The white vinyl garden box used as a whelping box for puppies has become very popular and with good reason. The boxes are readily available from Costco, Amazon and other places. While they don’t have all the features of some of the old favorites like Durawhelp and EZwhelp, they are much less expensive, and in some ways are even better.

The Pros and Cons of using a vinyl garden box as a whelping box for puppies

What I like

  • Easy to clean. The surface is very smooth. It’s easy to wipe down while you are using it and to disinfect when you are done with it
  • Easy to store. They come apart and fit right back in the box they came it or you can tie them together. I keep them standing in a plastic tub along with the end pieces
  • You can add additional sets to make a larger area. The modular pieces allow you to set it up in different configurations and grow with your puppies and the space available.

Nothing is perfect

  • It’s a garden box, not a whelping box so you have to make pig rails to prevent the mother from laying on the puppies.They aren’t adjustable. They are 4×4. You can make them bigger in multiples of 4’ but if you need an interim size (I needed a 4x6ish box to help with litter training and I had to rig something up.
  • Access for the mother can be tricky. The boxes I use are 11” tall. (They are available in other heights too.) My 19.5” bitch has no trouble getting over that when it’s one level high. As the puppies get bigger, I need to raise that up (I explain how in part 2) so they can’t get out. Eventthiiually the box is two layers high and she’s jumping in and out over the 22” sides. She can do it, but a different dog might have problems.
  • The box is too light to keep the blankets or fleece in place so you have to use clips or weights.

Setting up for whelping and the first couple of weeks.

I set the vinyl garden box up a week or so before the puppies are due to be whelped. The bitch is going to want to dig so I don’t worry about making sure the top layer is secure the way I will once the puppies are born.

Picking the right place for the box

The most important factors in figuring out where to set up the box is that you can regulate the temperature and keep the area draft free, make the bitch feel safe (you have to have a way to keep other household animals away – I use an ex-pen) and that the bitch will be able to come and go when she decides she is ready to leave the puppies.

To protect my wood floors I buy a piece of vinyl floor remnant from a big box store or flooring store. If you plan to use the flooring for future litters, or you have big active puppies pay attention to how thick the flooring is. The least expensive pieces are little more than a vinyl surface printed on paper. It’s fine for young puppies but at 6 weeks if they get a hold of a loose edge they’ll shred it in minutes.

This litter I decided that once the puppies outgrew the whelping box and needed more space I would move them out of the bedroom and into the living room so I skipped the vinyl floor.

Setting up your box for week 1

  1. Eventually, I’ll put a piece of the vinyl floor under my puppy pen but you don’t need to do that for the first couple of weeks. My wood floors were cool and slippery so I used inexpensive yoga mats for insulation held in place with low residue duct tape.
  2. Having a wood or foam insert will add insulation and help keep the box in place. This layer needs to be cut to fit inside the box, so it helps keep the bedding in place. In the past, I’ve used ¾” plywood to make this layer. The bedding fits snugly between the wood and the edge of the box, and the weight of the wood helps hold everything together. Because I live on the second floor, I didn’t want to carry the wood (and so much else) upstairs I used the foam squares instead. They do help keep everything in place, but it wasn’t enough to stop Ruby from pulling on the blankets, so I used plastic clips attached to the sides to hold the blankets taught.
  3.  A heating pad without an automatic turnoff or a reptile pad will keep the puppies warm while giving their mother room to move away. It doesn’t need to be hot, just enough to prevent the puppies from getting chilled. It’s is a better choice than clipping a heating lamp to the box.  It’s harder to manage exactly how much heat the lamp puts out and its dangerous if it falls into the box. Its important that whatever you use for heating stays on and that you have a thermometer in the box to make sure it it stays around 85 the first few days and then between 75F to 80F.
  4. I put an incontinence pad on top of the heating pad under the fleece throw to prevent moisture from getting through, and to smooth the top layer.
  5. The top layer is the most important. It needs to lay flat, so the bitch doesn’t dig around and risk burying her puppies. It needs to be washable, and after the first couple of days, it must have enough texture that the puppies can get traction to crawl around.

Protect the puppies from being crushed by building a pig rail.

Because these boxes are designed for the garden you have to make a pig rail to keep them from getting crushed. I determined how high the railing needed to be and how far it should stick out by measurin my dog.

You want to make sure that when she is lying against it that it sticks out far enough that a puppy will be able to crawl behind her. If it’s too high off the ground she’ll end up rolling under it eliminating the puppy space.

The boxes are marketed as being 4′ x4′.






Shopping list for Vinyl garden box as a whelping box – part 1. The first couple of weeks.

Vinyl garden box

Vita Gardens from Amazon available 7.38” or 11” tall.  Order 2.

Vinyl floor remnant

Foam floor tiles

Low residue duct tape

Heating pad or reptile mat

Fleece throws or ezwhelp pad or vet pad (at least 2, one to use, one to wash)

Clips to hold blanket in place

Low residue duct tape