My mother was a great “midwife” when it came time to whelp Cairn puppies when I was growing up, and I’ve whelped a couple dozen litters of Toy Poodles myself since then. I was also fortunate to spend a number of years working for my vet at one time, so I know my way around birthing babies… baby puppies, anyway.

I’ve seen a lot of the different things that can go right and not just a few of the things that can go wrong. Still, all those litters have been over several decades. It’s not something I do on a monthly basis, or even on a yearly basis necessarily, so when it gets near time for another litter to come along I’ve always liked to give myself a littler refresher course.

Other than learning first from my mother, and then from other experienced breeders, books have been among my most valuable resources in learning the ins and outs of breeding dogs.

Literally dozens of good books are available that will take you through every step of the process from how to select a foundation bitch for your breeding program all the way through whelping and raising a litter. Some even provide advice for selecting the best homes for the puppies.

One of my all time favorite books about the actual whelping is one that has been on the market for a long time, but I’ve never found a basic whelping book that I value more.

The Whelping and Rearing of Puppies, by breeder Muriel Lee, was first published in 1987 and is the one basic whelping book that I have kept on my shelf and referred back to time and again. I’ve used this book to remind myself of specific information and as reassurance when waiting for a litter to be born.

The book was updated in the late ‘90s, so you can imagine that it isn’t filled with the technical advances in whelping that have since been made. Instead it is a very basic, but very informative, guide to caring for the bitch in whelp, preparing for the litter and bringing a litter into the world. The two chapters entitled “Whelping Problems” and “Possible Problems for a Whelping Bitch” are the two sections I read before every litter I have.

Whelping and Rearing is a great resource for anyone who is brand new to whelping puppies and also for anyone who wants a little refresher course. You can find it on, and the new edition has loads of new color photographs to go along with the old illustrations. Best of all, it still includes the results of Muriel’s survey of 27 very experienced breeders scattered throughout the book.

Anyone who is expecting a litter will certainly benefit from having this book in their collection.