Look Who's Popping - Whelping Puppies

by Andrea Mahorney

Hunting Guide with Litter of German Shorthair Pointer Puppies

What my experiences have taught me about whelping puppies...

Your dog is bred. The seven weeks leading up to the last two are really in all, uneventful. Average gestation for most breeds of dogs will be 59-65 days. With our German Shorthairs (med. to lg. breed) they are 62-63 days like clockwork from the first day they are bred. You may not see much but you will feel a difference in her mammary glands at about 4-5 weeks. Her puppies really start to put the weight on and grow in the last 3-4 weeks.

At about 54 days it would be a good idea to get your mama xrayed. You will be able to see their little bones and you will know how many are coming. Ex-rays are not harmful to either mama or pups and are a really nice precaution.    

At 54 days your female should now be resting in a quiet place away from commotion and daily hustle and bustle. If she is going to be delivering somewhere that is not her normal comfort zone, start an introduction to that space at night and through the day at least a week or more prior to her delivery. She will begin to set up or nest there and will accept it as her space when she is ready to go. This will limit the stress while in labor.

Make sure she is in her whelping box, bedding, or whatever material you will be using. This is essential for making her settled. I suggest investing in a whelping box of some kind. There are many retail varieties and a lot of good blueprints, plans, and pics. for the DIY whelping boxes online.

Make sure whatever you decide; you have a 'roll bar. This is an area of the box that projects into the kennel. It sits about 4-5-6 inches (depending on the size of your dog) up from the floor around the entire edge. This protects puppies from being rolled onto and suffocated against the edge...Having said that I will not guarantee it will not happen just that this will significantly help reduce the odds.

German Shorthair Pointer Puppy
Andrea Mahorney with German Shorthair Pointer Puppies
German Shorthair Pointer Mama with Pups

What are you Going to Need?

First off, whether this is your first experience whelping puppies or your 20th, it is always one of life’s greatest joys watching and assisting new life enter the world. The most important thing to remember is that dogs have been having puppies unassisted for a long, long time.

Less is more for your dog.

Keep your area clean and uncluttered as well as your presence quiet and peaceful. Limit foot traffic and outside distractions.

Normal body temp. for dogs is 101.5'. Start keeping a log of your mama's temp from 57 days on. You will see her temp. fluctuate and you will be familiar with her normal temp. When her body temp drops 3' to 98.5' steady, within 24 hr. she will start laboring. This is active labor.

Never pull or tug on puppies (you are not helping get the puppy out) as mother is delivering. As long as the nose is free of the sac, let mama get her breath and she will give another push. When you pull on a pup the risk of tearing or causing a herniated umbilical cord grows significantly. Let it be and mama will do the rest.

Once completely out you may now handle the pup. Clamp the umbilical cord with forceps about 3/4 to an inch from the tummy and cut their cord next to the clamp. At times puppies will be breach (back feet and bottom first). With my dogs I've seen it about 35% of the time. Again Do Not Pull. This is fairly normal.

If the puppy seems stuck and mama has been laboring on the one puppy with its feet out for more than 1/2 hr., drop everything and get her to your vet. This goes for any position. If they are stuck half in and half out, not breathing, or actively squirming for about a 1/2 hr. or if mama is pushing and nothing is moving, take her to your vet!

In nature mama will eat the placenta. This instinct is to cover their scent; since laboring and delivering puppies makes her and her puppies vulnerable prey. Do not be alarmed when she does this. It is 100% natural.

Also those placentas are packed with minerals and essential vitamins that help her body induce milk production and aid in contracting her uterus. Let her eat the first three or so and then, if you can get to them first, take the rest so she does not get full of them and vomit. Try to keep track of how many placentas are delivered so you will know if she is cleaned out at the end.

Proceed to pick up the pup in a clean dry towel and rub vigorously but gently; drying them a bit for mom. Weigh each at birth and document it for your records. Then replace them to their mother’s nipples and remove clamp.

I like to have them on a teat actively sucking before moving on. One down ‘X’ many to go. Be sure to remove clamp and scissors back to Vetericyn (sterilizing solution) between each puppy limiting the risks of spreading any bacteria between puppies.

Puppy Whelping Kit
Whelping Box

In your Puppy Whelping Kit

  • This kit is for whelping puppies do-it-yourselfers. I would strongly counsel you to notify your vet about your upcoming litter and after a 24 hr. period has lapsed since the last puppy, to take your brood to your vet for a shot of Pitocin which will cause mom’s uterus to contract excreting any left over placentas etc. (Pitocin will not aid your dog in delivering a puppy. If you suspect a puppy is still inside after 10 hrs. of laboring take your dog to your Vet without delay.)

    Watch your mama and continue to take her temp. a couple times a day for several days. If you see her temp. drop or rise by more than a degree or two from the normal 101.5, call your vet or better yet drop what you’re doing and get her there immediately as this may be a sign of a serious, possibly deadly infection.


    I, Andrea Mahorney, am not a licensed veterinarian. I have not worked for one. I am not a vet tech...I have worked for Flying B Ranch in a kennel of over 30 dogs and at times an excess of nearly 50. For 12 years I have aided in dozens of litters whelped. I have been witness to fails and triumphs, loss and pain. I have learned and watched, documented and studied so that I now bring healthy, strong puppy dogs into this world of ours.

    I am not responsible for any loss incurred after reading this blog. This is all from what my experiences have taught me. The truest knowledge I've learned is that they do best by themselves. Your presence offers peace of mind to them but the less you interfere the better and smoother her labor will be. Good luck and enjoy your babies they grow up so fast! 

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    Your blog is fantastic! This will be my first time supporting my beautiful husky having puppies. I take this responsibility very seriously and the detail …

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