A Cool Dog Kennel In The Summer Starts When You Plan Your Building
Building a dog kennel involves more than just checking off your preferences for drywall or concrete blocks, shady trees or shade panels, timber-roof or scissors trusses, indoor or outdoor drains, air conditioning with or without exhaust fans. With so many decisions to make, the one thing not to skimp on is a cooling system that will keep dogs comfortable when the summer sun bears down on your kennel.
When professional handler Frank Murphy and his wife, Deb, built their 3,668-square-foot kennel in 2006, the design Murphy created was essentially a combination of what they liked best and what worked most efficiently at the three kennels they previously built. Two of the three kennels were located in steamy, hot Florida, giving them an edge on what it takes to beat the heat.
“When we were building this kennel, I fought for every tree surrounding the building,” Murphy says. “Our last kennel in Florida had no trees around it. Here in upstate South Carolina, with the kennel surrounded with woods, even in August dogs can be in and out.”
An important factor in helping dogs stay cool is providing a comfortable kennel environment, Murphy says. “Avoiding overcrowding and lots of noise are important,” he says. “You want to make sure you have enough assistants for the number of dogs in your kennel. Keeping the kennel clean and well-maintained help tremendously. When dogs are stressed or anxious due to the kennel environment, they may have trouble being calm, which can force their cooling system into overdrive.”
The handler of dogs winning more than 300 Bests in Show, Murphy also has shown Group First winners at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the AKC National Championship. He won his first Best in Show in 1990 with a bred-by Rhodesian Ridgeback, Multi-BIS CH Crescents All Fired Up, who held the record for 20 years as the top-winning bitch. A Rhodesian male he showed next, Multi-BIS/Multi-BISS CH Filmakers Never Surrender, tripled the breed’s record for Bests in Show by winning 28.
An all-breed handler specializing in short-coated breeds, Murphy travels the Eastern Seaboard circuit with breeds such as Borzois, Corgis, German Wirehaired Pointers, Pointers, and Rottweilers. He handled the top-winning Pembroke Welsh Corgi of all time, CH Hum’n Bird Keepin Up Appearances, a record set in 2003. The German Wirehair, Multi-BIS/Multi-BISS GCH Ripsnorter’s Mt. View Look Out, who took 48 Bests in Show and 209 Sporting Group Firsts and became the top-winning Wirehair in 2010, also was handled by Murphy.
As breeders of Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Frank and Deb Murphy also use their kennel for their own dogs. The healthy condition and relaxed, easygoing temperaments of the dogs at this top-winning show kennel are a good sign that the Murphys have achieved their goal of providing a comfortable kennel environment.
Coolness Matters When It’s Hot Outside
In South Carolina, summers are hot and humid, with the average daytime temperature being around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Taking that into consideration, Murphy designed the kennel to address the subtropical climate. Noting the coolness efficiency of the kennel, he says, “We put the air conditioning on in the house before we need it in the kennel.”
Here are some of the features that Murphy selected for the 30-run kennel to help keep it cool when it’s hot outside.
- Shade Trees: When Murphy was clearing the land to build the kennel, he purposely left as many trees around the building as he could. The result has been an energy savings, reducing the need for air conditioning by several weeks and eliminating the need for shade panels over the kennel runs.
- Concrete Block Construction: Concrete blocks are resilient to temperature extremes, providing insulation against cold and heat. Murphy chose concrete over a wood construction for that reason. In addition, concrete blocks are sturdy, strong and soundproof.
- Scissors Truss: The 13-foot-tall vaulted ceiling in the dog kennel room is possible due to Murphy using a scissors truss, as opposed to a traditional roof-framing truss. The height is important in aiding cross ventilation that comes from the exhaust fan and also helps reduce noise in the kennel.
- Exhaust Fan & Windows: A large exhaust fan in the dog kennel room pulls air through, helping to keep the kennel cool and the air quality fresh. Three windows above the kennel runs on each side of the room also contribute to pulling air through. Large windows in the laundry room, kitchen, and the bathing and grooming room provide cross ventilation.
- Air Conditioning: When the heat and humidity kick in, air conditioning keeps the kennel comfortable. Murphy typically runs the air conditioning from June to September. The air conditioner is a 5-ton split system, with the air handler in the attic and the compressor and condenser outside.
