Sheltering your dog
Dogs are highly social animals, and the Animal Humane Society hopes you and your dog will achieve that special closeness that comes from sharing your home and many hours together. But we recognize that there are situations...like a family member with allergies...where you may choose to keep an "outdoor dog". If so, Minnesota Law is quite specific about how your pet must be sheltered.
Minnesota statute 343.40, subdivision 2
"The shelter shall include a moisture-proof and wind-proof structure of suitable size to accommodate the dog and allow retention of body heat. It shall be made of durable materials with a solid floor raised at least two inches from the ground and with the entrance covered by a flexible wind-proofing material or a self-closing door. The structure shall be provided with a sufficient quantity of suitable bedding materials consisting of hay, straw, cedar shavings, blankets, or the equivalent, to provide insulation and protection against cold and dampness and promote retention of body heat.”
Some building and animal supply companies carry adequate, ready-made dog houses, but if you're handy with a hammer and saw, you might take take special pride in building your own. Here are some additional points to consider before making the decision that an "outdoor dog" is for you:
- Not all dogs are suited to outdoor living. Even with a high quality dog house which meets every requirement of the law, old dogs, puppies, small breeds, and short-haired breeds will be severely stressed...even to the point of death...by outdoor living in a Minnesota winter. If you do choose to keep a dog outdoors, select one of the large, heavy-coated breeds (like a malamute or a Siberian husky) that really thrive in cold weather.
- The best dog house in the world won't keep your pet comfortable if it's not properly bedded. Straw, hay, cedar shavings or blankets can all be used for bedding, but frequent changes of bedding are necessery to make sure your pet has a clean and dry place to sleep.
- Think small when deciding on the dimensions of your dog's house so that the heat from his body will warm him in cold weather. You need to make allowances for a growing puppy, of course, but an adult dog needs just enough room so he can sit without bumping his head, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
- Proper placement of the dog house is also important. The door should face away from prevailing winds, and if possible the house should be placed on the sheltered side (East or Southeast) of your house or garage.
- Note that Minnesota Law requires a flap over the door to provide extra protection.
- An outdoor dog should be conditioned to the weather gradually starting in early fall. Then stick to keeping him outdoors. It's hard on him to snooze in your warm living room all day then be put out at night.
- Your outdoor dog needs to be confined, just like a house pet, to conform with your community's animal control regulations. A fenced back yard is best, of course, but a "wire run" made by snapping a lead to an overhead cable stretched between two posts or trees will also allow a dog some freedom. Be certain that he's not tied anywhere where he could conceivably hang himself...it does happen.
- Your outdoor dog needs shade available all day long during warm weather...and, of course, a constant supply of fresh water.
- Be sure that construction materials for your dog house are free of toxic materials, especially for a chewing puppy.
- And don't forget that your dog loves you and craves your attention... even when it's ten below zero and you'd rather be in by the fire. A neglected dog is often a problem dog and may develop such bad habits as barking, chewing or digging.