As winter approaches it is time to look at the cold weather shelter you have for your dog, specifically the dog house. There are a few things that may need to be looked at prior to winter whether or not the dog house is new or has been used for several years.
Clean the Dog House
Remove all bedding material from the year prior; discard it in the case of straw, or wash it for reuse in the case of blankets.
All dog houses should be washed, this is particularly important when using a second-hand dog house as there is always a risk of the parvovirus living on the surface. A mild bleach solution is best for plastic dog houses, and the dog house should be allowed to dry in the sun. If the dog house is made of wood it should be brushed with a stiff brush to remove any loose sawdust and splinters that may be on the interior. A wooden dog house may be washed with the diluted bleach solution as well and left to dry in the sun. If there is any concern about a previous dog using the dog house and having parvo, a wooden dog house cannot be disinfected thoroughly, and should be burnt, or destroyed (never resold).
Check to see that the dog house is still in good shape and free of holes which would allow drafts. If there are holes, or nails sticking out, they should be fixed. The roof should be checked to ensure it is in good shape and water-resistant.
The dog house should be placed on a covered deck or raised off the ground slightly according to your usual depth of snow. Raising the dog house means that snow will not block the doorway, and allows for insulation below.
Position the dog house so the door faces away from the dominant winds, in the northern hemisphere, this typically means you should face the door to the south.
In most cases, the dog’s body heat will warm the dog house, but sometimes, especially if the dog house is considerably larger than the dog, additional heating may be required. There are two methods of doing this. The first, and cheapest, is by installing a light fixture and using a low wattage light bulb. If this is done the bulb must be in a cage and well secured. The other method is by purchasing a heating mat which also will run off electricity and are made especially for use outdoors in dog houses.
Insulation and Bedding
Some dog houses are already insulated, but most are not. If the dog is to remain outdoors for any length of time (such as overnight) or is a short-coated dog, it is important to have an insulated dog house. One of the best insulators and bedding is straw (not to be confused with hay). Straw can be purchased as a small square bale from a farmer, and typically all you will need is part of a bale. Straw can also be used to stuff the space under the dog house. If you do not wish to use straw, having several blankets will work equally well. If your area is very cold you may wish to place bales around the dog house to act as insulation.
Welcoming Your Dog
If your dog is not used to using the dog house, invite him/her in by placing some treats just inside the door, and some further back. As the winter gets cold he/she will soon learn to use this as a place for shelter.
Read more dog-related articles on animalvee.