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Checklist: How to Help a German Shepherd Give Birth

Written By: Sharon Waddington

Last Updated:

Helping your German Shepherd give birth is an incredibly rewarding experience while also being a slightly nerve-wracking one. If you are wondering what to do when your German Shepherd is giving birth to her pups, there are plenty of ways to help your dog. So, here’s what to do.

To help your German Shepherd give birth, be prepared, provide a clean and comfortable environment such as a whelping box, and give her space, but be ready to intervene if needed. After the birth, support her by encouraging her to urinate, eat, and rehydrate, ready for nursing the puppies.

It may be surprising to some, but German Shepherds and most other dogs are very self-sufficient during birth. That does not mean you won’t play any role. A crucial part of the process is recognizing when they need you versus when you need to let them do their thing.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to prepare your German Shepherd for giving birth, including a checklist of supplies you’ll need.
  • What to do during the birth.
  • Making a post-pregnancy plan.

Let’s get started!

Newborn German Shepherd with unopened eyes

How to Prepare for Your German Shepherd Giving Birth

German Shepherds are truly great pets, and preparation for your dog giving birth will be one of the most important things you do for her throughout the birth process. These are what she can’t do herself and will be grateful for once the birth begins.

But first, take a look at this incredible 3-minute video of a German Shepherd giving birth. Wow! Nature is truly amazing:

Even though dogs are relatively low-maintenance when it comes to the actual birth, there are still plenty of things you will need to do to get her ready and prepare the area where she will be giving birth. 

Talk to Your Vet

The best way to be proactive in the success of your German Shepherd giving birth will be to have frequent discussions with your vet and maintain an open line of communication with them.

In any case, once you suspect your dog is pregnant, you will need to take her to your vet for regular check-ups.

Ensuring her overall health is the crucial first step. Your vet will conduct a thorough exam and alert you to anything you need to be aware of. As with pregnant humans, health concerns are elevated during gestation, so be sure to take your Mom-to-be to the vet straight away and continue to monitor her throughout the pregnancy.

Be sure to ask your vet any questions or concerns you may have about caring for your German Shepherd during the coming months and the birth itself. They will give specifics for your dog and anything else you need to be aware of. 

Diet: You’ll want to have a healthy diet in place, with proper exercise, and do everything you can to make sure she stays healthy throughout the pregnancy:

Good nutrition sets the stage for successful breeding and pregnancy.

VCA Hospitals – Robin Downing, DVM, CVPP, CCRP, DAAPM

During the first two trimesters of the pregnancy, your German Shepherd’s nutritional requirements will be essentially the same. Make sure she doesn’t either lose weight or become overweight during this time.

The third trimester is when the pups develop rapidly, and your girl will need more calories for energy, depending on how many pups she is carrying.

Your vet is the best person to advise you exactly what your dog needs at this stage in the pregnancy, but high-quality puppy food is usually recommended as it’s richer in nutrients.

You should gradually transition this, and the feeding schedule should be little and often aid digestion.

German Shepherd Pup staring above

Prepare a Checklist of Supplies 

Keep in mind that this is a general checklist that will be useful for your pups’ birth. But if your vet specified anything additional due to an individual circumstance for your GSD, always adhere to their instructions.

Having the checklist ready is an essential step to making sure you are ready. You don’t want to be scrambling to find those clean blankets or a thermometer at the last minute. 

And remember, you will want this checklist to include everything you may need before, during, and after the birth. That will also include emergency items that you hopefully will not need but should have ready.

Standard Supplies:

  1. Clean sheets, towels, and blankets

You will want to have some of the blankets around the Mom. They will help keep her warm and feeling safe and secure. If she has a favorite blanket or an old shirt of yours that she loves to snuggle up with, use those. 

But you will also need additional towels and blankets ready for the little pups after birth. Ensuring they are all warm and cozy after the birth will be, first and foremost. A pile of German Shepherd puppies bundled up with Mom surrounded by comfort blankets is also just really adorable.

  1. Heating Pad or Heat Lamp

Newborn puppies are unable to regulate their body temperature. The new mother understands this and will do her best to keep her pups warm using her body temperature and cuddling them close. But having a heating pad or lamp ready to go will help keep the space warm for the newborns

If you opt for a heating pad, you can place it underneath the towels and blankets where the puppies lie. I like the RIOGOO Pet Heating Pad from Amazon as it has an auto power-off if the pad becomes too hot.

Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

It also has loads of temperature settings and timer settings, giving you plenty of options.

If you opt for a lamp, be sure it is far enough away not to be too hot and burn the puppies. Place your hand underneath it to gauge where it gives a subtle warmth without causing your hand to feel hot. I prefer a heating pad as it just seems the safer option.

  1. Whelping Box and Mat

To prepare for whelping, a whelping box will be required for the German Shepherd puppies to snuggle up after the birth while the mother is recovering. You can purchase a large basket or make one yourself using a large cardboard box.

