Cold weather can be harmful for hardworking bird dogs. It can affect their energy and immune systems, making them prone to disease and injury. Winterizing kennels helps to reduce disease and the risks of hypothermia, a dangerous drop in body temperature, and frostbite, the freezing of tissues caused by exposure to very low temperatures.
Both heated and unheated kennels should have adequate insulation. Kennel doors should be closed at night, particularly when it is cold and windy. Good ventilation, without excessive cross drafts, will help keep air fresh. Additionally, air should be exhausted from the ceiling to the floor to prevent warm air near the ceiling from being pulled out. Vents should be opened whenever the outside temperature is warmer than the inside temperature.
Inside shelter may be necessary if temperatures become extremely cold. “A doghouse may not keep a dog warm when subzero temperatures prevail,” says Purina Senior Manager of Sporting Dog Programs Karl Gunzer. “You also want to keep a dog’s coat dry in this type of weather. A damp coat drains body heat.”
Outdoor doghouses should be located where there is good drainage and raised a few inches off the ground to help keep out moisture. The elevated area should be shielded with boards to prevent wind from gusting under the doghouse. A canvas flap could be placed over the door of a doghouse, and an inside partition can be used to help keep direct wind off dogs.
Gunzer suggests building a doghouse designed with an entry through a hallway to a second door into the sleeping area to help keep dogs warm. “With a cover on the outside door, this type of doghouse goes a long way in keeping drafts off a dog,” he says. “It also helps to conserve heat.”
Adequate heat and proper sanitation are important, too. It’s best to maintain a constant temperature around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Good sanitation should be practiced year-round, but a hose may be impractical in winter due to freezing water lines. Instead, a scraper or shovel may be used to remove waste from concrete runs. Waste should be picked up daily.
The bottom line is to use common sense in caring for bird dogs in winter. Although you can’t change the weather, you can be sure your dogs are healthy and comfortable.
Cold Weather Nutrition
Did you know that bird dogs need 7 percent more calories for every 10 degrees the temperature drops below the moderate temperatures of spring and fall? In fact, the caloric needs of an active dog in winter could double. Feeding a high-quality, complete and balanced canine diet year-round, such as Purina Pro Plan SPORT
Performance 30/20 Formula, is recommended.
In winter, it helps to allow dogs to gain a small amount of weight for insulation and energy reserves; however, it still is important to maintain dogs in ideal body condition, defined as ribs palpable without excess fat covering. Dogs should have ample water in winter because of the metabolic changes that take place and to help process extra food. Be sure to keep dogs’ water from freezing.
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