The temperatures are dropping and everyone is prepping for a long couple of months indoors. If your dog spends most of his day outdoors, it is important for dog owners to make sure they winterize their dog house as well as their own human house. Every winter there is a whole slew of pet articles all over the world about abused pups left out in the cold in poor living conditions. However, winter doesn't have to be a miserable season for dogs, with a little winterization; it can be as pleasant as any other. Proper pet owners will have little problem spending an afternoon making sure that their dog is warm and happy all through the snowy winter months.
Choosing the Appropriate Doghouse
Those who have had outside dogs for awhile should already have this step covered. A doghouse is the most essential tool for the winter months. Those who don't have a doghouse or can't afford one should keep at least have a dry, warm spot out of the wind for their dog to go during the day and bring them inside a garage or basement during the cold nights or especially cold days.
Doghouses come in a number of different shapes and sizes. Kennel dog houses with a fence around them are popular as well as the igloo shaped doghouses. The handy sort can even built their own dog houses fairly easily with scrap lumber and some insulating additions.
Ideally, the longer and smaller the entrance to a dog house extends, the warmer your pooch will be. This primarily prevents the wind from blowing in. Those who don't have long extensions can easily build them, but the doghouse should at very least have the entrance settled to one side so the dog can move to the other side to avoid the cold.
Insulating the Doghouse
A dog house doesn't need to have proper insulation like a real house, but those who build their own certainly can put it in if they wish. Homemade doghouses should have shingles to prevent leaking as well as some spray insulating in the cracks to prevent the cold seeping in.
Owners with any sort of doghouse should highly consider spreading the interior and around the exterior with straw. The interior straw can be skipped if there is other bedding, but straw is a great insulator and mud preventative. Spread a thick layer of straw outside to prevent mud from getting inside the doghouse and prevent the dog from sitting and standing in cold mud.
Those who own kennel type doghouses to keep their dog in while they are at work can make it seem like it is barely winter outside by attaching a tarp to the surrounding fence. This prevents a lot of snow drifts and quite a bit of wind from blowing inside. This allows for the dog to go hang out in the fenced in area without being too chilled. After all, dogs don't want to spend the whole winter in their doghouse no matter how nice it is.
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Airing Out the Bedding
Winter is a good time to win the war on fleas and ticks for the outside dog. After the temperatures drop, fleas and ticks are looking for somewhere warm with an abundance of food, so the doghouse is the perfect place to go.
Dog owners should take the time to remove all the bedding and either replace it (if they use stray) or wash it if it is plush fabric bedding. Prepping the dog with a flea collar or topical solution is a good deterrent, but if fleas are in the bedding and house already, it needs to be treated. When washing the bedding, dump a cup of distilled or apple cider vinegar into the washer and they will assure no fleas are left alive. Creating a solution of water and vinegar in a spray bottle will also kill fleas inside of the dog house as well. This is a great all natural, non-toxic way to prevent fleas and ticks from invading the dog's home during the colder months. Owners can also spray this on their pets if they have a flea problem, but avoid the face area. Vinegar burns like heck for those who have never experienced it.
Care About The Food and Water
During the winter and after it drops below freezing every night, owners should be sure to check a dog's food and water frequently. If outside dogs are on a feeding schedule, food won't be much of a problem. However, if your dog always has access to food or doesn't eat it all in one sitting, it can get soggy and gross in the snow and rain.
Water is a bigger issue. It tends to freeze over and that can be a problem for a thirsty dog. Breaking the ice up every morning is fine if the temperature during the day is above freezing, but it should be checked frequently to assure the dog always has access to water. Those who don't have the time may find it beneficial to move their water dish inside their doghouse if it has room. The doghouse, if insulated well, should rarely be cold enough to let it freeze, thus making the job easier.
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Caring for a Dog's Health in the Winter
Winter can bring about some unique health problems for dogs and it is not just limited to them getting too cold (though that should always be a worry).
Much like humans, the arthritis in older dogs is aggravated by cold, damp weather. This can be extremely painful for outdoor pets. There is a number of ways to make the dog more comfortable from medication to sprucing up their living conditions. If the dog cannot be brought inside for warmth, a major benefit to the old dog is to add a heated floor mat into their dog house. The floor mat will help ease their aching bones and make them all around more comfortable.
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During the winter, dog owners should keep an eye on their dog's paws. The pads on many dogs' can get irritated by the presence of road salt and other de-icers. Their paws should be rinsed and dried after walks to prevent it and it should be kept out of their outside doghouse area. Owners should never let dogs clean their own paws after walking through de-icers. They can be toxic to dogs. It is also important to trip the fur between a dog's paws to prevent ice balls in between their feet.
Mind the Below Zero Temperatures
When the temperatures drop below zero or single digits, even the best doghouses may not be able to do the job. Responsible pet owners should always bring their dog inside even if they don't want to. It's recommended to put them inside the actual heated house and not just a shed or garage (unless it is heated). Lock them in the basement or laundry room for the night, if nothing else, it is the kinder thing to do.