She will know when she is ready to nurse and cuddle, but when she’s not, the newborns need a warm, safe area to sleep and snuggle with one another. 

A whelping mat may not always be necessary if you have sufficient towels and blankets, but it doesn’t hurt to have one around. You can look on Amazon and Pinterest for some ideas, but there’s no need to spend a fortune unless you are a breeder.

  1. Baby or Puppy Scale

It’s important throughout the puppies’ early stages that they are gaining weight at a healthy pace. German Shepherd puppies, on average, weigh around 0.8 – 1.3 lbs at birth.

It’s wise to measure their weight early so that you can begin monitoring their growth journey. 

German Shepherd Pups staring at the front and sitting together

As we know, German Shepherds seem to go from adorable 2-pound pups to majestic 85-pound protectors in the blink of an eye.

So, knowing how much they weigh after birth and monitoring their weight gain throughout their infancy is an essential step to proper health.

There is no need to take them directly from Mom and plop them onto a scale straight away. Give them time. But have it ready to take their weights within the first day or so.

  1. Digital Thermometer and Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer 

You will need a digital thermometer to track the Mom’s temperature before and after pregnancy to make sure she is okay. You will also need to check the puppies’ temperatures if anything doesn’t seem right or believe one may be sick. 

The indoor/outdoor thermometer will help ensure the room and, specifically, the whelping box area with the puppies is warm enough. 

According to VCA Hospitals, the area where the puppies are kept should be between 85-90 degrees for the first four days. Then gradually decrease the temperature to 80 degrees by the 7th – 10th day, and finally, 72 degrees by the end of the fourth week.

Emergency Supplies:

  1. Baby Nose Suction Bulb

Sometimes newborn puppies have built-up mucus around their nose, and the mucus causes breathing troubles.

The mother will do her best to lick it away, but if you see one of the German Shepherd puppies still struggling with taking breaths, you need to have a baby nose suction bulb, such as this one from Amazon, ready to go. 

Gently swaddle the puppy and use the bulb carefully to suction the mucus out and hold him for a while after, massaging his chest very gently. 

  1. Gloves, Sterilized Scissors, Thread, and Antiseptic Solution

Typically, the Mom will cut the umbilical cord herself by biting through it. But if she doesn’t, you will need to cut the cord using newly sterilized scissors about an inch from the newborn’s belly.

You will then need to use the thread to tie off the cord about ½ inch from the belly. Once tied off, ensure the end of the cord is cleaned with antiseptic. 

Cleanliness during this is critical, so a pair of medical gloves and a clean workspace are essential.

  1. Soft Travel Crate

Hopefully, the birth goes smoothly, and there is no need to take your German Shepherd to the vet during it. But if there is an emergency or you have any concerns, always call your vet or nearest animal hospital immediately.

Have the crate by the door with plenty of cozy blankets and familiar smells ready to go if you need to transport your GSD. This is never an ideal situation, so it should be avoided whenever possible, but under emergency circumstances, you may need an impromptu trip to the vet.

If you haven’t got a travel crate, I would recommend investing in one as part of your preparations. I love this Premium Soft Dog Crate from Amazon. It’s specifically for large breeds such as the German Shepherd, comes in a range of colors, and is reasonably priced.

Pro Tip! Use the buddy system. If you need to take your German Shepherd to the vet during birth, it will help to have someone with you. Consider asking a few close friends or relatives.

They can drive while you sit in the back with your girl to comfort her. This is going to be a scary moment for your German Shepherd, and she will appreciate being able to have you by her side.

Four German Shepherd Pups.

Ensure the Environment is Clean and Comforting

You will take much of this care during the prep stage. You will be placing clean towels down, ensuring everything is sterilized and ready for the momentous occasion. But during the birth itself, you will want to help maintain that environment.

Here are a few things to consider that will help you make this a comfortable environment for your German Shepherd:

  • Ensure she has familiar sights and smells around, such as toys, soft clothing, and blankets that she likes.
  • If there are open windows and loud noises, shut the windows and do everything you can to limit the amount of noise and distractions around her.
  • Don’t allow multiple people in the room unless she is already familiar with and 100% comfortable with all of them.
  • Give words of encouragement occasionally in a soft and soothing voice, letting her know she is doing great.
  • In between puppies, she will need a breather. Make sure she is supported and comforted during these breaks. 

How Do You Know When Your GSD Is About to Give Birth?

Your German Shepherd will begin nesting behavior during the onset of labor, and her temperature will drop. She will become restless and may refuse food, pant, pace, shake, or vomit. But how do you know when the birth is imminent?

You will know when your German Shepherd is about to give birth as you’ll be able to see her contractions visibly. Her stomach will tense or ripple, and she will begin to strain as if she’s trying to defecate. You will see clear fluid from her vulva before the first birth.

Once the contraction is over, you’ll notice the mother’s stomach relax. The first puppy should be delivered within 10-30 minutes of hard straining.

