Setups 3+ Weeks

What's Next?

So, you now have a litter of pups approaching 4 weeks old and they are almost ready to be weaned from mom.   Also, the biggest ones are starting to climb out of the whelping pool!  What do I do now??  To help solve the problem of keeping the pups in the whelping pool, you can surround the pool with an x-pen and tape/tie some cardboard across the opening as shown in the picture.  The cardboard in the opening allows mom to get in and out easily but keeps the pups in. 



If you or someone in your family is handy, they can construct an entrance such the one shown on the left.  The vertical sides are slotted so boards can be added or taken away to raise or lower the height of the entrance.   This serves the same purpose as the cardboard but is sturdier and can be used in conjunction with the x-pen setup after the pups are weaned.  This type of entrance allows mom to enter and exit and the height can be adjusted to keep the pups in as they grow.




Indoor Setups

By the time the pups are 4 weeks old they will need to be in a larger enclosure.  You can prepare your enclosure early and put the whelping pool in the setup and just move them out of the pool when you are ready.  Having the pool within the setup will also keep the pups enclosed and safe if they do get out of the pool. 

Your setup for 4+ week old pups can be in your house or garage but must be in a secure and warm environment with adequate socialization/stimulation for the pups.   Socialization means handling and interaction with humans on a daily basis and stimulation means exposure to many sights and sounds that occur in our daily environment.  Stimulation also includes physical stimulation via handling of the feet, toes etc and exposure to various surfaces inside the enclosure such as bedding, litter, linoleum, tile, or crate doors.

The size of your enclosure is dependent on the size of the litter.  The larger the litter the more space required.  CCI provides 2 x-pens for this enclosure but you can get more if needed.  An x-pen has eight 2x2 feet panels and when setup in a circle provides 20 sq feet of space.  When setup in a square it provides 16 sq feet of space.  Two x-pens in a circle provide 80 sq feet of space and 64 sq feet in a square.  Below are some recommended  space requirements based on the size of your litter. 

      • </= 4 pups (48 sq feet, 6x8 feet minimum)
      • 5-8 pups (64 sq feet, 8x8feet minimum)
      • >/= 9 pups (108 sq feet, 9x12 feet minimum)

These are recommendations only as we understand that your space may be limited.  In general, the larger the space the better as the pups have more room to play, interact, and grow.  With adequate space you can introduce kid toys such as steps, teeter totters, airplanes, tunnels, and have adequate room for litter boxes.

The first thing to consider is how to protect the floor in the area where the pups will be.   Many folks use a large piece of linoleum to protect the floor.  Large pieces of linoleum can be purchased at places such as Home Depot or Lowes or if one is in your area a store that sells floor remnants is a good place to check.  You can usually get an 8x12 piece already cut for around $80.  It also does not hurt to ask if they will donate a piece if you explain what you are doing.  In any case, if you care for the piece of linoleum you can use it for 5 or more litters.  It can be rolled up and easily stored between litters. It is best to use one large piece as smaller pieces layed together provide exposed edges for the pups to chew and rip and tear (and they will).    

Below are some pictures of various setups. 

The setup below is in a garage and uses a single piece of linoleum on the floor.  The x-pens are setup so the space is 8x10 feet (or 8x12 feet).  In this case they have chosen to use 1x10 lumber around the base for stability.  These boards can be place inside the pen as done below or around the outside.  They are held to the x-pen with tie-wraps.  The boards around the base are not necessary but do help to keep the pens stable and in place.  They have a litter box built-in on the right side by using a 2x4 to separate off one area that they filled with pine shavings as a litter box.  They also have room for the steps/slide as seen on the left, the airplane in the center and a couple of crates for the pups to play or sleep in.  Having a crate in the x-pen helps introduce the pups to crates.  The crate doors have been removed so the pups can go in and out. 
















