Friday, November 27, 2009
By Ruthie Bently
Here in Minnesota, while the season on the calendar is still fall, it feels more like winter, sans snow. Skye does have a dog house, though she does not have to use it for winter shelter because she is never left outside. In any country that has a winter season, it is best to have a dog house for those very cold days and nights. Dogs that have no shelter of any kind can get frostbite on their feet, tails and ear tips. They can also suffer from hypothermia which can cause more permanent damage if not treated quickly enough.
You can buy a dog house, or you can make one yourself if you are handy. Visit your local library for do-it-yourself books on how to make a dog house, which will usually include plans. You can probably even find free dog house plans on the Internet. Whether you buy a dog house or make it yourself, the things you should look for are the same.
One thing to consider is the height of the interior space of the dog house. Your dog should be able to get in, turn around and lay down. They don’t have to hold their head up, but should be able to walk into the house without bending their knees. Think of it like your dog’s outdoor den, or (if you use a crate in the house) your dog’s outdoor crate without a door. It should be comfortable for them to get into if they need to. For example, Skye fits well into a crate that is 36” long x 24” wide and 26” high; so if I were looking for a dog house I would look for one with those basic measurements. An important thing to remember is that the dog’s body heat keeps the house warm, so if it is too large your dog won’t be able to stay warm.
Another important factor is that you don’t want your dog house to sit right on the ground. Instead, you want a bit of clearance between the floor of the house and the ground. Rain, snow and ice can get into the floor of the dog house if it sits right on the ground, causing it to deteriorate. Clearance will also keep insects from getting into the dog house, and allows air to circulate. Try to find a dog house with an offset door; this will help keep the winter winds from whistling in and keep snow off your dog as well. One with a baffle pattern is good, but again your dog has to be able to maneuver without too much trouble. If the roof is peaked, you may want to get a sheet of insulated wallboard for extra warmth. A dog house with a shingled roof is a plus, and will protect the roof of the house from the weather.
To cover the floor you can get a piece of indoor/outdoor carpeting, which makes it easier to clean. On top of that you can put an old quilt or down comforter. If you use a down comforter, get a good heavy cover for it, as your dog will probably want to make a nest. Several clean, old rugs work well as bedding too. There are even heated pads you can purchase, but if you use one of these, the dog has to be able to get off of it if they want to. You can also use a nest of straw, but make sure it is clean and mold-free. I like to use old comforters, and can buy them for a few dollars at the thrift store. They are nice and thick, and Skye loves to dig in them in her crate.
If you get a dog house and want to put it into a dog run, make sure your dog run has a top on it. Your dog could use the house as a launching place to get over the dog run fence. If your run does not have a top or is too small for the dog house, you can cut an access panel through the dog run fence, butt the dog house up to the fence and anchor it to the fence. This will keep your dog from pushing it out of the way and trying to escape the dog run. You may also want to use tie downs if the dog house is lightweight and you live in a particularly windy area. I am a fan of wooden dog houses and have had good luck with them, but these tips will apply to any dog (or cat) house you get to protect your pets from the elements.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently