Be safe rather than sorry. When addressing kennel management for your canine partners, forethought addressing preventative medicine should be the guiding modus operandi: a healthy dog will live longer, perform better, and train easier. Wise owners give careful consideration to their kennel management procedures.
When selecting a kennel system, the choices are varied both in effectiveness and economic investment. A dog allowed to roam free is an accident waiting to happen and may well lead to a deteriorating relationship with the neighbours. The legal consequences of an unsupervised pet biting someone should not be taken lightly. The options of restraining a dog range from staking him on a six foot length of chain to building the canine equivalent of Windsor Castle.
The advantage of staking a dog is that it is economically beneficial. A major disadvantage is the ability to keep the dog clean. A dog staked is in a mess when it rains, and the bacteria from his stools will contaminate the ground he lays upon. External and internal parasites are much more difficult to keep at bay. However if the dog sleeps in the house and is put outside for short periods of time, a tie out system might well be the appropriate choice. This may also be a great choice when travelling with your dog.
A way to contain the dog is really the function of a kennel or stake out. An option many owners have found to work extremely well is an underground fence. The fence serves as a boundary once the dog has been trained that if he gets too close to the fence he receives electrical stimulation via a receiving collar worn around his neck. Once properly trained the dog no longer needs to wear the receiver collar and will not venture past the perimeter of the fence. An underground containment system avoids the costs of an above ground fence which may not be aesthetically pleasing either. I am not an advocate of containment systems that set a boundary for the dog. I want my young puppies to roam with abandonment to build confidence and develop their instinct to quest. I feel that the utilization of boundary systems is a deterrent to the maximization of creating a bold youngster. However, there is no question that a containment system has a real place in viable options for many owners.
A fenced in yard certainly allows the dog plenty of room to romp and for the owner with an expanded wallet, a fenced in playground may be considered. There are many advantages of a fenced area. A youngster can develop his confidence by running free, chasing butterflies, and being subjected to multitude of stimulations. However, there are drawbacks to a large recreational area in which a canine is left unsupervised. Suppose your dog is expected to hold point or be steady to the flush afield. A dove is walking around the fenced in area. Fido points the bird, then creeps towards the bird, and then, whoosh, he is chasing the dove with all the vigor of an eighteen week old pup -- not a great training drill to produce a dog that holds point.
I prefer the more traditional kennel system I employ. My dogs are housed in kennel runs that are ten feet long and six feet wide. The reason I chose six feet wide runs rather than narrower runs is because I have long tailed dogs in my setters, pointers, and labs. A dog with a wagging tail can constantly slap his tail against the sides of a narrow kennel. The tail may become bloodied and is at risk for infections. For that reason I chose metal fencing rather than cement walls and wide than narrow runs. Companies that specialize in modular systems offer fencing with rounded corners and no sharp edges that can injure a dog. Be smart and purchase fencing that is safe for your dog. Make sure there are no extended "gotchas" that can catch a dog's collar. More than one dog has caught a collar, particularly choke collars (which I strongly advise not leaving on your dog) on a latch causing strangulation.
In designing your kennel system, attention must be given to the floor. The cheapest choice is to simply drop your run onto the ground. However, the initial savings will most likely be shortly wasted with increased vet bills. The dirt floor will harbor bacteria and viruses such as parvo. It is likely the dog housed on dirt will constantly battle coccidiosis, hooks, whips, and round worms. Better solutions for flooring would be concrete, sand, or pea gravel. Concrete is easier to hose wash with bleach to inhibit bacteria. Be advised however that hosing in the frigid climates of the winter battled states is difficult at best.
Pea gravel looks great and is a good choice. However, pea gravel also has its drawbacks. Stools that have been subjected to rain will disperse into the gravel. This will lead to odors and the development of bacteria. The gravel will harbor the eggs of parasites. A sound and regularly administered kennel disinfectant or bleach will aid in curtailing health problems.
