Search Menu

By Nancy Pemberton, AKC Breeder of Merit
Rowan Border Terriers

One of the most important things to do for your pregnant bitch when the time for her to whelp approaches is to provide her with a safe place for her puppies.

Not only will it make her feel more secure, it might be a matter of life and death for the puppies. Below, Nancy Pemberton, an AKC Breeder of Merit and breeder of Border Terriers for 30 years, has valuable advice to share.

In my years of breeding dogs, I have occasionally heard of a breeder’s worst nightmare — a dog has killed a litter of newly whelped puppies. Usually, the killing is done by a male and rarely by the dam, but it does happen. This horror can be avoided with a few easy precautions.

It is important to know that canids seek out a den in which to birth. Ideally, this den is protected from the elements, defendable, and relatively quiet. So how does this translate for breeders in the home or kennel?

A bitch in whelp benefits from a quiet, covered space without contact with other dogs. This allows her to feel secure and reduces stress, and it is especially important for her first litter. Dams typically become agitated when other dogs or strangers approach the whelping box.

Puppies should not be introduced to other dogs living in the home until they are eating solid food; at this point they have developed into more dog-like creatures and are less likely to be mistaken for prey.

In cases where the bitch requires a C-section, it is crucial that she is closely monitored until fully awake and recognizes the pups as hers. Recommended monitoring time is 24 to 36 hours, during which she should not be left alone. This allows time for the anesthesia to leave the dam’s system. These issues need to be discussed with the veterinarian prior to the surgery as many veterinarians rarely see bitches in whelp or with newborn puppies.

Above all, realize this can happen to any breeder. Talk to your breeder as well as other breeders and learn as much as you can about canine reproduction.

Tips for setting up a safe place for your dam:

  • Put the whelping box in a room that is isolated from other dogs. Many breeders set it up in their own bedrooms for the first three weeks. A door and/or gate should be used to keep other dogs away.
  • An ex-pen around the whelping box provides an extra layer of safety.
  • Take extra precautions in keeping other dogs farther away, even if it limits their freedom. The more space between them and your dam, the better.
  • Be available to take the dam outside when she needs to go. If other dogs are in the house, you cannot leave any door open to allow her free access – that would allow other dogs access to her puppies. She may also decide to carry her puppies to a place she thinks is safer.
  • Never trust another adult dog, male or female, no matter how trustworthy he or she normally is, around new puppies.