By Ric Allan

 

Merchants to check:

Home Depot

Lowe's

Meijer

 

Commercial Products

Whelping Box Store

ezWhelp

PetPlace plans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on image
for larger version

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preface

Back in 2007, after 28 years in the breed and only a couple of forays into a breeding program with a partner, we embarked on our (meaning we would whelp it) first litter. We were well aware that a whelping pen would not only be nice but, in reality, necessary.

As any good little techie/DYI, I did a great deal of research on the net to find a whelping pen as well as shopped at dog shows and scoured the catalogs. While I realize that a merchant does need to make a reasonable profit to stay in business, the ones I found did not seem to be value priced for the limited use and (the ones I saw) did not seem to be heavy duty enough for our hounds.

Other suggestions, such as using children's (plastic shell type) wading pools, while economical didn't seem like they would be able to contain the litter for any significant length of time after their whelping...

With that background in mind, I decided to build my own.

Details

There were two primary goals in designing the whelping pen, sturdiness and ability to easily break it down for and store it.

Choice of Materials

I chose to use pre finished melamine shelves to minimize the preparation I would have to put into the end product as well as provide an easy to clean good looking surface. These shelves are made from particle board (a mixture of chips and glue) and thus are heavier than wood planks or plywood. You could elect to use either if you wish to lighten the pen but will have more preparation.

The various hinges involved are not critical. The key factors in choosing them are to insure that you are able to fasten them (the holes are spaced properly) to the pieces of the whelping pen.

The door hinges will unlikely come with screws but some of the smaller ones may. Be sure that when you get your hardware, you have the appropriate screws to fasten them to the sides. Pay attention to the thickness of the pieces making up your sides and that the screws used there will not go all the way through.

Preparation of Materials

There is only one piece that requires anything in the way of preparation (before putting the sides together) and that is the side that will have a flap (gate that can be lowered) to make it easier for the new mom to get into and out of the pen during the period right after the whelping. (Once she recovers, and the pups are more mobile, it is likely that it will remain up/closed.)

You may elect to cut a 2+ foot wide by 8 inch high flap in the center of the piece, reattach with hinges, and install latches as shown in the picture to the right...

OR.. simply split the side lengthwise, install the hinges, and then the latches in a way that they hook into the sides connecting to this side.

When attaching the hinges, take care to insure they lie along the same centerline so that you will not experience binding when the flap moves through its range of motion. You can accomplish this by using a yardstick as a backstop to hold them against when putting them in place.

Assembling the Whelping Pen

The remaining assembly (as I did it) is straightforward. I used a simple butt joint (as shown to the right) putting one door hinge on each corner. Although the hinges had four holes for screws, I used only the two furthest from the center on each side. On one side (the vertical running side in the illustration) the two inner screw holes do not lie over the side being attached but rather the end of the other side. Rather than measure their placement and put each in the same exact spot on each corner, I intentionally placed them so, when disassembled and later reassembled, they would be reassembled in the same order.

Optional Effort: If you wanted to make a more professional looking product, you could miter the corners (45 degree), sink the hinges, and... I chose not to. If YOU do, check that the screws are not too long (when counter sinking the hinge) and that the holes in the hinge are far enough from the center to clear the corner miter.

Using the Whelping Pen

It should be obvious that I did not include a permanent bottom. I felt it not only wasn't needed but would pose more problems than it was worth (bulk, weight, something that was more difficult to clean). During its' first use, we covered the floor under it with an inexpensive tarp, then covered that with old sheets. This time (its' second use) I put a double layer of plastic sheeting (sold to cover floors during the painting of walls) then a layer of old sheets, then old towels (which we change out every four hours or so). The additional layers are changed out as conditions dictate to maintain a clean dry environment.

This has worked well and as of day sixteen, the flap has not yet been raised. Once they are too active to be confined by the pen, I'll disassemble it and slide it under the bed in the spare bedroom.

Below is a list of materials in table form that can be printed out to take to the store, get prices, and figure what it might cost you. Our whelping pen was made for less than $80. There is much you can do to reduce that cost OR raise by adding embellishments to suit your tastes.

Bill of Materials
Description Qty Unit $ Ext $
Sides (48" x 16" White Melamine)
4
Corner Hinges (4")
4
Corner Hinge screws
16
Flap hinges
2
Flap hinge screws (if not included w/fh)
8
Flap latches
2
Total .

 

Pros and Cons of Design

PRO: The are a number strengths of the design as executed. First, there is minimal cutting and virtually no finishing that is required. The surfaces are prefinished and quite rugged. We've had no problems with the puppies breaking through the coatings on the sides and no problem cleaning them. With the width of the material, 16", we have maintained excellant containment of the pups compared to other low cost alternatives (like a wading pool).

CON: As with most prefinished, moderate cost shelving boards, they are made from particle board... they're HEAVY. The hinges I found do not let the hinge pin be removed easily so... although they break down for storage, they aren't as quick and easy as I envisioned. And while they are much higher than inexpensive alternatives, I'd prefer they be a little taller so I didn't have to worry about the little buggers crawling out for another week or so..

Design Alternates

HIGHER SIDES: This could be accomplshed by pairing and hinging sets of boards lengthwise. Example use four sets of 10"w x 48"l boards (hinged to fold OUT) to create a whelping pen that (when they are folded down) was 4'x4'x 10" high but when they were folded up it would be 4'x4'x20" high... other widths or combinations would yield different (adjustable) heights for the sides.

LIGHTER WEIGHT: Use real wood rather than particle board. Attention would have to be given to choice of materials to finish the sides.

CORNER CONNECTORS: One could end drill the pieces and use long wood screws or bolts with steel liners in the receiving piece to facilitate repeated assembly and disassembly.

Feedback

Shortly after completing this article, I received some severe criticism because it lacked puppy roll bars or bumpers. In the conversation, the reason for the concern and potential value to them was beyond dispute as they address a concern we are acutely aware of but (because of our current situation) addressed with 24x7 supervision.

While I have done some research into commercial solutions (click to see one such solution or visit commercial sites listed in sidebar), I am less than impressed with them. The ones I see, while providing safe havens for the little bodies to slip into, create hard edges that provide opportunities for more concentrated trauma and choking. Much as our politicians merely shift problems rather than solve them, these solutions all change a danger from one form to another, dangers that I believe are (for our breed) more acute than the mother laying on the puppy.

I will be doing more research (and giving thought to my own designs) but urge readers out there to submit articles on their solutions or reviews of commercially available products that address this important concern.

Your ideas and Comments

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