The closer you get to the due date, the more important it is to have everything you and your bitch will need already in place and ready to go. You need to carefully choose her den for her, and set up her whelping box. If you don’t, you run the danger of your bitch making that decision on her own – and it’s pretty much a guarantee you won’t like where she picks! (hint: your bed, deep in a closet, behind the couch – all popular places!) Each bitch is an individual, and will have different levels of sociability, but most are at least a little protective of their new puppies, so keep her emotional well-being in mind and try to choose a place a little out of the way where she can feel her puppies will be safe.
When you’re deciding where to put the whelping box, there are a few important things to think about. Temperature, privacy, ability to control drafts, room to move around, access to enough outlets to keep you entertained and still run a fan/heater/light etc. Most puppies have a sweet spot between 72-76, but different breeds may vary. Drafts can be fatal to a young pup. Also, you’ll need good curtains, or a foolproof way to darken that room for a few days as the pup’s eyes begin opening. A spare bedroom or an office is usually a good choice to set up as a puppy nursery, especially if there’s already a bed, or at least room for a cot.
Once the whelping box is set up, it’s a great idea to spend a little bit of time in the room with your bitch every day – her in the whelping box, and you chilling out nearby, busy with her stuff. This will help your girl see this as a safe space, and already be comfortable in there when it’s time for the big event.
Here’s a very basic checklist that might help get you through whelping and the first few days:
Floor Pillows/Step-stools for sitting
Flashlight -handy for head counts in the middle of the night
TV/ Music/Computer. You’ll be glad you have it.
Record-Keeping Notebook/Clipboard. You’ll be weighing/measuring pups daily. Keep all your notes handy.
Puppy Jail- Either a laundry basket or appropriate sized Rubbermaid tote with a heating pad and towels to stash newborn puppies. You’ll also be using this when you’re cleaning the whelping box later on.
Spare Towels & Rags. From covering the laundry basket of pups to wiping up all the little messes, you can NEVER have enough of these around.
Collar materials. Some people like to use soft chenille yarn in different colors to help tell their puppies apart. We like colored velcro strips because they can be taken off of and loosened as the pups grow.
Digital scale with weighing box and towel. You’ll be weighing pups daily, and so you’ll want to have this already calibrated so it sits at 0 with the box and towel on it. That way, it’s only weighing the pup.
Spare fleece/Sheepskin blankets cut to fit the bottom of the whelping box. Change when things get messy.
Cleaning spray and a couple rolls of paper towels. Some people like a dilution of white vinegar. I happen to love Myers “Clean Day” products, myself.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, by any means. If you’re planning to breed a litter of your own and your bitch is getting ready to deliver, we hope you’ll do scads and scads of your own homework, and tailor your whelping situation to fit your bitch’s specific needs and comfort!