I can’t get hold of any cardboard locally and some shredded paper I’ve seen advertised specifically for dogs is £15 a bale which is too expensive for me. I have used shavings in the past but the dogs started fouling the beds. I may go back to using straw but I am worried about mites and any other passengers it may carry. Any suggestions?

Jeremy Hunt says: Everyone has their own ideas about how to make dogs comfortable in the winter in kennels. I know some kennels that just allow dogs to sleep together in plastic beds with no bedding at all, some use pieces of rubber matting manufactured for cow cubicles and stables, others prefer just torn up newspapers – the options are endless.

There’s no doubt that some people seem to have a hang-up about making dogs “too
comfortable” – almost as though allowing them to “rough it” is good for them.

I am never sure why that is, because a dog that’s warm, dry and comfortable is a dog
that will be happy in his kennel which is definitely a bonus if you live close to neighbours and have to leave your dog(s) for any period of time.

Shredded cardboard can be difficult to get hold of in some areas and some of the shredded paper I have used in the past is very dusty.

Many people use shavings in winter although I have never been a fan of them having seen dogs scratch up their beds and feared the risk of a kennelmate getting a wood splinter in the eye.

So what about straw? The secret of using straw is fi rstly to use only wheat straw, secondly to ensure it’s good quality and clean and thirdly to not let it get wet in the

If you bed-up a dog bed with fresh, wheat straw and then put two dogs in it that are wet through after a day’s shooting or a good walk, the bed will soak up the moisture and the straw will begin to break up.

Damp and wet straw absorbs moisture and the straw breaks down. I still use straw in some of my beds but because I don’t want to have to be replacing the bedding every few days in the winter I make sure that the dogs don’t get back into them when they are drenched.

I can already hear people say they never dry their dogs, well I would rather run an old towel over and under a wet dog and then put him a dry bed rather than let the straw do the work and see it rapidly deteriorate in the process and lead to more work cleaning out the bed.

We all have our own ways of doing things! If you do decide to go for the wheat straw option make sure you are generous when you fi ll the beds. Dogs will make deep nests in the winter and be contended to while away the time you aren’t around.

And don’t forget – a warm dry and contented dog will not only thrive without the cost of any heating in the kennel but will also make much more use of the food you give it. So instead of burning up every calorie just to keep warm he’ll be able to utilise his feed more effi ciently and hopefully provide you with a healthy and active dog that will
hold his body condition during the winter shooting season.