The placenta (after birth) is then delivered and generally occurs 5 to 15 minutes after the first puppy is born. Multiple placentas may be discharged together if puppies are born quickly.

Giving Your German Shepherd Space During the Birth

Oddly enough, one of the best ways to care for your German Shepherd during her birth journey will be to leave her alone.

All dogs are instinctual in ways that amaze us mere humans. German Shepherds are animals that are especially gifted in the “instinct” department. 

German Shepherd Mom Resting before giving birth

GSDs are also incredibly smart. So, between their instincts and intelligence, they have a knack for understanding what to do during and after giving birth. The mother will know what is best for their health, as well as the health of their newborns.

Interfering too much during birth can cause frustration and even anger in your German Shepherd.

While she will most likely understand you are trying to help – she knows best, and she will need her space.

Once you have completed all preparations and have done all that you can from your end, the best thing you can do is sit back and enjoy the incredible experience of watching your German Shepherd Dog give birth.

It’s amazing to see their instincts take over and to watch them handle the birth and care for their pups afterward, even if this is their first litter.  

Be Ready When She Needs You

Part of sitting back and watching as your German Shepherd gives birth is also knowing that she may need you, and, if so – be ready.

If you have done the proper preparations, everything will be ready in case of an emergency or even a small hiccup. Here are some warning signs to be aware of as you watch the process and when you need to intervene:

  • Your GSD has shown signs of going into labor, including a temperature below 100 degrees, and does not end up going into labor within 24 hours.
  • A puppy has only come halfway out, and Mom seems to be struggling.
  • She appears to be in pain and is yelping or crying.
  • One of her breaks in between puppies lasts more than 4 hours, and you know there are more pups to come. Typically, a long break will happen halfway through, which can be up to 4 hours. But past that, there could be something wrong. 
  • She has been having contractions for more than 45 minutes without another puppy coming.

If any of these issues occur or you notice something that doesn’t feel quite right, call your vet immediately. Hopefully, it is something the vet can talk you through over the phone to ensure Mom’s and pups’ safety.

If there is something more complicated, you will need to take your girl to the vet. This will always be the last case scenario because you don’t want to move your German Shepherd during birth.

This is another reason the buddy system is a great step to take. It’s always helpful to have a second set of hands available. 

Have a Plan for Post-Pregnancy

Your German Shepherd has had the pups. Now what?

A big part of the preparation is to ensure that everything is ready for the new mother and pups once she is done.

She is going to be exhausted, needing lots of rest and love. And the newborns will be adorable little helpless creatures that need their canine mother and their human Mom or Dad too! 

Making sure they all stay home, clean, and healthy is the number one priority after birth. During your discussions with your vet, this should be something that is covered.

Your vet will offer specifics if there are particular health concerns for your German Shepherd. But otherwise, they will have general guidelines to keep the new family safe and sound.

Once your German Shepherd has had enough time to recuperate and seems to be doing well after the last birth, take her outside to urinate and get some fresh air.

She may not want to, as she wants to stay with her newborns, but encourage her to go outside for a quick pee and move around.

German shepherd puppy lying down.

Next, try to get her to drink some water and see if she has an appetite. At this point, all the puppies should be warm and snuggled in the whelping box. Let Mom join them and begin nursing them. 

They are going to be hungry, sleepy, and hungry again. Your job is to make sure the pups are getting enough food from Mom and that Mom is getting enough rest to care for them properly. 

If your German Shepherd stops producing milk for a while, you will need to have supplements and formula on hand so you can feed them yourself from a bottle.

It’s normal for this to happen from time to time, and nothing to worry about unless it persists, at which point, give your vet a call to alert them, and they can direct you.


Should I be present during the German Shepherd’s birthing process?

It is generally advisable for the owner to be nearby to monitor the dam’s welfare and provide any needed assistance. However, one must be careful not to overly interfere or stress the female, letting nature take its course under supervision from a safe distance whenever possible.

How many puppies does a typical German Shepherd litter have?

On average, a German Shepherd litter will consist of approximately 6 to 8 puppies, though litter sizes may reasonably range from 4 to 10 offspring. Larger litters of 10 or more are certainly possible but less common for the breed.

How long does it take for a German Shepherd to give birth?

Delivery of the first puppy can commence anywhere from 1 to 3 hours into the dam’s labor, and the birthing process for an entire litter may span 6 to 8 hours on average when all factors proceed naturally without complication for the female.

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds are smart, instinctual, and fiercely protective. They also make amazing Moms. And they know exactly what they need to do during the birth of their puppies.

We hope this article has given you confidence in knowing what to do when your German Shepherd is giving birth. You are going to be your girl’s co-pilot, helping whenever you need to but letting her take the wheel to handle most of the work.

You will know when you are needed, and you will have everything ready to go from your checklist if she tags you in. You will soon be hugging those little bundles of joy and wondering what to name them.

This article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute pet medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment for your pet. Please consult a licensed veterinarian in your area for pet medical advice.

Photo of author

Sharon Waddington

Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs.