While the ideal place for a dog during poor weather conditions is inside the house with the family, sometimes that's just not possible. So dogs are often left out in the yard, the luckier ones with a dog house. A basic dog house, although it can protect from the wind, can become unbearably hot during the warm summer months, making your dog's hideaway a hated place.
The Dangers of Leaving a Dog Unprotected Outside
When humans get hot, they sweat and with sweat glands located all over their body they can do it quickly to get back to a regular and comfortable body temperature. Dogs however have very few sweat glands. Those that they do have are mostly located on the bottom of their feet, so they can't perspire like humans to cool off.
A dog instead must pant and breathe heavily. There are no sweat glands in a dog's mouth, instead the heavy panting allows for moisture to evaporate off the moist lining of their lungs, and across the saliva-moistened surfaces of their mouth and tongue. Dogs will also cool down by expanding the blood vessels in their face and ears so that blood flows closer to the surface where it can be cooled.
Hyperthermia and Heatstroke
Dogs that play hard on a hot day can quickly become overheated and suffer from hyperthermia. Though usually between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, a dog's temperature can easily rise in the heat. If it rises up past 105 degrees a dog can suffer from heat exhaustion and experience dizziness, nausea, sluggishness and weakness. If a dog's temperature continues to rise past 107 degrees, then they can suffer from heatstroke which can lead to seizures, unconsciousness, brain damage and sometimes even death. A 2006 study published by the Journal of Veterinary Medicine found that almost half of dogs affected by heatstroke will die. Unfortunately this happens to many dogs left outside, even with a dog house, because their house gets too hot, and the owners see the dog sleeping in the dog house and think everything is fine.
A dog's internal temperature should be between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the cooler winter months, Dogs can get wet all the way down to their skin from the snow, rain, and ice. Even if they have a Dog Igloo or house with a blanket, their fur will make the blankets wet, and the dogs body heat will be leeched out. This leaves dogs susceptible to bacterial infections and viruses.
The solution for keeping your dog outside and still comfortable is a climate-controlled dog house. Though it might sound excessive, but any true dog lover will realize that it is a necessity for an outside dog, not a luxury.
A good climate controlled dog house will:
- Keep your dog cool in the summer
- Keep your dog warm in the winter
- Keep your dog dry
- Provide a place for food and water
- Provide humidity control and even air purification
While the prospect of a climate-controlled dog house sounds expensive, and even work intensive, it doesn't have to be. The added cost to the electrical bill will be negligible, and with a little DIY expertise a regular dog house can be outfitted to keep your pet safe throughout inclement weather, and kits to accomplish this are readily available.
Choosing the Right Type of Doghouse
A good doghouse will be made of wood and not plastic. Though igloo style houses look neat, and are a cheaper alternative, but they don't offer the structure or the insulation necessary to keep your dog properly protected. They tend to be hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and difficult to keep dry.
A wood doghouse is preferable as the wood is a natural insulator, and can easily be outfitted with added insulation. Adding insulation will keep the temperature constant, acting as a block for the rays of the sun, and stop the air conditioner from working overtime during those hot summer days. The cost of insulation is relatively cheap and will be earned back through savings on the electric bill.
To Insulate a Doghouse:
- Place the doghouse in a position that is high enough off the ground that water won't flood in during heavy rain. This can lead to a rotting wood floor and encourage the growth of mold and bacteria.
- Measure and cut two pieces of plywood, and one piece of one inch thick Styrofoam to fit the floor.
- Layer the material down in the floor by laying down a piece of plywood followed by the Styrofoam, and then followed by the last piece of plywood and secure.
- Fit the walls and roof with the same regular wall insulation that is used in homes. Cover the insulation with plywood cut to fit.
- Ensure that any windows or doggy doors are fully sealed to prevent air leaks. Think of how you save energy and keep cool in your own home and apply those principles to the doghouse. If the dog will be coming and going, then a thick, flexible plastic sheeting can be hung over the door opening to insulate and the dog will just have to push past it to get it.
