Whelping guide for new breeders

The process of a dog giving birth to her puppies is referred to as ‘whelping’. Here, we will talk about the supplies that you need prior to whelping, the different stages of whelping, and occurrences that indicate a medical emergency. 

What You Need Prior to Whelping    

The Essentials:

1)      Whelping Box: During the last week of her pregnancy, your dog will likely start looking for a private and secure space where she can have her litter of puppies – and a whelping box is just that. This box, also referred to as a whelping den or nesting box, has been specifically designed to ensure that the puppies are safely contained, shielded from the weather, and protected against smothering by their mother.

2)      Whelping Mat: A towel or blanket can serve quite well as a whelping mat. Whelping mats provide puppies with a sure-footed and insulated surface.

3)      Heat Pad: A newborn puppy is incapable of regulating their body temperature, and a heat pad helps keep them warm. You should attach this lamp at the edge of the whelping box so that the puppies can walk away from it in case they start to feel too hot.

4)      Digital Thermometer: It is important to start checking the mother’s temperature around two weeks prior to the tentative due date. Once the temperature starts dipping down to 98-99 degrees Fahrenheit, you can expect the dog to deliver her litter within the next 24-48 hours.

5)      Puppy Weighing Scale: You want to ensure, from day one, that your puppies are gaining weight at a normal and healthy pace.

6)      Outdoor/Indoor Temperature: To keep track of the whelping box temperature.

7)      Portable Heater/Air Conditioner (Optional):  A heating and/or air-conditioning unit can help you better maintain the room temperature. Like we said, newborn puppies cannot regulate their body temperature, which is why we need to ensure that their room is neither too cold nor too hot.

Helping During Whelping:

We (humans) actually contribute in several areas during the actual whelping process.

8)      Head Lamp: If you need extra light during the delivery process, a headlamp is a good option. Headlamps free both your hands while ensuring there is enough light to illuminate all the tiny crannies and nooks.

9)      Aspiration Bulb: Used to suction the newborns’ throat, nose, and mouth. You can also use it to clear the puppies’ airways so they can start breathing.

10)  Hemostat: Helps in clamping the umbilical cord. You may need to keep the cord clamped for a few minutes after cutting it, so that the blood can effectively clot.

11)  Unwaxed Dental Floss: For tying off the umbilical cord.

12)  Vaseline: For tracking the rectal temperature and in case one or more of the puppies are stuck.


The whelping area can get quite messy. However, with the below items, you can keep the mother, puppies, and the whelping box somewhat tidier.

Pro-tip: Your clothes will likely get messy, so make sure to dress accordingly.

13)  Antibacterial Wipes: To keep yourself and the whelping area clean.

14)  Alcohol Prep Pads: To clean the scissors and hemostat after every use.

15)  Receiving Cloths: To dry and grip the puppies.

16)  Iodine Prep Pads: Used while cutting the umbilical cord to keep the region as clean as possible.

17)  Hand Sanitizer: To keep yourself sanitary.

18)  Paper Towels: To keep the whelping area clean.

19)  Exam Gloves: To maximize cleanliness, you should use a different glove set with each puppy.

20)  Garbage Can/Bag: For easy disposal.

Puppy Identification:

It may be hard to tell the puppies apart without the following items:

21)  Trimmer: Even though the puppies may have different sizes and color shades, it can still be hard to tell who is who. To keep this from happening, you can shave off a different area for each puppy (for instance, you can shave off the right shoulder for one, the left one for another, the right hip for the third, the left hip for the fourth, and so on).

22)  Puppy Collars: Not the regular nylon buckle stuff – you will need something considerably smaller for the newborns.

Stages of Whelping:

Stage 1:

During this stage, the dog will start shivering, panting, and turn quite restless. You can expect the teats to start releasing milk. This stage can last anywhere between 2 and 36 hours.

Stage 2:

At this stage, the dog will start having contractions, and the whelping should begin within two hours of these contractions (the regular interval between contractions and whelping is usually 30 minutes, but can be as brief as 30 seconds or as long as 2 hours).

Stage 3:

This is the final stage, and involves the expulsion of the placentas. You must count these placentas to ensure that all of them have been expelled (placentas that have been left behind can cause problems later on). While it is normal for the mother to eat the placentas, this action can predispose her to diarrhea.

Emergency Circumstances:

In event of any of the below circumstances, promptly reach out to your veterinarian:

1)      A greenish vaginal discharge immediately after an otherwise-normal labor. This discharge is indicative of placental separation, and requires immediate intervention.

2)      The mother has been in stage two for over two hours and, despite straining, is unable to deliver. This shows that one of the puppies may be struggling to pass through the birth canal.

3)      The mother has been in stage one for over 24 hours and is showing no signs of progressing to the second stage. This could indicate inadequate uterine contractions.

4)      Signs of chewing or excessive discomfort at the vulva.

5)      Excessive blood or a foul-smelling vaginal discharge.

Final Word:

To sum up, whelping is an important event – not just for the mother but also for you, the owners. However, with adequate preparation, you can ensure that the entire process stays smooth and complication-free.

To learn more about whelping and how you can prepare for it, please feel free to check out some of the other blogs and guides on our website.