keeping-your-dog-safe-outside

Keeping your dog safe outside: How to insulate a plastic dog house and more

When thinking about your dog’s sleeping quarters it’s important to make sure they’re safe, comfortable, and sheltered from the elements. This is a little more straightforward indoors but how can we make sure our dog is safe outdoors in a kennel? This article will discuss everything you need to know about keeping your pup safe when using an outdoor kennel, including how to insulate a plastic dog house.

Can dogs live in outdoor kennels?

Though there are exceptions, for most dogs sleeping indoors is the best and safest option. Not only does this help reduce their risk of hypothermia or heatstroke, but most of our pups are happiest spending time with us as part of the family unit.

This doesn’t mean, however, that dogs shouldn’t spend time outdoors or have access to an outdoor dog house. Sniffing, playing, exploring, and exercising outside are important for all dogs, and if leaving your pup outside for a few hours it’s helpful to have a safe place for them to take shelter if needed.

Situations where owners might choose to keep their dogs outside, may include working or guard dogs, as well as Arctic breeds such as Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes that are comfortable sleeping outdoors in colder weather. However, this should always be balanced with health, safety, and your dog’s behavior and preferences.

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Outdoor kennel safety

As previously discussed, outdoor kennels are best used for shorter periods as a shelter if your pup is unable to stay inside or access the home through a dog door. When choosing and setting up a kennel, here are some important considerations to help keep your pup safe and comfortable:

Temperature

Though purpose-built dog houses and shelters can be temperature controlled, most basic outdoor kennels lack this function. But choosing a well-insulated kennel can make a big difference in keeping out the cold and the heat. Just remember, however, that this still isn’t enough to keep most dogs safe during extreme temperature highs or lows and your pup is always safest indoors with you.

Small breed and toy dogs are much more susceptible to cold weather and should never be left outdoors unsupervised. Young puppies are also at high risk of developing hypothermia and should always be kept safe and warm indoors.

Shelter

An outdoor kennel should provide shelter from the elements and needs to be comfortable, waterproof, and protected from the wind and rain. The kennel should also be positioned out of direct sunlight, well-ventilated, and an appropriate size for your dog.

Remember as well that wildlife may also choose to take shelter in your pup’s warm kennel. Make sure your yard is well-fenced to keep out unwanted pests and predators and food and water bowls are kept clean, with any uneaten food removed. It’s also important that any toxic chemicals such as anti-freeze or fertilizers are kept secure and out of reach.

Physical and mental stimulation

When spending time outdoors, your pup should always have access not only to shelter but to food, water, and a clean area to toilet. Their kennel should be regularly cleaned along with any bedding. But it’s not enough just to meet their basic physical needs.

Your pup also needs mental stimulation, even if left outside for short periods, and should never be left tethered on a chain or leash. The more space to explore, sniff, exercise, and express natural behavior, the better! Access to toys, puzzles, or another dog, are great ways to keep your pup entertained outdoors.

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Safe temperature range for a dog to be outdoors

Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal answer as to what is a safe temperature for your pup to be outdoors. This is because your dog’s individual heat and cold tolerance depends on multiple factors including their breed and health status. It also depends on how long your pup stays outside, as well as environmental factors like shade, wind chill, humidity, rain, and if your dog has become acclimated to a particular climate.  

Cold weather

Short-haired breeds like Greyhounds, Whippets, and Chihuahuas tend to be more sensitive to the cold, compared to long-haired or Arctic breeds like Siberian Huskies. Small and toy breed dogs also tend to be less cold-tolerant than large or giant breed dogs. Special caution should also be taken with young puppies who are unable to regulate their body temperature effectively and need to stay warm indoors in a temperature-controlled environment.

Hot weather

During warm weather, long-haired breeds and those with thick coats such as Afghan hounds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and German Shepherds may struggle to keep cool. Extra caution should also be taken with brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs, as they are unable to pant as effectively and are more likely to suffer from heatstroke.

Health status

Underlying illness can also play a big role in your pet’s tolerance for hot or cold weather. Dogs with hormonal disorders like Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) may have difficulty regulating their body temperature, making them more sensitive to hot and cold weather. Older dogs with osteoarthritis (arthritis) tend to struggle in the cooler months and need to be kept warm and cozy to help them feel more comfortable.

Talking to your vet about your pup’s individual needs is the best way to make sure they’re safe when spending time outdoors. Remember, if it’s too hot or cold for you to be outside it’s probably not suitable for your dog either!

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When and why to insulate a plastic dog house

Good insulation not only helps keep your pup warm in cold weather, but it can also keep them cool as the temperature warms up. If you’re buying a brand new dog house, it’s best to buy one that’s already well insulated. But if you already have a plastic dog house and want to make it more comfortable for your pup, there are multiple options.

The first step is to make sure the dog house is insulated on all sides, including the floor and ceiling! Lifting the dog house off the cold ground with legs or a base is also important for added warmth. When choosing a material to insulate a plastic dog house, remember your dog might chew or eat it, so any insulation is best installed with a protective layer of plastic or wood panels over the top to prevent access.

Popular effective materials for insulating a plastic dog house include fiberglass, reflective foil, expanding foam spray, and polystyrene foam. Other more basic but less effective materials include wood, bubble wrap, and carpet. Keep in mind your safety when handling some of these materials, particularly fiberglass, and make sure they’re well out of your pet’s reach too as you work!

In addition to good insulation, make sure your pet always has warm, dry, and clean bedding available. VetBed is an excellent option that’s tough, absorbent, and easy to clean.

Conclusion

Outdoor kennels are best used when your dog is spending short periods outside but are not a safe option for small breed dogs and puppies, or any dog during extreme temperature or weather. When setting up an outdoor kennel it’s important to make sure they are well-insulated, water-proof, sheltered from the elements, and the right size for your dog.

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