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Whelping Puppies: What do I Need Whelping Puppies at Home?

whelping puppies

Summary: Part of being a responsible dog breeder is being prepared for whelping puppies from your pregnant dog. There are quite a few items that you should have ready before the big whelping day arrives. We provide a list of these items for whelping puppies at home.

Tips and Advice for Whelping Puppies at Home

Before the big whelping day arrives, there are preparations that need to be made for your puppy whelping experience. If you have a long-haired breed, you will need to have her belly shaved especially close around her nipples. (If you do not do this, it will cause matting that causes extra pain, which your female dog does not need). If the matting is bad enough, it can make it so the puppies are unable to drink. She also needs to have her backside shaved closely removing any hair that may become matted or tangled during the birthing process. There are several different clippers on the market that make this process fast and easy.

Some veterinarians will suggest that you get your pet an ultra-sound or x-ray to predict how many puppies will be whelped or if there is a potential problem that may arise during your whelping of puppies. Dog nutritional supplement products are available which contain special herbs that are very helpful for females during their pregnancies, whelping, and nursing times. Dog prenatal vitamins are also available. These dog nutritional supplement products are in both tablet and liquid form.

What is the Temperature of a Dog in Labor?

Most dogs have the normal temperature of between 101 and 102.5. The temperature needs to be taken rectally with a good rectal thermometer. Or you can use a digital thermometer like Pet-Temp Ear Thermometer available at Amazon. This thermometer is an amazing advancement in technology allowing you to take a dog’s temperature in 1 second.

Pet-Temp Ear Thermometer

When to Take Temperature of a Dog in Labor?

It is best if you take the temperature a week or two before the dog’s due date and then again around the due date. If you are taking the temperature rectally, lubricate the rectal thermometer with K-Y jelly before inserting the thermometer into the rectum of the expectant dog. When the dog’s temperature drops below 100 degrees she will probably be whelping puppies in the next twenty four hours. At this point it is time to cancel plans and just be home with her.

Dog Whelping Equipment

You need to have some basic equipment on hand and ready for whelping. You will need the following:

  • Towels
  • Paper towels
  • Disinfectant
  • Scissors
  • Hemostat (or Dental floss, but Hemostat is preferred)
  • Disposable gloves
  • Extra newspapers
  • Telephone
  • Vet’s phone number
  • Dog Whelping Box

You will need to get a whelping box ready. This is a box where the puppies will be born. On the market you can find several kinds and sizes of whelping boxes especially made for whelping puppies. Or you can buy a plastic containment animal playpen like the one pictured from Amazon. Then just pick up some whelping box liners and you are all set.

Whelping Box Preparations

You can use a cardboard box with layers of newspapers on the bottom for smaller breeds. I cut a hole in the side so she can get out and make sure that the top can come off so I can assist during whelping if I need to. (See our article on ‘Easily Make Your Own Disposable Whelping Box’.) Make certain that the dog has plenty of room to stretch out. A child’s small plastic wading pool with layers of newspapers in the bottom can work well for larger breeds of dogs.

The nice thing about cardboard boxes is that you can throw it away once the whelping of puppies is complete. I like to place a heating pad underneath one corner of the box so the puppies that have already come can stay nice and warm while the others are being born. Make sure you keep the heating pad on low during the whelping. If the puppies get too warm they will crawl off by themselves. I do not place the heating pad inside the box. The female might tear or bite it.

There are whelping box liners on the market that help keep the whelping area clean and sanitary. The whelping box liners are machine washable and dry-able so they are reusable. There are heated whelping pads also available. Some of the heated dog whelping pads have sides that do not allow for the puppies to crawl off of. Heated dog whelping pads help to keep the puppies nice and warm. It is not always easy to know when the mother dog is done whelping. Female dogs are all different. Usually the female will not relax, lie down, and fall asleep until the whelping process is complete with the last puppy.

