You know the day is coming soon so you look for signs of the beginning stages of labor for your German Shepherd soon-to-be Mom. As humans, each GS is going to be different in showing signs of labor and how they prefer to whelp. The main thing to keep in mind is that this process is very natural and instinctual to each new mother. Dogs have been giving birth for several millennium; they know what to do. As caregivers, we want to do what we can to help, but in most cases this can be just watching the amazing miracle of life.
At the beginning of the first stage of labor look for restlessness, shivering, panting, pacing, constant whining, vomiting and not eating. With these signs whelping will take place within 24 hours. Mom will build a nest. Have a place for her ready; a box, crate, or cage. She will go in and dig around periodically. Some people leave the female with the 'nest' in a darken room or someplace quiet. This will depend on the temperament and personality of your GS. If your GS is clingy or needy she probably will not let you put her somewhere and leave her. Knowing your GS, use your best judgment to make her comfortable, calm and in as quiet a place as possible.
You will notice when the second stage of labor begins due to a small amount of liquid discharge accompanied by increased restlessness and moments of forceful straining. From start of first straining to puppy birth is approximately 10 - 30 minutes. From birth of first puppy to next puppy is up to 4 hours. Beyond 4 hours, call your vet. Some pups come every half hour, or there may be an hour or two between births.
The area above and down to the vagina opening will become full or enlarged. This means a puppy is on the way. Mother will make some forceful straining that is equivalent to a human mother 'pushing'. At the opening you will see a liquid sack beginning to come out. This is the sack that contains the puppy. Mother will keep pushing till sack with pup is out. This sack will have the umbilical cord extending back into Mom. Mother will begin to lick at the sack and chew on the umbilical cord. Mother will continue to lick which will stimulate the pup into breathing. If you want, you can open the sack with your fingers at the pup's muzzle and help rub pup till it breaths. Mother will continue to clean up the sack, its contents and the umbilical cord. Mom will eventually chew the umbilical cord down to pup's navel. The placenta will come out next which Mom will also eat. Mom may throw-up the placenta after eating it, but she will eat it again. We all know how nutritious the placenta is for Mom and the pups, so let her eat. Once cleaning is complete and there is time available till next pup begins to come, let Mom nurse pup.
If a situation arises where you see two sacks trying to come out at the same time, you should call your vet. However, if this is not a viable option, you will have to help. Look at which sack is out farthest or pick a sack and with your fingers gently press on sack to hold it in place while the other sack comes out. I have had to gently help pull the other sack out. In this case you will get two pups born right after each other, and a very busy time for Mom with cleaning, stimulating breath and chewing the umbilical cord.
This is an amazing experience to see and be a part of. The most amazing is watching Mom's instincts!