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What is nesting and why do dogs do it when they are pregnant?

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Nesting is a very common behaviour that is seen in female dogs, primarily when they are pregnant. When a dog is pregnant, her maternal instincts are strong and she will intuitively start to prepare a safe place for the birthing of her pups - this is known as nesting.

How to know your dog is nesting

Understanding what the behaviour that your dog may portray when nesting is important to make sure that you know that your dog is nesting. Dogs can often display odd behaviours and the different things they can do can mean many different things.

Nesting behaviour will generally occur around a week before your dog is ready to birth its litter. The below behaviours are extremely common in dogs who are nesting.

Excessive Grooming

Excessive grooming is common in dogs who are begging to nest and starting to prepare to give birth. Your dog will lick itself constantly in an effort to try and ensure its clean and ready for the arrival of its litter.

Gathering Toys

Your pregnant dog will gather all its toys in the area that it has created its nest. This is a sign that your dog is starting to become more protective as she prepares for the birth of her litter.

Ripping Blankets

To build its nesting area, your dog will rip blankets and bunch them in an area so that it has a safe place for its self and its puppies.

Why do pregnant dogs make nests?

Pregnant dogs will start to make a nest to prepare for the birth of their puppies. This is to ensure that when they give birth, they have a safe and secure place that they can raise their puppies until they are old enough to fend for themselves. This is a natural instinct that dogs carry as mothers.

The main purpose of the nest is to create a place out of the way to minimise the risk of predators, but also to create a warm and safe place for then puppies.

What is a whelping box?

A whelping box provides the perfect safe place for your dog to have their nest for birthing their puppies.

Whelping boxes are designed to stay clean, easy to disinfect as well as easy to set up and take down.

A whelping box will help provide your dog with a safe place to give birth which will ensure that they feel comfortable during the birthing process. It will also ensure that a safe place in your home is outlined for the puppies to ensure that they are secure.

A whelping box is a great enclosed area which will stop the puppies from wondering off and potentially getting lost or becoming harmed in the weeks following their birth.

How to make a whelping box

The key to making a whelping box is to ensure that it’s comfortable and we’ll enclosed. You can purchase whelping boxes from your local store, however it is more cost effective to make one, and it’s not too difficult!

What is phantom pregnancy?

Phantom pregnancy is a condition in which unspayed female dogs start to mimic the physical and behavioural signs of pregnancy.

Although they may act and in some cases even look pregnant, there will be no puppies in sight.

The condition usually becomes apparent four to nine weeks after the animal was in heat. It should clear up naturally within one to four weeks, leaving your pet unharmed and you either disappointed or mightily relieved!

Some vets believe that most female dogs will experience some phantom pregnancy symptoms after each time that they're in heat, though these are usually too mild to cause concern.

It’s believed that about half of all female dogs will have a phantom pregnancy in their lifetime unless they are spayed. In some breeds, such as Afghans, Beagles and Dachshunds, the likelihood is as high as 75%.

Once your dog has had one phantom pregnancy, she’s likely to experience others in the future unless you get her spayed before she’s next in season.


Nesting is the natural behaviour that all dogs show once they start to prepare for the birth of their littler. It’s an act that dogs have inherited from their days of being in the wild.

Read our breeding guides for more information on how to breed your dog.

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