The weather outside may be frightful, but inside Pine Shadows Kennel in Brainerd, Minnesota, dogs find it delightful. Owner Mark Haglin who runs Pine Shadows, an Orvis-endorsed English Springer Spaniel breeding kennel, with wife Sophie and son Morgan, believes keeping dogs comfortable is the best way to maintain a healthy kennel environment in winter.
“We spend a lot of time taking care of our dogs,” Haglin says. “If anything, we overclean and overprotect, but we believe it is much easier to take preventive steps than to deal with problems after the fact.”
Here are tips from Pine Shadows on keeping dogs comfortable in winter.
1. Physical Comforts A good night’s rest begins with a clean, warm bed. Each of the 64 indoor concrete runs at Pine Shadows includes dog bedding. Some dogs prefer raised beds with blankets, and others have cushy dog beds. A clean dog is a happy dog, Haglin says. Keeping dogs in good physical condition requires regular grooming and bathing. Care also is taken to ensure that ice crystals and snow balls do not become impacted in paws. A comfy 68 to 70 degrees is the ideal kennel temperature.
2. Mental Stimulation Activity works wonders for keeping dogs’ minds sharp. Since Pine Shadows is an indoor kennel, dogs are walked and exercised four to five times a day when taken outdoors to eliminate. Older dogs that no longer do fieldwork still train and practice retrieving. Mental challenges include games like finding a hidden treat behind one of six sliding doors. Rawhides or Nylabones keep dogs busy, and soothing classical music plays constantly. Light plays a crucial role in affecting mood, says Haglin, noting that dimmer lights are used to gradually lighten and darken the kennel. Lots of exercise, one-on-one attention and a disciplined routine are fundamental to mental stability.
3. Beefing Up on Nutrition Starting in November and throughout winter, the hardworking springers at Pine Shadows are fed 20 percent more Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Formula dog food to help meet their caloric needs. Dogs are monitored on an individual basis to ensure they are maintaining ideal body condition. The rule of thumb is to give dogs 7 percent more calories for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Puppies are fed Purina Pro Plan FOCUS puppy food, and senior dogs are fed Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ dog food. Giving ample water is important because of the metabolic changes that take place and to help process the extra food.
4. Kennel Smarts in Winter Many variables, such as insulation, ventilation and wind blocks, go into making a kennel comfortable in winter. The Pine Shadows kennel has 12-inch thick, well-insulated walls that help maintain a constant temperature. In addition, the ceiling has 16 inches of insulation. The wind is broken by shrubbery on the north and west sides, with trees all around. A unique feature is the constant air exchange in which cold air from outside is drawn in and warmed before circulating through the kennel. The constant flow of fresh air helps to lessen pathogens and reduce the spread of viruses.