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Drew: Sheltering Dogs in the Cold

By Samuetta Hill Drew

A long-standing slogan for years has been “a dog is a man’s best friend.” This is obvious since 44 percent of American households have a dog as a pet. This number is steadily increasing. Our four-legged friends are often considered a member of the family.

Last week’s article discussed the best ways to keep cats safe and warm during frigid winter temperatures, where this week’s article will discuss the safest ways to keep both big and small dogs safe and warm. This article ends our series on how to protect and keep household pets such as dogs and cats safe during chilled winter weather.

Many breeds of dogs love spending time with their families indoors but being outdoors is the peak experience because they can freely run, bark, sniff, and stalk squirrels to their hearts content. So, doghouses are ideal for them. It offers them a degree of independence and can alert you to an intruder faster.

It is important to keep in mind that not all dogs are well-suited to doghouse living. Puppies and senior dogs have trouble regulating their body temperatures, so they should not spend many hours outdoors unattended. Brachycephalic breeds like Pug or French Bulldog cannot pant efficiently due to configuration of their faces, so they are more prone to heatstroke in hot weather. And small dogs have a higher ratio of surface area to body mass, making it harder for them to stay warm in the winter than larger dogs.

When purchasing a new doghouse, you must check your state’s animal welfare laws. Many laws have guidelines about the size of the doghouse, as well as regulations for the interior and exterior.
When looking for a doghouse, know they are not all created equal. You want one which is insulated or weatherproofed on all sides, including the floor, walls and ceiling. It should also be elevated off the ground since the house will stay warmer and drier that way. It should be able to withstand moisture without leaking and strong winds without collapsing, especially in our region of the country.  It should have a door or flap that will stay closed in the elements, so rain or snow will not get inside.

Measure your dog before buying a new doghouse and purchase one that is at least 25 percent larger than your dog, and one that has enough room for him/her to turn completely around comfortably, so your pet stays cozy all year long. In the summer it should provide shade and have adequate ventilation.

Proper placement of your doghouse is important. It should be safely placed in your yard within a physical fence. Tethers are not safe for extended use while your dog is unattended; although underground electric fence systems are popular alternatives to physical fences, most dog trainers do not recommend them because they can contribute to aggression and reactivity. Also, they do not keep out roaming wildlife, stray animals, or human trespassers who may harm or steal your dog.

Plush dog beds will not do for long-term use; they can retain moisture from wet paws and eventually develop mold. Water-resistant canvas or polyester dog beds can make good doghouse furniture, as can a self-cooling mat or an elevated cot. There are also several doghouse heaters that can be purchased. Select the safest and best one for your type of doghouse.

Keeping an Eye on Safety for our four-legged friends whether a dog or a cat is essential to their growth, and overall well-being.