The cold season is here once again. It is time to make certain that our pets have proper accommodations that will keep them warm and dry. Dogs need shelter from rain and snow and protection from cold wind. Whether they spend the night inside or out, most dogs like being outside during the day even when it is cold. A pallet with a piece of carpeting on top gets them up off the cold ground and makes a great patio. If the carpeting gets wet, it will dry as air circulates through the openings between the slats.
Every dog deserves a doghouse. Make sure it is up off the ground, a pallet works great, and have the door facing south or east to catch the warming morning sun. It also should have some protection from the cold north wind. A doghouse with a flat or slightly slanted roof provides a great spot for seeing the world and basking in the sun.
If your dog must spend the night outside, this doghouse needs to be insulated on the bottom, top and all sides. Hanging a towel or small rug in front of the door to the doghouse will help to keep the dog's heat inside When the sun is out, lift this flap so that the house can air out.
A bale of straw makes a great bed for cold winter nights. It can be a bit messy, but it does keep them warm as they burrow down into it. Blankets and soft rugs work well and those not in good enough condition for people to use are cheap at thrift stores. If your dogs are like mine, they will pull them out of the doghouse and play tug of war until they are in shreds. Keep extras on hand but even shreds will keep a dog warmer than a hard plastic or wood floor.
A corner of the garage could be fixed up to be rather cozy by enclosing it in a way to keep the dog's heat in and making sure he is up off the cement floor. Here again, a pallet works well. A doghouse in the garage is great. An enclosed back hall or mudroom would work, but have plenty of rugs and blankets. If the water in his dish freezes, it is too cold a space for the dog.
Speaking of water, rinsing out the water bowl every morning as you give the dog his breakfast is a good habit. Keep several bowls around in case one gets tipped over or full of mud.
In cold weather, it is important to feed dogs twice a day. They need the energy from the food to keep their bodies warm. Share a little of your hot oatmeal with your dogs, adding it to their dry dog food. It will warm them up from the inside out.
Remember that when it rains or snows, the things inside a doghouse will get wet as the dogs go in and out with wet feet. With all the rain last week, everything from my dogs' quarters is hanging on the line to dry. A cold, wet bed can be pretty awful. A cold bed will warm up with body heat but if it is wet, it will stay cold. So check the bedding after a rain.
Most of us who live in the Rim country know what it is like to crawl into a cold bed. Knowing that we will soon be warm is comforting. Our pets deserve the same. One of the dogs that is now part of my family is here because she was tied to a stake with no shelter and no way to get up off of the cold ground in severe winter weather. I could not sleep knowing that she was young, cold and alone, and I suspected pregnant. Now she and one of her pups are part of my household and I know she appreciates what I have done for her.
A little ingenuity goes a long way in creating winter housing for our dogs, and we will sleep better knowing that they are warm and comfortable.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.