
Dog Whelping Box FAQ
We have compiled over ten frequently asked questions about whelping boxes to help in your search!
Can I buy a complete whelping box on Amazon?
Currently, there are no full whelping box setups on Amazon. However, there are often recommended deals such as a whelping box, heating mat, and birthing supplies.
Check what buyers regularly buy alongside the whelping box by scrolling down the page. You will, however, be able to find dog birthing set and breeding sets which may contain beneficial items for your whelping box. We also advise you to find an online list and guide of what supplies you need to collect so you can compare the quality and price on websites such as Amazon.
Is a crate pen better than a whelping box?
The answer to this is based on your dogs and your own personal opinion. We often recommend a whelping box initially due to the setup. Birthing rails prevent the mother from sitting on the puppies, the area is more secluded for her privacy and it is easier to maintain heat in the area.
The worry with crate pens is the spacing may lead to injuries in the puppies if they catch their paws or tails between it or are leaning on. Often a crate pen can be better used for older puppies as they can be more spacious, but this is dependant on what type of whelping box and crate pen you buy.
When should I put my bitch inside her whelping box?
You will want to spend about two weeks before birth minimum letting your female get used to the whelping box. This is because you want her to view it as her safe space and feel comfortable giving birth and raising her puppies in its walls. You can begin her introduction to the whelping box the day you find out she is pregnant or after mating.
Adding blankets and bedding initially that smell like her or you may bring her comfort and then transitioning them to the heat mat will be easier. Make sure she is the only dog allowed in this whelping box as it is her own private space and should not be shared by other adults.
How hot or cold should my whelping box be?
Those who use heat lamps should provide a hot area of 85F and a low of roughly 78F for the first few days of life. This can be gradually decreased over time until the puppies can regulate their own body temperature at four weeks of age.
The best way to check the whelping box’s temperature is to have a thermometer at the hot and cold side of the whelping box. Furthermore, you can check on the puppies’ temperatures using a rectal thermometer and it should be maintained at 97F. Be careful not to remove the puppies too regularly as this can stress out the pups and the mother.
What should I use as a border of the DIY whelping box?
The top outer border of the DIY whelping box must be strong, smooth and easy to clean. Plastic or wood can be cheap but effective materials for this purpose.
If you’re using wood, you can nail or glue the corners together, but make sure the glue is fully dried and that the nail is not exposed at all. You should sand the wood to avoid splintering and consider sanding the corners to avoid the sharp edges hurting the mother.
You can also use plastic as this should be relatively smooth all over. Be careful that the plastic is not fragile though, as it may snap or splinter if leaned on by the mother.
How big does my whelping box should be?
This depends on the size of your dog and the estimated size of her litter. There should be enough room for the other to lay down easily and stretch. There should also be enough room for all of her litter to do so without any individual feeling cramped.
Make sure the mother’s head or neck isn’t craned at an angle or that she cannot fully lie down as this would cause her a huge amount of discomfort. Breeds with larger litters will also need larger whelping boxes, as when the puppies grow, they will need more space.
Should I put a pee pad inside my whelping box?
You can do so, however, this can become quite costly. A cheaper substitute is using a newspaper or having a box flooring you can easily wipe down. You will have to change them or clean the flooring a minimum of every day to clean up the pee and poo from your puppies, therefore costs can add up with pee pads.
Newspaper is a cheap and easily replaceable substitute until you can begin housetraining them. An alternative of an easily cleanable floor means you can pick up what poo is in the whelping box and disinfect the base from remaining feces and urine.
Should I feed my dog inside her whelping box?
Provide the mother regularly with food and water inside the whelping box as she will not want to leave her puppies. Use bowls that you are able to hang to the ledge of the whelping box such as these.
If you were to leave the bowls on the floor, a puppy may fall into them and this could lead to harm and even death if they climb into the water bowl and cannot get out. The mother should have a constant supply of water and be fed every two to three hours initially.
Can I separate the mother from her puppies inside the whelping box?
Initially, the mother should not be separated from her puppies unless it is to encourage her to go out to use the toilet. This can be an opportunity for you to clean the whelping box. Once the puppies begin moving at two to three weeks of age, they may spread out in the whelping box and the mother may feel more comfortable leaving them.
At this point, you can provide a larger area for them and the mother so she can choose to leave the puppies, but do not forcefully separate her from them for long unless necessary.
Can I make a DIY whelping box for my pregnant dog?
Absolutely! A DIY whelping box is often cheaper and personalized to the needs of your dog and yourself.
There are many written and filmed tutorials online as to how to create a DIY whelping box for your dog, where to get the materials and how to make it safe.
Start off by referencing other whelping boxes and deciding the features you require. Then choose what materials best suit your needs and cost and make sure you can adjust them. Elements you may need to consider include:
- heating and cooling,
- door or gate, and
What material is best to use in building a DIY whelping box?
This is a personal preference. Wood and plastic are the two most common materials used in the construction of DIY whelping boxes due to their price, easy to clean and to use for construction.
The downsides of wood include splintering, more physical labor to cut, more expensive and some can be difficult to clean. Plastic is often cheap but if it is not thick it can be easy to fracture or crack, and it can be very difficult to shape or attach to other plastic without prior knowledge. Some recommend using a combination of both.
Best DIY Whelping Box
The last best whelping box is the one you make yourself. Why you ask? Well, a whelping box is a box before being anything else, and a box is pretty straightforward and easy to build. Breeding Business made a video that includes the shopping list, the step-by-step building instructions along with videos showing the process.
Featured image credits to mywhelpingbox.com (website dead as of 2020).