Pointing Labs are quite comfy outside — if you follow a few simple rules
Apparently, mother nature cannot make up its mind this year. Iowa has for all intense and purposes had a very mild winter thus far. Several days have exceeded 50 degrees in JANUARY. Truly an odd year. I mean hell, we have spent several days dealing with rain and mud of all things. Not exactly the kind of winter weather a guy expects to battle in Iowa.
Typical of the great state we call home however, a winter blast is on the way. Dropping us from 50 degrees above, to 5 degrees below zero. Unbelievable. It got me thinking about how we are going to change our daily routine here at the kennel – and what tips we could pass along to customers when dealing with this type of cold.
Wind and Wet
The North Kennel at HPK.
Many of you know that I grew up around a dairy operation in Northeast Iowa. For years my Grandfather, Father, Uncle and Aunt could be heard discussing the health of animals over the breakfast table on cold winter mornings. Over and over I heard this line repeated concerning our dairy herd:
“If you can keep them out of the wind, and out of the wet, and give them plenty of feed – they will be just fine”
Same principle applies with our pointing labs – Keep them out of the wind, and they can take (and let’s face it they are labs — they will enjoy) a hell of a lot of cold. With this thought in mind, the kennel was built. The main kennel building to the north is a 3 sided shed open to the South and we use Large Stalk bales to block the wind on the north west corner. The roof of the kennel building is split – designed to keep the building 10 degrees colder or warmer than the ambient temperature. Wind – Blocked!
To prevent the wet, the pointing lab’s igloos are bedded with a mixture of ground corn cobs and corn stalks. This does double duty, it allows the moisture to wick away – and it prevents them from bedding down with their chests on a cold plastic floor.
In addition, the kennel floors are elevated 24 inches off the ground, with drainage allowing moisture to fall away, keeping dogs pads dry. Does it get cruddy in the cold weather? Occasionally – but the dogs are always dryer than they were in our old concrete kennels. Wet – Blocked!
Plenty of Feed and Water
Plenty of feed in the cold is essential! During the winter months, we poor protein and fat to our pointing labs. Why? They hang out it the cold all day – doing nothing but burning calories to stay warm. It is essential that you provide an outside dog with almost double the calories they get in the summer months. This helps them retain some fat, keep their coats healthy, and stay comfy in the cold.
Word of caution here – as we provide more calories to the animals in the winter, the amount of salt they ingest goes up as well. They need to drink as much or MORE water than they do during the summer months. The funny part is, they wont act like it. Much of the time you will present our pointing labs with water – and since they are not panting and hot – they won’t tend to drink. Trust me though – their kidneys and livers still need the extra water!! Quick Fix – SOUP
Taking a page from the sled dog guys, we make a broth for the dogs when it gets VERY cold and requiring a higher caloric intake. Utilizing venison, bear, chicken, duck, goose or whatever spare healthy protein we have laying around, lots of water is boiled with a small amount of meat – no salt please – and given the pointing labs in 3 cup servings.
Seriously – what dog does not like meat and water at the same time. The critters go barking mad (or happy, however you choose to phrase) over this process.
· If your dog lives outside in the cold – Give them a space that’s out of the wind. They can handle the cold, but wind can be fatal.
· Give them a place to keep DRY! Let’s face it – cold and wet simply sucks.
· Make sure outside pointing labs have access have plenty of calories in cold weather.
· Don’t forget the water! Because your pointing lab will. Goofy critters don’t always know they are thirsty in cold weather.