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Whelping Boxes

Breeding should be left in the hands of professionals. "Backyard Breeding" is one of the underlying causes of homelessness in Westies. Although well-intentioned, a backyard breeder may release puppies to unscrupulous third-parties that will exploit the dogs in puppy mills. That being said, circumstances may lead to having an expectant mother in your care. A primary piece of equipment the mother will need when her time draws near is a Whelping Box. A Whelping Box is a box with sides large enough for the bitch to stretch out comfortably. She and the pups will live in the box for the first few weeks. The whelping box should have guard rails (also called pig rails) extending from the sides to protect the puppies from their mother rolling over on them. The following is a description of a homemade Whelping Box taken from the writing of Lisa Nicolello at http://www.dclink.com/mastiff/rpwhelpb.htm.

Go to your local lumberyard or Home Depot type store. You will need one sheet of 3/4" plywood. Get a good grade, one that is smooth on both sides. The sheet comes in a standard size of 4' by 8'. Ask the lumberman to cut the wood in half, so you have two pieces, 4' by 4'. Then have him cut one of the sections into three equal parts. They will be 16" sections 4' long. These will be three sides of the box. By using 3/4" plywood, the box will be sturdy enough for you to get in it with your dog.

Most lumberyards/Home Depot type stores will give you three cuts of lumber for free, and then they charge 25 for additional cuts. It's sure easier than cutting it yourself! For the front panel of the box, you can use a 1"x12' board, or two 1"x6' (one on top of the other). This is tall enough to keep the puppies in, but Momma dog can easily step over it. If you have a place to store the box, assembled, use nails to put it together. If your storage is limited, use screws so you can easily take the box apart.

Before you assemble the box, cover the inside panels with contact paper. It is cheap, comes in lots of nice colors and patterns and makes cleaning the box a breeze! If you cover the panels before assembly, you will only be dealing with a flat surface -- it's really easy! I use a little glue to secure the edges of the paper (I bend the edges around the sawn parts of the wood to cover them). The sections can then be nailed, or screwed together. If the paper won't stick well to the sawn edges, a staple gun will help. My husband suggested trying vinyl flooring instead of contact paper. It's another option you may want to consider. Run a bead of silicon sealant around the seams. It will prevent leaks.

The contact paper takes a lot of abuse. With my old wooden boxes, they became stained and never cleaned up to my satisfaction. With the contact paper, no odors sink into the wood and the box stays looking new.

I use a whelping nest (by T. E. Scott), that requires a large hole to be made in the floor of the box. The hole is made before assembly. The whelping nest works very well; the puppies cuddle up in it. It hangs below the floor level, so I use 2x4's to elevate the box.

For bedding, I use the washable fake sheepskins that have a rubber backing. They don't skid around the box and provide excellent footing for the dam and pups. My pups are on their feet the same day they are born. The sheepskins are easily washed (and bleached) and despite hard usage, they hold up very well.

I do not use a puppy guard rail. If you want one, add a 2x4 railing to the inside of the box after it's put together. Two railings will be slightly higher than the other two, unless you are talented with a saw and can cut on a diagonal that will meet up correctly at each corner. Place the railing about 5" up from the bottom of the box. I have never used a rail as I watch my litters closely, and with the whelping nest the pups stay near the center. I have noticed too, that when a rail is used, the pups stand up on it to look out of the box instead of backing up to where they can see out. I don't think that standing up on those soft, baby hind legs can be beneficial! When you start feeding the puppies, food is dropped onto the railing; as well as other puppy messes that call for lots of scrubbing! I like to keep cleanup as easy as I can!


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