Cheap Whelping Box Ideas and Plans

Updated October 16, 2022
Terrier with her litter of puppies

Cheap whelping boxes are easier to create for small dogs than for large ones. If your dog is about to have puppies and you aren't prepared, don't worry. There are quick and easy boxes that won't break the budget.

What Is a Whelping Box?

A whelping box, sometimes referred to as a nesting box, is merely a place for your dog to have her puppies comfortably. Since this will be where the pups spend the first weeks of their lives, the side should be at least 12- to 24-inches high to keep the puppies safely inside.

  • The box should be easy to clean. After all, your dog will be giving birth in it, and then the puppies will be living there. Not only is cleanliness important to keep the current litter of puppies healthy, but you may also want to use it again for another litter.
  • There should also be some kind of pad on the floor to make it comfortable for your dog since she will be spending a lot of time in the box.
  • The whelping box should be large enough for your dog to lie down and stretch out. There should also be enough space so that she has room to turn around without stepping on a puppy and lie down to nurse the puppies easily. However, if the box is too big, a puppy can get pushed away from the mother and become chilled.
  • Lastly, the box should be convenient so you can easily care for your dog and her puppies.

Cheap Whelping Box Ideas for Small Dogs

The smaller the dog, the easier it is to come up with an inexpensive whelping box. Here are some ideas for your small dog.

Cardboard Box

One of the least expensive whelping boxes is simply a cardboard box. Make sure it is big enough that your dog can stretch out in it. The nice thing about a cardboard box is that, once you no longer need the whelping box, you can simply throw it away. To make a whelping box out of cardboard, use these easy instructions:

  1. Find a box that your dog can comfortably lie down and stretch out in but not much larger than that.
  2. The sides should be at least 12- to 24- inches high. You want the sides to be too high for the puppies to climb over, but not so high your dog can't get over it when she wants a break. Smaller breed dogs will be fine with 12 inches, whereas larger breeds will need 24 inches.
  3. Cut a "door" into the side of the box for your dog to move in and out of the box. The width of the doorway should be about twice her body's width, and the edge should be high enough to keep puppies in but not so high she hits her belly on it.
  4. You will want to use some sort of covering on the cardboard to keep it from getting wet and to make cleaning it easy. You could line it with duct tape, plastic sheeting, tarps, or plastic drop cloths made for painting. Then cover whatever material you use with newspaper or old towels to make the flooring soft and comfortable.

Plastic Storage Bin

A plastic storage bin can also be used as a whelping box. You want to use the under-the-bed storage type so that the sides will be short enough for the mother dog to easily get in and out. If you decide to go this route, fold old towels on the bottom to ensure there is no chance that your dog will slip when she is moving around. Be aware that depending on the size of your pups, they may be able to get over the sides of the bin as they get bigger. In that case, you can extend the sides of the bin with cardboard.

DIY Cheap Boxes for Larger Breeds

Larger dogs need more space in the whelping box due to their larger size and larger pups. Ideas that will work for bigger dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers and Rottweiler dogs, include:

Appliance Boxes

If you have a mid-sized breed, you may still be able to find a cardboard box. Check with appliance stores and home improvement stores that carry items that would require bigger boxes. If you can't find one, you still have some inexpensive alternatives. The downside to using these boxes is once the puppies get large enough, they will be able to get over the sides, which they wouldn't with a traditional whelping box with sides at least 12-inches high.

Kiddie Pool

A hard-sided plastic kiddie pool usually costs less than twenty dollars, and you can get them in several sizes. They are also easy to clean. These pools will last for several litters of puppies. However, just as with appliance boxes, the problem with the kiddie pool is that the sides may not be high enough to keep the puppies in as they get bigger. There are newer types of kiddie pools made just for dogs that have higher sides.

Another option for larger dog breeds is to use a water trough, which has higher sides. They're much more expensive but very sturdy and can be reused for whelping, as well as an outdoor pool or bathing area for your dogs.

To make a whelping box out of a kiddie pool, find a pool size where your dog can lay out comfortably with some extra room for the puppies.

  1. You can line it with a round whelping pad, old towels, newspaper, or even covers made specifically for kiddie pools used for whelping.
  2. An excellent safety precaution is adding a PVC pipe frame that serves as puppy rails to keep the mom from rolling over and crushing a newborn pup against the sides. Just be sure the puppies can't get stuck under or between the pipes.
  3. To keep puppies from getting out of the pool when they get larger, you can run x-pens or playpen panels around the outside of the pool. Make sure you leave a doorway for the mom to come and go!

Whelping Box Plans

If you want to build your own cheap whelping box but prefer a different style, you can find simple whelping box plans on the Internet. Here are some to get you started:

McEmn Mark III Whelping Box

This is a box built with plywood and steel nuts and braces and is designed for Great Danes. You can adjust the size for your own breed of dog. The plans are for a very sturdy box that is easy to clean and take apart for storage while standing up to a lot of usage.

Supplies needed include two 4-foot by 8-foot plywood sheets, four 2-by-4s for the pig rails, polyurethane, and hardware, such as steel three-corner braces, tee nuts, and cap screws. You'll also need a table saw, drill press, router, screwdriver, and drill with several bits. While the website includes detailed plans and instructions, if you're not accustomed to working with tools and lumber, you may want to hire a contractor to build this box for you.

How to Build a Whelping Box with Puppy Rails

The PetPlace website provides a very detailed set of step-by-step instructions on how to build a whelping box using plywood, wood strips, vinyl flooring, hinges, and corner braces. You'll also need to be handy in order to build this box, as tools required are a circular saw and drill. The floor is optional, and the instructions allow for removing it to create a bottomless box. The puppy rails are made from the wood strips, although you could also improvise and make a set of puppy rails using PVC pipes and connectors.

Building a Whelping Box

Another excellent set of plans for a whelping box built with plywood and hardware is found in this YouTube video. The box described in this video has the puppy rails built into the sides as well as two shelf areas in the back for supplies and can be placed on cheap vinyl flooring tiles for easy cleanup. The box was made for a labradoodle, but you can adjust the dimensions of the plans shown in the video for your own dog's size.

Cheap Whelping Boxes for Sale

If you're not mechanically inclined and balk at the idea of building anything with tools and lumber, you can purchase a box. There are plenty of options if you're on a strict budget.

  • Check with local seller websites such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to see if anyone is selling a box. You can also look on eBay.
  • If you know of any breeders in your area, you could try contacting them to see if they might have a box they want to sell or possibly even rent out to you.
  • If you have a small breed dog, EZWhelp offers a budget whelping box called the EZclassic box. It comes in three sizes and starts at $209 up to $359. It's made of plastic and comes with one whelping pad and PVC puppy rails.
  • If you plan ahead, you can check out the websites of some major manufacturers of high-quality whelping boxes to see if they have sales. Canine Whelping Box, Lakeside Products, Jonart, and EZWhelp can have sales or offer discounts on open-box or returned items.

Easy to Improvise

There are a number of less expensive, homemade whelping box ideas that will work for dogs of all sizes. You can improvise to create suitable whelping boxes that won't break your budget without too much trouble. Just spend some time looking at whelping boxes so you know how they are made and pick the most comfortable and safest style for you, your dog, and her pups.

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Cheap Whelping Box Ideas and Plans