How to Set Up a Whelping Box and Weaning Pen for a New Litter

 Friday Jul 14,2023
By  Lancaster Puppies

Is your dam ready to give birth to her new litter of puppies? You’ll need to prepare a whelping box for her. This will be the space where her litter will live out their first few weeks of life before being adopted by their new owners. Then, when they’re old enough to play, you’ll need to expand your area to include a weaning pen. This is where they’ll play & where prospective buyers can interact with them. Taking time to prepare will reduce your risk of whelping complications.

Create the Whelping Area Early

Person holding a white newborn puppyYou’ll want to set up your whelping area at least a week before your dam is due. This will allow her to become familiar with it and more comfortable during the whelping. Pick a spot she is already familiar with and place some of her favorite toys there to help. Try to coerce her to sleep there with treats or other positive reinforcement but never force her into it. Finally, you’ll want to keep other dogs away from this space, before and after the birth. This is her spot for her litter and other dogs can threaten the safety of that spot.

How to Build a Whelping Box

What size should you build?

When you build or buy a whelping box, the size depends on the size of your dog. Larger breeds need more space to spread out and smaller breeds need less space to stop the puppies from wandering too far from their mother. Small breeds should have boxes around 2 feet in both directions, medium breeds 2 ½ feet, large breeds 3 ½ feet, and extra large breeds 4 feet or more. Another way you could measure the ideal size is to measure your dam lying down and add 1 foot.

What materials should you use?

Plain wood or another absorbent material should be avoided. This will soak up germs from fecal matter and urine, increasing your pups’ risk of infection. A non-absorbent material, like plastic, will work best but you could also line a wooden box with a vinyl mat.

How to construct the whelping box

2 black and white puppies laying on a gray blanketYou’ll start by building up the sides of the box. They should be tall enough to keep the puppies within the box but low enough for their mother to walk freely about 6-12 inches. Then, you’ll want to add a puppy railing a few inches from the bottom. This is for when puppies sneak their way behind their mother. It helps prevent them from being smothered by her. Lastly, if you constructed it out of wood, line the box with your liner. If building your own whelping box seems too difficult, you can always opt to purchase a professional one from a retailer, like Dura-Whelp.

What to Include in a Whelping Area

We mentioned earlier that you don’t want your box to absorb bacteria from fecal matter. Likewise, you’ll want to clean up the messes frequently. You should also have disposable, absorbent material, like newspaper, to line your box and keep the space clean.

Newborn puppies are sensitive to temperature, so oftentimes you’ll need a heat lamp in the area to keep it between 80-85℉. Optionally, you could place a heating pad beneath the whelping box.

You’ll want to bring your dog’s food and water to the whelping area because she won’t want to leave her puppies. It should be raised up off the ground, however, to keep the puppies from falling into it.

Expanding to a Weaning Pen

Person holding a white newborn puppyAfter about 3 weeks, your puppies will want to start exploring. So, you’ll need a weaning pen to keep them contained. This is where your puppies will live for the next 5 to 7 weeks. You can start welcoming prospective buyers to visit at around 6 weeks of age, or after their second round of vaccinations. Many states prohibit the selling of puppies until 8 weeks, however.

Within the pen, you’ll want more absorbent, disposable material for easy cleanup. The pen’s fence should be tall - 1-2 feet, depending on the breed. The width of the pen depends on how many puppies are in the litter - more puppies need more space to play. It’s a good idea to throw some toys in with them, too.

During this time you can also start weaning your puppies off of milk and onto solid food, so you’ll need feeding bowls and water within the pen. You should start with mushy, soft food and it might be a good idea to put it in their mother’s bowl to show it’s OK to eat.

Where to Sell Puppies After Whelping

As mentioned above, after the puppies receive their second round of vaccinations, visitors can come play with the puppies in their weaning pen and pick one to take home. After 8-10 weeks in the whelping area, your puppies should be ready to transition to a new home! You can find ways to advertise locally, like your local newspaper classifieds or a community bulletin board, but the simplest way is with online classifieds, like Lancaster Puppies! Create a seller account today and instantly connect with buyers around the U.S.