The setup below is in the living room.  Some furniture was removed to accommodate the pen but having the pups in the house exposes them to daily life and all the sounds and movements that go with it.  Once again a 9x12 foot piece of linoleum covers the floor and 2+ plus x-pens are used to create and 8x12 foot pen.  The pen is surrounded by 1x6 lumber for stability and to keep the x-pens in place.  A large litter at 7 weeks old can move x-pens a great distance so a lumber surround or other type of weight such as bricks help keep the pen in place. 

On the lower left front you can see several sections of x-pen that are folded and held along one edge with a bungie cord.  These can be unfolded and extended across the pen to isolate the pups on one side while you clean the other side.  You can also see the “door” on the front side that has removable boards (as shown earlier).  This allows mom to get in and out but keeps the pups in.  The space here allows room for a litter box, steps/slide, tunnel, airplane, crate, and bedding as well as a water bowl. 
















The setup below is in a spare bedroom.  Again, linoleum is put down to protect the bedroom floor.  There is adequate space for bedding, toys, litter boxes, water bowl etc. 








Puppies test everything with their mouths so make sure anything in the x-pen is puppy safe.  The loose metal pieces that hold the x-pens together for storage can be tied to the x-pen so puppy collars can’t get caught on them. 

Outdoor Setups

If you have sufficient space and the weather allows, you can have a setup outside for the puppies to play during warm weather.  Make sure that the puppies are shaded if the outdoor temperature is hot.  Also, puppies need to be supervised outdoors as they can be viewed as a meal by birds of prey such as hawks.  Puppies need to be indoors at night so outside setups are for warm weather play only.  The following photos show what types of “toys” are good for puppy play and development.  These can be used in either indoor or outdoor setups depending on your available space. 



Post Whelp Setup “Accessories”

The surface the x-pen sits on takes lots of abuse during the 3 to 5 weeks the puppies are in the x-pen area.  I like to protect that surface with linoleum.  You can purchase a 9x12 foot roll of linoleum from Home Depot for around $80.  This is easy to clean and protects your floor from the puppy pee and poop!  It is also easily cut with scissors to fit in a particular area.  One warning is to keep the edges from the puppies reach.  If they can find an edge to chew on, they can rip up the linoleum.  In fact, the rate of destruction is proportional to the number of puppies available to participate!  It can be a real fun game.

Puppies can move an x-pen an incredible distance!  The distance moved goes up significantly with the number of pups in the litter and as they grow.  To prevent (or reduce) the movement, you can tie wrap the x-pens to heavy object such as the cinder blocks used above.  These materials can be purchased at many home improvement stores such as Lowes or Home Depot.  Wood framing on the outside of the pen also works well.  Cable ties can be used to attach the frames to the x-pens.  The assortment of cable ties shown in the photo were purchased at Harbor Freight Tools on Piner Road in Santa Rosa (cost approx $8).  Home improvement stores also carry cable ties.



Litter boxes are also an essential item!  Puppies don’t like to sleep where they toilet and will use a litter box if available.  Plastic under bed storage boxes work well or metal trays such as those used under washing machines or pet cages.  Some farm stores even sell “litter” boxes with a cut down entrance area.  Below are pictures of various materials used for litter boxes.  Or you can build-in a litter box area such as shown in the first setup above. 








Litter for the litter box

The litter you use for the litter box can be pine shavings which are available at many farm centers for $5-6 a bag.  Another choice is to use newspaper or shredded newspaper.  There is a pelletized litter called Yesterdays News that is made from newspaper but this is a higher cost item.  Some folks prefer “pooch pads” exclusively.  These can be purchased on line at Amazon and many other sites and are washable and reuseable.  I find that the pups just play with them and make a mess and I only use them when the pups are young.  Another option is to use the wood pellets that are used in pellet wood stoves.  However, please read the labels to ensure that they are safe (don’t contain chemicals etc).  If you are unsure of the safety of the pellets then it’s best to not use them.  Always keep puppy safety in mind when creating your puppy environment.

Another option is an organic cat litter that is made of wheatgrass pellets.  It is called Cat Country and is available in most farm centers or pet stores.  The pups do play in the pellets and eat them but they do not cause any harm and are easier to clean up than pine shavings.