- Stainless-Steel Water Buckets: For the kennel water system, Murphy chose individual stainless-steel water buckets, which are secured to each dog’s kennel with a snap. This allows for monitoring how much water each dog drinks to ensure they are well-hydrated. The buckets are cleaned daily to ensure dogs receive clean water.
Practicing Diligent Kennel Maintenance
Back to the importance of maintaining a clean, comfortable kennel. “One of the most important things to me was being able to clean this kennel quickly every morning,” Murphy says. “That’s something we do 365 days a year. There are no days when we skip a step. We try to keep it spotless.”
Kennel maintenance is easiest when it is part of a routine. Some jobs must be done daily, and others are “spring-cleaning” tasks that are done seasonally or even annually. Here are some of the maintenance chores that helps Murphy keep his kennel in tip-top shape.
- Morning Kennel Cleaning: Turning dogs out into the exercise yards to air out is a priority every morning. This allows the kennel runs to be cleaned without the dogs in them. First, feces are picked up. Since dog stool does not quickly degrade, it is not hosed into the septic system. Next, the kennel runs are sprayed and surfaces are scrubbed with Simple Green®, an all-purpose, nontoxic, biodegradable cleaner and deodorizer. Then, the runs are hosed down, with the waste water going into the drain system via a 6-inch gutter in the floor that runs outside the kennel runs along both sides of the center aisle.
- Kennel Runs & Dog Doors: Striving for virtually maintenance-free indoor and outdoor kennel runs, Murphy chose Mason chain-link for both. The zinc-coated chain link is resilient to the everyday wear and tear in a kennel. The guillotine-style dog doors in the kennel, with 24-inch and 28-inch heights, are made of Plexiglass, a material that is easy to clean and well-suited for heavy use. Simple Green is used to disinfect the dog doors and the chain link.
- Walls, Floors & Doors: The painted concrete block construction of the kennel has proved easy to maintain. The exterior was repainted two years ago, and the inside still looks fresh after 12 years. Built sturdy as a school building, the kennel has steel doors with steel frames. The interior concrete flooring and outside concrete kennel runs have never cracked from weather extremes — or freeze-thaw cycles. With a background in electrical construction, Murphy used a saw-cut technique in which cuts were made into the concrete every 20 feet, creating a joint to help control cracking.
- Power Washing for a Deep Cleaning: Not an everyday job, power washing is done seasonally, or when needed. The concrete block walls inside and outside the kennel are power washed to remove debris not easily seen. Power washing the concrete outdoor kennel runs removes the green algae that grows due to shading and rainy winter weather. Murphy explains that the trade-off in opting for shade around the kennel perimeter dilutes the sun’s sanitizing effect that naturally reduces algae growth.
- Spring Scrub Work: A good spring cleaning involves scrubbing windows and window sills and moving appliances to clean behind them. Murphy says that although you use and maintain the kennel every day, there still is more thorough cleaning that needs done seasonally. Simple Green is used to clean and disinfect all surface areas.
- Changing Batteries & Filters: Regular changing of filters on the air-conditioning and heating systems and batteries in smoke detectors and clocks helps to keep things running smoothly and efficiently.
When asked what he would change if he were to rebuild his kennel, Murphy reflects, “I’ve thought about that. I don’t know anything I would do differently.”
Without a doubt, the formula for success at FM Kennels has been the focus on dogs’ comfort. This summer, when it is 100 degrees outside in South Carolina, the show dogs at this kennel will be resting comfortably inside on their dog beds.
Common-Sense Summer Tips
Pro handler Frank Murphy takes a common-sense approach to keeping his show dogs calm, cool and collected in the summertime. Here are some tips from Murphy:
- We avoid traveling to shows in the van in the summer if dogs are not allowed in an air-conditioned building overnight. We also avoid going in the motor home if the venue does not have reliable electrical hookups. It’s not a good idea to depend on a generator for temperature control.
- At home, dogs like to lie on the outdoor concrete kennel runs because they are cool, but this can cause callouses on their elbows. As soon as dogs stop playing or exercising outside, we move them to the air-conditioned kennel where they can rest on Kuranda beds.
- On extremely hot, humid days, if dogs do not get enough exercise outdoors in the early morning or late evening, the coolest times of day, we work them on the dog treadmill in the air-conditioned kennel.