As the winter months approach, what should you be doing to make sure your faithful companions are warm and comfortable? Jeremy Hunt advises.
Your four-legged shooting companions work hard for you out in the field and to ensure that they stay well throughout the gameshooting season (and get comfortable sleep) owners need to pay close consideration to how they keep their dogs warm when in outside kennels.
Keeping dogs warm in kennels in winter
I’ve come across kennels that just allow gundogs to sleep together in plastic beds without the comfort of bedding. Some kennels use torn up newspaper, others bits of rubber matting originally made for cow cubicles and stables.
Some people seem to have the principle that making gundogs ‘rough it’ is good for them and that they will become soft if they are ‘too’ comfortable.
It seems illogical to me. A gundog that is warm, dry and comfortable is a dog that will sleep peacefully in his kennel. Definitely a bonus if there are neighbours nearby.
Added to which a contented dog will not only thrive 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 efficiently and hopefully provide you with a healthy and active dog that will hold his body condition during the winter shooting season.
The size of kennel is also important. Based on my experience with gundogs I’d say go for the largest kennel you can accommodate. If you go large then you can put another dog in there when you need to without things becoming cramped. Most of my kennels – with run – are 4ft wide by 6ft long, and extra space is given to the sleeping quarters.
The dogs’ sleeping quarters are every bit as important as a spacious run and should be warm, draught free and off the floor.
What sort of bedding will keep a dog warm ?
I’d advise avoiding straw which can attract and harbour vermin.
If you want to use loose bedding material then bales of shredded paper are probably best. This be easily disposed of when it gets dirty and does not harbour insects and vermin as straw would. I like the reusable and washable Vetbed which is designed to let moisture pass through and away from a damp dog. Vetbeds aren’t cheap but they are worth the investment and very resilient to wear and tear.
Looking after your gundogs in winter
Your dogs should be cared for well through the winter. After shooting, when they are likely to be dirty and wet, besides towelling off after washing, a heat lamp is ideal for getting them completely dry. They can then settle down into a well-covered, warm bed and come to no harm even on the coldest of winter nights.
Steps for maximising your kennel security and protecting your gundog
Kennel or kitchen: Where should your gun dog be when not in the field?
Moving house dogs outside
Q: With the recent addition of twin babies into the home it is now not practical or sensible for my three gundogs to live inside. We have a good-sized barn and were wondering if they would be all right out there day and night until the children are older. Would dog beds and some straw be sufficient?
A: Though your dogs have been used to the comforts of the family home they should soon acclimatise to life outdoors, even if this time of year is not the ideal time to start the acclimatisation process. Most dogs that are kept in a social group enjoy snuggling up together but others prefer to be on their own; you should know what your dogs do at present and provide for them accordingly. A covered-in box or dog bed just big enough for them to curl up in is much cosier and warmer than an open bed.