Installing Air Conditioning
It may sound like an overindulgence to install an air conditioner in a doghouse, but the benefits are numerous and include keeping your beloved pet safe and comfortable. The small size of a dog house is perfectly suited to a portable air conditioner, which can stand under the eaves of the dog house or in the corner, depending on the size.
To Install an Air Conditioner
- Choose the Perfect Location Decide where the air conditioner will be placed. Near an electrical outlet is best, make sure you don't cut a hole in the south side of the house if the outlet is closer to the north side. If there isn't an outlet nearby you can install an outlet under the doghouse, or run an extension cord. Also, determine if your air conditioner will have to be outside or inside the doghouse. The best way is to have a doghouse large enough for it to sit in the corner, but it can also be placed outside under the eaves. If placing it outside, the unit's vents will have to line up with the hole in the doghouse.
- Choose an Air Conditioner While models specially made for doghouses are available, a portable air conditioner will do. Models with remotes make it easy to turn on or off from the main house. A model with a timer or a program function will make it easy to set the climate for optimal comfort and take care of your dog while you're away from the house. Check out reviews on trusted sites and articles to make sure you're getting a good deal, but remember that cheapest isn't always best.
- Make a Place for the AC Measure the air conditioning unit, then make a cut-out in the wall of the doghouse with a jigsaw. If the air conditioner is a window unit, it will need to be supported. Cut a two by four inch board to a length two inches longer than that of the width of the cut-out to make a brace for a shelf. Attach it below the cut-out with screws. Leave space between the support and the bottom of the cut-out for a shelf to fit. Screw in some small-sized triangle brackets to support the shelf. Cut a piece of plywood to the same width as the cut-out, and leave long enough to lend some support to the air conditioning unit, approximately 4 inches and attach the shelf to the brackets with screws.
- Drill a Hole for the Cord You'll want to plug the air conditioner in to an outside outlet, but most air conditioners are made with the plug on the interior side. The solution to this is to determine which side of the AC unit the plug is located on and drill a hole through the doghouse to accommodate it.
- Read the Instructions It seems like an obvious step, but so many people skip it that a reminder might not be a bad idea. Instruction manuals can often contain useful hints and common trouble shooting solutions.
- Place the Air Conditioner in the Cut-Out Place the AC unit into the cut-out carefully and test the strength of the shelf. At this point make sure the cord will fit through the wall, and that the unit turns on and blows cool air in.
- Apply Weather Stripping Since the air conditioner you got for your pets doghouse was made for a home, you'll need to add a bit of extra insulation. Some rubber weather stripping from a hardware store will do just fine and should stop cool air from leaking out, especially if a sealant is then used around it.
- Add the Finishing Touches Though the house is made for a dog, it is still in your yard, so make it look like it belongs by adding strips of molding around the frame of the window. Add a comfy dog bed and a food and water bowl, and it's all set for your pet to move in.
Heating the Doghouse
While there is a definite trend towards air-conditioning doghouses right now, don't forget to keep your pet warm in the winter months too. If you purchased an air conditioner that also functions as a heater, then your dog will be comfortable all year round. If your dog needs some extra warmth, heating mats are also a good alternative.
Outdoor electric snow melting mats are a cheaper alternative. They reach a maximum temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and are safe for pets to lie on. They won't burn or scald, and can be found in various sizes. However they are not resistant to chewing, so if your dog has a habit of destroying their mat or bed then this snow melting mat is not a good option.
Kennel mats are a similar product. They are a heating pad designed for indoor and outdoor use specifically for dogs. They are made for standard kennel and doghouse sizes, and are usually more resistant to wear and tear from teeth and claws. Kennel mats can usually be found at pet stores.
When your dog loves nothing better than being outside make sure that they are comfortable in every type of weather. A doghouse should ideally keep them more than dry, it should keep your pet safe and secure too. Give them the same climate control that you enjoy in the house with air conditioning and even some heating, so that your pooch can be pampered outside. Done properly it won't cost a lot of money, and the benefits will be seen with a healthy happy dog in all types of weather.