Preparing for the Puppies
Diet is not the only thing to consider during pregnancy. If your plans have gone according to expectation, some youngsters will be arriving shortly, and a place must be prepared for their reception. A packing case with dimensions depending on the size of the bitch, makes
an excellent nursery, or in breeding terms, whelping box. The main thing is to combine sufficient space with safeguards to prevent the bitch from rolling on the puppies before they are able to look out for themselves.
I obtain a sufficiently large packing case and turn it on the side. Across the lower part of the opening is fastened a board the length of the packing case and about eight inches wide. This leaves plenty of room for the bitch to get in and out over the top, but forms a barrier which will restrain the puppies from wandering away from the dam until they are walking and have their eyes open. When this is done a rail is placed around all four sides, inside the box, about four inches from the floor and four inches out from the sides. This prevents the bitch from rolling into the corners and pinning a puppy between her body and the wall of the box. Many a pup has been smothered in this manner. It will not be needed after the young become active, but it is very useful before that time. If the mother has several hungry youngsters pulling at her, it is quite possible that she may forget one and accidentally pin it down if it is not able to fend for itself. Old broom handles are as good as anything for these rods, they may either be fitted inside the packing case and held in place with nails driven through the case and into their ends, or holes may be bored and the rods fitted through them.
The next step is to make a wire screen to fit over the remaining part of the opening in the front and to place fasteners to retain it. This is a help in case I wish to keep the bitch confined in the whelping box. It also serves a useful purpose later when the puppies have learned to climb over the eight-inch board. The final step is to hang a screen (a single piece of sacking does very well) so that it may be let down over the opening to give the bitch privacy. It also helps to keep the puppies warm if the weather should be cool. Unless you have a heated kennel or are in a position to keep the litter in the house, however, it is better not to breed later than the middle of August. It can be done, but the puppies are never such fine specimens when reared in the cold. It is also well not to breed too early in the spring unless artificial heat can be provided. Once a puppy has been chilled, it will never be the same. Even though it may survive, the setback will affect it all its life. Above all, never let a puppy get wet. "A wet pup is a dead pup" is a maxim among dog breeders, so be sure that the whelping box is dry at all times.