Keeping dogs in kennels and runs – is it the right thing to do?
It can be an emotive subject among animal lovers.
For many years, I kept my dogs in the house. It wasn’t always practical especially because I had more than one dog, as all that additional love also translates to additional hair, mess and space required.
There were definitely drawbacks for both me and my family, and my dogs.
In the winter, we love nothing more than to take the dogs romping through the mud, swimming in the river and the shore line. We do our best to rinse them off outside and towel them down but they have to come in the house at some point. Their paws sometimes have oil on them from the boats at the riverside and this gets into the carpet. Then there’s the shaking – however clean we think we’ve got them, mud, water, salt and slobber is splattered liberally over the walls. Bless them.
Then of course there’s the smell! We use some great dog shampoos and spend a fortune on air fresheners but that underlying whiff of wet/muddy dog hangs in the air for the rest of the day. Lovely.
Because we have up to three dogs at any one time, when moulting season is upon us, things get out of hand. Most of the rooms in our house are carpeted and we find with some breeds the hair sticks into the fibres like little needles.
One other thing that troubled me slightly was that the moulting NEVER stopped. It may not have been quite as bad in the winter but living in a centrally heated house meant that the dogs were always shedding hair. They were healthy enough but I did feel that this wasn’t natural somehow.
But despite all this, I still said I’d never keep a dog ‘outdoors’. I think at the time, if someone said ‘kennel’, my brain immediately pictured the dog from the Tom & Jerry cartoons, squeezed into a tiny hut and looking miserable. My dogs were very much a part of my family and I knew I wanted them to spend as much time with us as possible and to feel cherished.
Then I got talking to someone who had kept his dogs kennelled for many years.
There were three bouncy, healthy dogs playing in a field with their master, clearly happy and affectionate. I saw the kennels and run he’d had installed for them and it was a bit of an eye opener for me.
Far from my Tom & Jerry nightmare of a kennel, this room was a full sized, solid wooden structure which was actually larger than the space my own dogs slept in each night.
He had put in plenty of insulation, partitioned sleeping areas raised off the floor with ample soft, cosy bedding. A thermostatically controlled greenhouse type heater was on the wall, to take the real chill off during winter nights.
There was a walkway up to a dog flap that led out to a run. This large area was mostly tiled for hygiene purposes but there was also a grassed area for the dogs to relieve themselves on. 6’6” steel gates surrounded the run and a mini ‘climbing frame’ had been put in so that the dogs could sit at different heights and watch what was going on in the garden when they weren’t playing with their toys or snoozing in their kennel. About 80% of the run is covered so that they get protection from sun and rain, or they can move into the uncovered area if they want to stretch out in the sunlight and enjoy the warmth on their bodies. There is a constant supply of water available too.
One of the most impressive aspects of this set up was the security. There was a lockable door into the kennel itself and two steel barred gates in the run. These were heavy duty and were padlocked. Best of all, the owner had set up security cameras in both the run and the kennel so he could check in using his mobile phone from wherever he was.
This build had been added on to the end of an existing barn and was still close to the house and out of view of the road – nobody passing by would have known there were any dogs there.
I asked the owner how he used the kennels, whether he felt the dogs were on their own for too long and if he had any problems persuading them to go into it. He explained when and why he put the dogs in the kennel;
- To sleep at night
- If he had to go out for a few hours
- If he had visitors who were afraid of dogs
- If visitors had children who may not understand how to treat the dogs with respect
- To finish drying off after getting muddy or wet
He also told me that when one of his dogs had an operation recently, it meant that the poorly dog could sleep in the kitchen in her own, and he knew that she would not end up playing with the other dogs and possibly exhausting herself or even tear her stitches. He added that any of his dogs that didn’t seem quite as well as they might, would stay in the house with him until he was sure they were 100% fit and healthy. He also said that when his dogs reach a certain age, they stay in the house so that they can have a little peace and quiet away from the younger, bouncier dogs.
The rest of the time, the dogs were with him either in the house or in the garden. When he had to go out or at the end of the evening, he told me they were all perfectly happy to go to their kennel.
I had to admit, it sounded pretty good.
That was a year ago now. I still have three dogs but they now live outside in an identical set up. My house no longer smells of dog even though they still spend most of their day with me. I think because they don’t get too warm at night they have healthier skin and the moulting has reduced by about 75%.
I watch them on the cameras when I’m out for a couple of hours. It can actually become a bit compulsive as it’s very funny to watch them interact without a human there!
I have to say it has worked out perfectly. They all seem to love their comfy beds and when I do have to leave the house it’s great to know that they can go outside whenever they like, have a drink, and play together.
The most telling thing for me is their reaction when it’s time for them to be put in their kennel.
They all run in there, tails are wagging and I’ve never had a problem, not even on day one. If I’m pottering in the garden and I’ve left the kennel door open or one of the gates to the run, I’ll sometimes find one or all of the dogs have taken themselves off and are in their kennel, fast asleep. And that’s despite each having a bed still in the main house!
My final concern evaporated when I realised that keeping a dog ‘indoors’ or ‘outdoors’ is really only a concept that we as humans are going to worry about. My dogs – who, by the way are all happier and healthier than ever – don’t differentiate in the same way that we do. As far as they are concerned, their kennel IS part of the house. Their territory. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, mum puts them in and gets them out every day and all is well with their world. And my house is less smelly! It’s win-win all round!
If you’d like to know more about the Chapelstone range of kennels and runs, call us on 01206 869860 or email email@example.com
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