Many dog owners have this dilemma when they decide to buy or build a permanent doghouse to accommodate their pet. If the dog is sleeping outdoors in an unheated doghouse, you may be plagued by doubts and guilt at the arrival of winter. A severe dip in mercury and the cold that chills you to the bone may persuade you to bring the dog indoors. While there’s no harm in doing this, the dog may become reluctant to move out even after the cold season is over.
If you want the dog to continue sleeping in the doghouse, but want to make it more comfortable during winter, you have two options: invest in a well-insulated doghouse or provide heating.
How does an insulated doghouse remain warm?
An insulated doghouse is not the same as a heated doghouse. The dog’s body generates some amount of heat which gets dissipated into the immediate environment around it. An insulated doghouse prevents this heat from escaping to the outside, keeping the doghouse considerably warmer than the outside.
Even in the absence of any additional heating, a well-insulated structure may provide a warmer abode for the dog. But in the height of winter, insulation alone may seem insufficient for maintaining a comfortable interior climate.
How do you provide heating in a doghouse?
A doghouse is not heated in the same way as your home. Being a small structure, which only requires heating during winter season, a small, portable heater would have been sufficient. But the risk is too high because it can cause a fire if the heating device gets knocked down accidentally. You need safer alternatives.
- Heated kennel mat
The floor of the doghouse can be lined with a heated kennel mat which generates extra heat to keep the place, and the dog, warm.
Even though it is an efficient way of heating the doghouse, it may not be very good for dogs to be lying on a warm mat for long periods; it is known to exacerbate certain skin conditions. The electric supply cord poses a risk too, since many dogs have the habit of chewing on wires. Keeping the cord out of the way, and enclosing it in a metal or PVC tube, may make it safer.
- Heating pad
An electrically operated heating pad can be placed on the floor to provide warmth. If you feel it may not be healthy for the dog to sit or lie down on the heating pad for extended periods, it’s a good idea to hang it on the wall. It will help raise the interior temperature, and the dog can lean on it whenever it wants extra warmth.
- Heater box
This is a small metal box fitted with a heating bulb. It is usually mounted on the roof of the doghouse to warm the air. There is no direct contact with the dog’s body here. In the place of bulbs, ceramic heat emitter is used in some heater boxes to provide heat without any light for night time comfort.
- Heated bed
This option is used to keep the dog’s body warm and provide extra comfort while sleeping. It is great for dogs with arthritis that is made worse by cold.
This rather expensive option keeps the doghouse warm in winter and cool in summer. The main part of the PETcool heater unit is kept outside the doghouse and only warm or cool air is pumped in. Automatic maintenance of ambient temperature at all times is ensured by a thermostat.
Some doghouses are pre-designed for this air-conditioning unit, but it is not difficult to retrofit almost any doghouse. All it takes is drilling two holes on the wall to which the hoses from the unit should be attached. Another advantage of this fit-it-and-forget-it device is that it also dehumidifies the air, protecting the furnishings from dampness and mold.
Is it really necessary to provide heating to doghouses?
We are back to the same question again.
One view is that, the natural thermoregulatory mechanism of dogs is sufficient to help them tide over the winter season. Some dog keepers insist that it is not cold, but wetness that does more harm. As long as the dog has a place to stay away from wind, snow and rain, they should be fine. They fear that providing artificial heat can actually do more harm than good, especially if the dog spends considerable time outdoors and uses the doghouse intermittently. The wide fluctuation in temperature may affect them adversely.
There is another side to it though. Dogs have been domesticated for such a longtime that they might no longer have as much immunity to the elements as their wild counterparts. The actual lifespan of wild dogs and wolves are much shorter than the average life expectancy of our pet dogs. While young, healthy wild dogs may easily survive the change of seasons, we do not know how many older animals perish during severe winters. The extra care we take about the wellbeing of our pets could help them live longer.
That said, dogs do just fine in unheated doghouses in most climates. You don’t have to feel all that guilty about leaving the dog in its own house in winter, unless it is unusually severe. They don’t seem to need our intervention as much as we think. A doghouse with correct cold-temperature construction may go a long way in keeping the dog comfortable even at the height of winter.
However, here are a few situations where heated house may be counted a necessity:
- Old dogs suffering from arthritis
The aches and pains in the joints usually get worse in winter. A heated doghouse, or at least a heated bed, should make an older dog’s life easier.
- Breeds of dogs that are not suitable for your region
Some breeds are less resistant to cold for the simple reason that they are natives of warmer regions. Hairless and short-haired breeds are particularly susceptible. A Doberman cannot withstand as much cold as a Siberian husky.
- Dog not exposed sufficiently to the falling temperatures
The falling temperatures in fall prepare dogs for the imminent change in seasons. They grow thicker coats and accumulate fat under the skin. If your dog has not had plenty of exposure to the elements during the gradual transition from fall to winter, it may not be ready for very low temperatures.
- Doghouse is used for whelping
If your doghouse is intended to do double duty as a place for whelping too, heating is important. Pregnant/nursing dogs and young litter do better in a heated doghouse.
- Areas with harsh winters
Dog owners living in areas that experience heavy snowfall and subzero temperatures may do well investing in a heated doghouse and adopting dog breeds suitable for such climates. Any sign of frost bite or other cold damage indicates the need for heating.
- You have sleepless nights worrying about your dog out there
Your peace of mind is just as important as the comfort of your dog. Whatever the arguments against, or in favor of, heated doghouses, you’re the ultimate judge and decision maker. No one understands your dog’s needs better.