What Size Whelping Box Do You Need for a Labrador? Tips and Safety Info

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Getting the right-sized whelping box is crucial for your dog to feel comfortable and secure. If it’s bigger than necessary, the puppies might find it hard to keep warm. So, what size whelping box do you need for a Labrador?

For a Labrador, you need a whelping box sized about 4ft x 4ft (122cm x 122cm) and a height of about 2 feet (61cm). This size allows your Lab to turn, stretch, lie down, and nurse with ease. Additionally, it is high enough to keep the puppies from escaping while still able to attend to them easily.

You need to understand why correct sizing is important, and what to look out for when buying a whelping box. Additionally, you can make your own to fit your specific need, but there’s a proper way to go about doing so. Lastly, you should know how to properly care for and maintain your box.

Having the correct size whelping box for Labradors is important for their safety.

Why Larger Whelping Boxes Are Good For Labradors

Labradors need large-sized whelping boxes due to their bigger stance. Consider the dog’s exact size, weight, and the number of puppies she’s having (if known) before making a final decision on size. As a reminder, you shouldn’t breed your female Labradors too early as it can have long-term health impacts.

A big whelping box is necessary for Labs because they are larger dogs. Additionally, it allows enough space for larger litters. Keep in mind that litter sizes are generally between 5-10 puppies.

However, it is critical to make sure that the puppies remain warm. If it’s too big, the puppies may be at risk of not maintaining a safe body temperature.

To ensure the recommended sizing is correct, get the measurements while she is lying stretched out fully. Add a foot to this measurement plus a few extra inches for the puppy roll bars or railing.

Why Does Your Labrador Need a Whelping Box?

Your Labrador needs a whelping box because a whelping box provides an ideal space for your pregnant Labrador to give birth and care for her puppies. Made from wood or plastic, the nesting box offers newborn puppies a clean, dry, and warm home.

During the first week, the box should maintain a temperature of 30°C (86°F) and humidity of not less than 55%. 

Labrador puppies grow pretty fast. As such, they stay in the box until they are about four weeks old, after which they will require more space to move around.

What to Look for When Buying a Whelping Box

When buying a whelping box for your Labrador, consider the following: 

  • The construction material. While a wooden box is sturdy and ideal for big dogs, it can absorb waste unless waterproofed. Make sure there is no exposed wood. Plastic boxes are pricier, but they are robust, easy to clean, and hygienic. Do not use cardboard as it is neither sturdy nor sanitary.
  • Roll-bars. Whelping boxes contain a low railing or roll bar on the inside. The roll bar helps prevent the Labrador from smothering or trapping her puppies while sleeping, nursing, or giving birth. This is particularly important with larger breeds like Labradors. 
  • Indestructible bedding. Many dog owners line the boxes with newspapers, towels, or blankets. However, it’s best to go for indestructible bedding since older puppies can shred up, chew and swallow these materials. 
  • The entrance. Ensure that the opening is wide enough to allow the Labrador to enter and exit the box with ease. 
Photo from Amazon product page. Click to review pricing on Amazon.com

Try the PUPez Whelping Box for Dog Puppy Breeding from Amazon. It is the best pre-built option that I found, and It’s easy to set up. It has adjustable height and is ideal for large breeds. While it is only 18 inches tall vs. my recommendation of 24 inches, this really should not be an issue.

Garden or Composting Bins as Whelping Boxes

If you aren’t a fan of the prebuilt recommendation and don’t want a total DIY project, there is another solution. A breeder that I spoke with advised that she uses a composting bin that she only slightly modified for pups.

Per the breeder I spoke with:

The most important thing is that it is easy to clean and sanitize, so no exposed wood at all. A box with exposed wood cannot pass AKC inspection. Also, It needs to have good traction on the bottom for the puppies’ developing hips. Avoid anything slick like kiddie pools. Make sure there are pig rails inside it to protect the pups from being squished.

Nichole Warkentin, Breeder/Owner of Black Cloud Kennels

The model she uses is available on Amazon. Here’s what it looks like:

Garden or composting boxes not made of wood and of the right size can often be used as whelping boxes.
Photo from Amazon product page. Click to review pricing on Amazon.com
Pig rails allow for puppies to escape and avoid being smothered.
Pig rails allow room for puppies to escape if they get pushed behind their mother.

How to Make a Labrador Whelping Box

To make a wooden whelping box for your Labrador, you will need the following materials:

  • Hammer 
  • Nails
  • Wood glue
  • 1 4ft x 4ft (122cm x 122cm) plywood for the base
  • 4 sides measuring 4ft x 2ft (122cm x 61cm)
  • Wooden railing 3 4ft (122cm) lengths
  • Vinyl sheeting

Here’s how to make a Labrador whelping box:

  1. Measure then cut all the required lengths. Some larger home improvement stores will make these cuts for you.
  2. Cut out an entry/exit on one of the four sides depending on the Labrador’s exact size. The entry/exit should be low enough for the dog to step in and out without a hassle.
  3. Use a hammer to nail the sides together. Wood glue can also be used, but you’ll need clamps to hold it together until it’s dry.
  4. Attach the base by nailing the sides to it. 
  5. Attach the wooden railing by gluing it to the sides of the whelping box, approximately 4 inches (10.1 cm) from the base.
  6. Line the interior with vinyl sheeting. No wood can be exposed as it will foster bacteria.
  7. To keep the bedding dry, choose materials that readily absorb body fluids and urine.
  8. Line the bottom with blankets and towels for extra warmth. They also allow for good traction. 
  9. Change the bedding often to maintain hygiene and protect your floors using a tarp.
  10. Sanitize the box daily for the safety of your mother and her pups!

The below video can give you an idea on design, however, they fail to recognize the sanitization issue of having exposed wood. A box with exposed wood cannot pass AKC inspection!

Do NOT build a box that leaves the wood exposed!

Tips for Using and Maintaining the Whelping Box

Below are tips on how to use and care for your whelping box:

  • Avoid leaving food or water in the box.
  • Place the box in a quiet, secluded area devoid of human traffic.
  • To avoid exposure, cover the box with a blanket.
  • Avoid lining the whelping box with shredded newspaper as the dye could be toxic to puppies if ingested.
  • Ensure the space is free from drafts, direct heat, and bright sunlight.
  • If the box has no base, place it on tiled flooring for easy cleaning but remember to line the bottom with beddings to protect the puppies from the chilly floor.
  • Try to accustom the Labrador to use the whelping box even before the puppies are born.
  • If you choose to build a plastic whelping box, smoothen all the edges using tape or attaching a trim.
  • If you build a wooden whelping box, you MUST line it with vinyl to ensure wood is not exposed for sanitation purposes. Wood is too porous and will foster bacteria.
  • Clean and sanitize your box daily!

Final Thoughts

A whelping box provides a warm, safe home for your dog and puppies. An ideally sized one should be slightly longer than your Labrador -when lying down- to provide ample room for the mother and her puppies.

Go for a box that best suits your budget or DIY skills, but always keep safety and sanitization top of mind!

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