The perfect kennel
There are a number of things to consider when investing in a kennel for your gundog, says Ben Randall.
There are a number of points to consider when planning for and investing in a kennel for your gundog. Above all else, a kennel should be comfortable and hygienic for your dog, but also convenient and practical for you.
Indoors or Outdoors?
I personally like my kennels to be fitted within a building as the security is far better. When a kennel is inside another building, whether that be a stable, barn or shed, the dogs are also left in a calm, quiet environment out of direct sunlight, rain, wind and frost etc.
Another advantage of situating kennels in a covered building is that you will be able to clean and feed your dog(s) in a warm and dry environment, and there is never an excuse for a day off from foundation training with younger dogs due to the weather. Because of this, as a trainer, you'll not feel rushed, and the dogs will sense this and be calmer and more relaxed. Such kennels fit the dogs' requirements as well as their training needs and routines.
Of course, it is not always possible to situate kennels within another building, in which case it is important to consider the points below.
Keeping your dogs safe is of vital importance in today's day and age. Wherever possible, try to position kennels out of view of passers-by (i.e footpaths, roads etc.) so that they do not attract attention in the first place.
Good quality locks will help to an extent, but they are not completely fail-safe. There are now other security options including CCTV that act as a deterrent to potential thieves.
Over the years I have used all types of kennel systems, from blockwork to wooden, but since moving to bespoke plastic systems with aluminium reinforcement (mine are from Designer Kennels), I will never use anything else.
Wooden kennels very often have insulation problems, are chewable, and are harder to keep clean (urine soaks into the wood etc.) Then after 5–10 years they need to be renewed, and a secondhand, chewed, wooden kennel is worth very little. Plastic designs, however, with aluminium strips to combat chewing, are quick-drying, easy to clean and look new after years of use. Because of this, they will hold their value well if a new system is required (e.g. you find yourself with more dogs).
Heat lamps and insulation
Proper insulation in your dog's living quarters will keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. All of my kennels are fitted with heat lamps, which are excellent for drying dogs out quickly and thoroughly after a day in the field. I'd highly recommend them.
Which bedding you go for is largely dependent on whether or not your dog is toilet trained.
Vetbed, the imitation sheepskin bedding, is absorbent, warm, and washes easily. It is therefore very hygienic. But for dogs that are toilet trained, a more permanent, insulated bed might be more practical.
I have also used dust-free wood shavings, and the dogs seem to like bedding down in these. They are very warm and absorbent, although they will need changing regularly.
Wherever possible, try to position kennels so that the runs are south-facing and the sleeping quarters north-facing. This way, dogs can enjoy the sun in their run if they wish, but the sleeping quarters will remain cool.
It is always worth considering the direction of the prevailing wind, so that it is not channeling into the kennel. And look at the gradient of land immediately around you – you don't want water draining downhill and waterlogging the kennel! Think about how you can position your kennels so that they are sheltered by features such as shelterbelts, walls or hedgerows.
To share or not to share?
Dogs are pack animals by nature, so will enjoy the company of a kennel-mate. The downside to this is that some dogs will constantly try and play with their roommate. Dogs need a place to settle and enjoy their own downtime. It is also difficult to leave dogs with chew bones if they are in company as they can become possessive over them. The last thing you want is dogs fighting.