Ken Hough's Website

Where/how to keep a dog

Outdoor Accommodation:
Some dogs, particularly working dogs, are kept outdoors in kennels or sheds. I've seen working collies that spend their days fastened up in cold, drafty, and sometimes filthy sheds. Not surprisingly these dogs only know how to herd sheep. They have not been socialised to be with other dogs or people.

Properly built and maintained outdoor kennels can be appropriate, provided that inhabitants are well exercised and have lots of contact with other dogs and people. Given a large group of working gun dogs, this might be the best form of accommodation. It would not be practical to bring a group of wet/muddy dogs into a house.

Working dogs are pretty tough and when working can withstand a lot of cold wet and windy weather. However, when they are left wet and not active, they can become very cold. That's not good for any dog! And leaving them in this state does NOT "toughen them up".

Give a dog good comfortable, warm, and dry surroundings and they are most likely to remain fit, healthy, and ready to work.

Most of us choose to share our homes with our dogs. There can be no doubt that this gives the dogs the best chance to become socialised and to learn what we expect of them. It does mean that some effort is needed to keep the dogs clean, especially after that really good wet and muddy walk.

Cleaning a dog:
Dogs do withstand quite severe conditions, but I'm sure that the hosing down in cold water that a lot of dogs get is not an enjoyable experience for them. Think about it! How would you like to arrive back home cold, wet, and hungry, only to have to suffer a cold shower?

It may be impractical to bring large and/or very hairy dogs indoors before rinsing them down, but please at least use luke-warm water.

In this respect, I have an advantage. My working springers have been small enough to be picked up in an old towel and carried indoors to deliver them into a bath or shower. I stand the dog on it's own shower mat. My present puppy learned quickly that after a winter outing in wet/muddy fields, a lukewarm shower feels really good, and I have the benefit of washing all of the mud down the drain instead of it being spread around the house. She has also learned that being towelled dry feels good. If needed, a shampoo and/or anti-flea treatment can be included in the process.

Some owners might not care for the idea of using the same bath as the dog, but realistically this has to be the cleanest way of managing a dog. If necessary, baths and showers can be washed down. A brief hosing down outside will not properly clean a dog, and the residual dirt will be spread around the house!

Indoor Accommodation:
It is common for dogs to be restricted to a kitchen or utility area, at least at night. Dogs are very social creatures and benefit from always being close to other members of their "pack". My own practice is for my dogs to sleep at the side of my bed and in their own basket. They very quickly get used to the routine and put themselves to bed as I do likewise. This arrangement needs the dogs and their bedding to be kept clean, but in my experience it helps a lot in forming close bonds between owner and dog. There is an added benefit of having a sensitive and intelligent burglar alarm close by. I do not allow my dogs onto my bed.

Crates/cages are sometimes used to restrict dogs to say the kitchen area at night. Personally, I do not believe this is a good practice. Crates can be helpful in managing dogs and they can become accustomed to them to the extent that they choose to enter a crate for rest and security. I use a crate mainly for travel purposes, but definitely not to stop my dog from being close to me.

Dogs and humans are both very social creatures, so it's perhaps not at all surprising that close canine/human bonds can be formed -- sometimes stronger than many human/human bonds. This doesn't happen overnight, or to demand. From an early age, a dog needs to learn how to play and how to interact and behave within it's "pack", as does any child.

I have always tried to give my dogs the maximum opportunities in these respects, and have been rewarded with well behaved and very responsive (and responsible) dogs.

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