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Canine sleeping quarters
- what material is best?

By Liz Peters

WHAT kind of bed does your dog sleep on?

If it is anything like my own two it sleeps in the lap of luxury - my small dog sleeps on my bed (this means you will sacrifice luxury linen on your bed to favour easy-wash cotton quilts!), and my border collie cross has her own sleeping pad on the floor of my bedroom (because she is no longer able to jump up on my bed without assistance) - complete with magnetic underlay for her arthritis, and a low pillow!

But of course for dog breeders who often have upwards of 10 dogs in the house at any one time, such an arrangement of sleeping quarters would be impossible. For many dogs their home is a basement or a large wire cage or wire front on a shed, that serves as their protection and is only accessible through an outdoors run and exercise area.

And because it is so easy to clean the shed or cage usually has a concrete floor - often the exercise run also has a concrete floor.

However, to put the needs of the dog first, it must have warmth in order to keep away afflictions such as arthritis and other conditions that can manifest through sleeping on concrete.

Allowing your dog to sleep on concrete is asking for trouble at any time of the year. I know that many breeders say they would use nothing else as a flooring material, and that opinion simply reflects how easy concrete is to clean, but while it is okay for the floor to be concrete the dogs must be provided with a safe and warm place to sleep.

Concrete retains heat, but it also retains cold and would never be the natural choice of the dog in the wild. I have watched my small dog (a Jack Russell-shih tzu cross) at twilight and observed his natural habits, and there is nothing he loves more than to be out in the yard as the sun is going down, answering the calls of other town dogs; and he has a favourite place for after dark - he has dug himself a good-sized hole and he will dig a fresh bit out of it, turn around a few times, and sit in it until it is time for him to come inside for the night.

If he were in the wild, this is where he would spend the nights. He would not seek out a spare slab of concrete or rock and perch himself on top of it!

So understanding that dogs have a better knowledge of their own sleeping requirements than people do, the best we can supply our dogs with is a more natural alternative.

Wood is a natural material and a warm one and although a concrete floor can not be beaten for hygiene there is nothing to stop those of us whose dogs reside outside in cages from adding a platform of wood on which the dogs can sleep.

This platform can be nothing more than a square framework, perhaps only a few inches high, and movable so that it can be shifted when the runs are being hosed and cleaned.

Because it is a few inches off the floor and air can circulate underneath, it is not likely to ever become wet. During the winter you can put an old blanket or two on the wooden false floor and you will find that the dogs will love it. If you have two sets of blankets and alternate them weekly (one in use, the other in the wash), so much the better.

Of course there is always the one or two dogs in a pack who like to be away from the pack while they sleep - they always look for a dark, hidden place in which they can feel sheltered and safe. For such dogs there are alternatives that will still keep them off the concrete while they rest.

One of the alternatives is a plastic igloo kennel. One or two can be placed on the concrete part of the floor with a cot rug or such inside them to encourage any contrary dogs to use them as their own personal sleeping quarters. They are still keeping the dog off the concrete and may be even warmer than the wooden platform as no draughts can penetrate the plastic walls.

Yet another option is a wooden kennel on the concrete floor. Like the plastic igloo, the wooden kennel is off the floor and damp-free, it is warm and can have a blanket as well for extra warmth.

No doubt you will be able to think of other options that will help your valuable dogs to stay warm, happy and healthy during their breeding years and beyond. There is nothing like cold, damp sleeping quarters to keep your animals unhealthy and vulnerable to every virus or bacteria that finds its way into your kennels.

The other major factor for health is of course cleanliness. The design of your kennels can assist this by being built so that there are CLEAN concrete drains all around them. When you hose out your kennels, whether or not you use a natural anti-bacterial cleaner as well as water, all the waste products should be sluiced out into the drain, which in turn should have a destination - there must be a collection point. No use letting it sit in ditches around the kennels to bring flies and bacteria to the kennel area - think of the waste in the same way you would cater for human waste ... hygienically!

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