After whelping your last puppy, keep a close watch on the puppies for the next 24 hours. If you have a larger litter you may have to help the smaller puppies nurse from their Mom. Make sure all of your puppies’ stomachs are full. If a puppy starts feeling cold and not moving as much, make sure it eats soon. Check to see if it is hydrated. You may need to take it away and put it on a heating pad and start supplementing. Watch carefully especially with a first time mom that she doesn’t lay on a puppy and suffocate them. Please refer to our ‘Puppy Care Topics’ on the menu for tips with puppies.

If you have further comments or questions about ‘What do I Need Whelping Puppies’, feel free to visit our Forums or make a Comment on this article below. We encourage participation and feedback.


  • i have a 3 year old female mini schnauzer. i also have a 1 year old male. they mated on november 29 and again on december 2. i was told to count 64 days after the first mating, which made the puppies due on jan 31. i took my female for xrays on jan 17, the vet said no puppies. he said she was having a false pregnancy. she has a very distended belly with milk. he gave me hormone pills and antibiotics. i really felt that she was pregnant so i didn’t give the pills. i read that no meds are necessary for false preg. today (jan 20) i felt pups moving in her belly. if she got pregnant on the last mating.. that would make pups due around feb 2, 2009. could she be pregnant? should i take her back for an xray? please help!! also i noticed a slight discharge but no odor or color. is this normal?????

  • hi my husky is going to have her first litter in the matter of 2 weeks. how soon do i need to have a whelping pen up for her as she is a large dog and im going to atttempt to built it myself. Also i have been told to have a heat lamp but i have seen some people saying they use heat pads? hope you can help many thanks laura

    • Hi Laura,
      I am going to have a litter in that timeframe too and hope you have already set up your area. A wading pool makes a very nice and easy to clean set up. You will need a towel for nesting, plus ten or twelve towels for the birth process itself (its very juicy to be frank!) A heat lamp is fine, but not too close. A clip on light with strong 75 watt light bulb will serve fine as well. I also heat the room I’m in to a sweltering 80+ degrees for the first few days especially in this cold winter. I don’t use a heat pad because it is electric and there are still juices involved the first day or two. Puppies need to be with their moms all snuggled up or in a pile together. If a baby gets separate they will cry, but you need to hear them. A baby monitor is good for this. You need to know emergency guidelines for whelping too. There are great resources already for this, but the key rule is that a mom dog will not cry out in pain unless there is trouble. If she pushes, and I mean pushes – not mere contractions, for more than 30 minutes with nothing; you are in an emergency.
      After puppies are all done, I massage the uterine horns to get them to clamp down a bit. I also give calcium gluconate – though you can use tums if you don’t have it. Don’t be afraid to rub a puppy who doesn’t breathe well and you should look up gravity thrusting as well – again, plenty of resources for that, so I won’t go into it.
      I hope you have an easy and blessed delivery with lots of healthy babies. I have done this a lot and the whole thing still makes me very nervous. Tonight might be the night for us!

    • I realize my comment is too late for your puppies, but as a general rule, I like to have my whelping box set up at least two weeks before the pups are born. It’s important to get her used to the idea. If she is comfortable in her whelping place, she will be more calm when the puppies come. Anything you can do to lessen the stress is best.

      How did it go with your husky???

  • My golden was first bred on December 19, there after on the 20th, 21st and 22nd. Based on that my Golden is due anytime now. This morning her Temp was 99.8, this afternoon her temp was 99.9 and this evening her Temp was 100.4. Am I missing something….? She does not seem to have contrations, Yes she is elimating herself constantly, She is still eating (like a champ) She does not appear to be in any discomfort. Should I rush her to the Vet or am I just being nervous? Please help with any advice.

    Tampa, Florida

  • My girl, a blue Shar Pei had six pups with no problems. All the temps and preparations I had read about on this site went off like clockwork…..she started delivery at 4:45 pm and the sixth pup was born at 6:55pm.
    The “runt”,that was pushed off her while feeding, she would take out of the whelping box and take it to my bedroom to feed it separately. Quite an amazing thing to see.
    There is one thing very odd with her….45 days after these pups were weaned my girl showed no signs of being in heat but I woke up one morning to find her and my male locked together. She will be having pups appr Dec23rd.