Sand drains easily and is also a viable choice for kennel flooring. However bacteria living in the soil is also a concern. Pea gravel laid down a couple of inches thick over beach quality sand (the kind used in a sand box) is a good choice if sound cleaning management is employed.
When using dirt, sand, or pea gravel, it is wise to lay wire down before spreading the sand or gravel. Dogs dig. It is smart to lay a safety net so your dog cannot dig out of the kennel. A kennel deck or some sort of raised platform is recommended for dogs to rest on, particularly if the flooring is dirt, sand, pea gravel, metal, or concrete. The dog will stay warmer and cleaner.
I strongly believe the best floor system is to keep the dog off the ground. Scott Kennel Systems are above ground runs that can be purchased in six or eight foot lengths. The floor is galvanized metal flat bars spaced 3/4 or one inch apart. Urine does not build up on the floor and stools are easily hosed to a sand base thirty (30) inches or so below the floor. A Scott System is sold with side panels and a roof, and will price cheaper than laying concrete and buying fencing. The drawback of the Scott System is it is initially difficult for young pups to walk on. The biggest disadvantage is that a dog's wet pads may freeze to the metal flooring in subfreezing temperatures. However, the Scott System is effective and one that has been used successfully for years.
The best above ground system I have discovered is manufactured by the Horst Company. I have been using the Horst designs in our Georgia facility and absolutely recommend it to anyone. My kennel fencing is 6 feet, eight inches high. The overall dimensions are 10 feet by six feet. The floor of the kennel is twenty-seven (27) inches above the ground. The flooring is two foot squares that snap together easily. The floor panels are made of CALL HORST and have cut holes spaced on each panel. Stools are easily hosed off and waste falls to the ground. I place six inches of sand below the kennels. Simply raking underneath the flooring keeps the kennel environment clean. Dogs are never walking in their stools or urine. It is the easiest system to keep clean that I am aware of. It is great for pups, or adult dogs. The Horst system is modular so you can have the kennel as wide and as long as you wish.
Once you have selected the containment system and flooring, the decision turns to the choice of a dog house. Dogs like to chew, so I do not recommend wood. Chewing wood, particularly pressure treated wood is not healthy and you will have high maintenance costs with wood. I use the K-9 Kondo unit. The K-9 Kondo is an insulated barrel with vents and an entrance/exit door. The K-9 Kondo is virtually indestructible. I place straw in the Kondo during the winter months. Even in the winter in New Hampshire, our dogs stay warm and dry. I change the straw regularly to keep the dog's bedding clean and dry. Some words of warning -- if a dog ingests the backing of carpet, he may be at serious risk and cedar may affect your dog's olfactory powers. Straw is a good choice for bedding.
You will need some sort of roof over your kennel. The type of roof you select will depend largely on the part of the country you live in. In Georgia, I do not need roofing to keep snow or ice from building up on the kennel floor. I do need a roof to provide shade, even during the summer in New Hampshire. Dogs need shade from the hot sun and protection from freezing rain and snow. Sun shading can be purchased from most kennel supply companies. A roof that prevents snow from building up in the run and will not collapse under the weight of snow is required in some regions.
An effective kennel management procedure will give strong consideration to preventative medicine. Washing bowls after feeding is common sense. I do not free feed. I do not want creepy critters getting into my dogs' food and bacteria can build up in food left sitting. I feed my dogs in the evening and immediately wash the dog bowls with disinfectant. We give Frontline to our dogs to eliminate ticks and fleas, and our dogs are religiously immunized for parvo, distemper, adrenovirus, coconovirus, etc. Heartworm preventatives are administered once a month. Our dog food is kept in closed containers preventing contamination from rodents. Lepto
is carried by rodents and can be fatal. Vaccinate your dogs and keep your dog food mouse free. Disinfect your kennel flooring. By keeping up with your dog's immunization schedule, keeping pupster dry and warm, feeding a quality dog food, providing clean runs and housing, and supplying fresh, clean drinking water, you will pass kennel inspection.