How do I keep my dogs warm in kennels in winter?
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. You want them to enjoy the season, turn in their best performance and stay well and healthy. Part of this is ensuring that you keep your dogs warm in their kennels so they sleep well. (It’s also key to know how to look after your dog after a shoot day.)
Keeping dogs warm in kennels in cold weather
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 Some kennels use torn up newspaper, others bits of rubber matting originally made for cow cubicles and stables.
These people seem to have the principle that making gundogs ‘rough it’ is good and that the dogs will become soft if they are ‘too’ comfortable. I can’t understand the logic of this. A gundog that is warm, dry and comfortable is a dog that will sleep peacefully in his kennel. A contented and confortable 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. (Read more on feeding your dog during the season.)
In my experience you should 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 ?
Avoid using 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. I like the reusable and washable Vetbed which is designed to let moisture pass through and away from a damp dog. Vetbeds are worth the investment and very resilient to wear and tear. (Read our list of the best gundog beds here.)
Looking after your gundogs in winter
Your dogs should be cared for properly and thoughtfully throughout 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.
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. (Read kennel or kitchen – which is best?) See my comments on straw above – there are better alternatives.
This article was originally written in 2014 and has been updated.